In the 1970’s Simon and Garfunkel popularized E.A. Robinson’s “Richard Cory”, a poem about a rich young man whom everyone admired and envied. The parties on his yacht “made us wish that we were in his place”.
So we “went without the meat and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.”
Among the myths about rich people is that they are isolated, socially uninvolved, and unfulfilled. One wealthy person said, “The only thing people see in me is money…so I stay in my little circle”.
The extreme example of isolation and self-absorption is the cartoon character Uncle Scrooge, the duck, who shovels his millions into a pile and guards them with a shot gun. Talk about being socially uninvolved and unfulfilled?
Richard Cory should have met Henri Nouwen who says, “We must minister to the rich from our place of wealth – the spiritual wealth we have inherited as brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ” (A Spirituality of Fundraising, p.40).
Nouwen could have invited Cory to that mutually beneficial community of sharing, where he could have, if it had been good for his spiritual journey, shared his wealth in a vision of generosity that would have brough him closer to God.
In a non-condescending way Nouwen says, “Ministry is, first of all, receiving God’s blessing from those to whom we minister. What is that blessing? It is a glimpse of the face of God”.
Nouwen offers a “new communion” in his fund-raising thesis where money is the least interesting thing. The starting point in his meeting with the rich is that “we meet on the holy ground of God’s generous disposition toward us.”
In a mutual sharing we offer and give, the rich offer and give, and we both receive. Giving enables a new fellowship, a new way of belonging in the gift of community we share. Mutual giving enriches even as God blesses the encounter.
For the Christian, rich or poor, it is always sunny. “Community is one of the greatest gifts we offer,” Nouwen says of fundraising. If we ask people for money, we must love them deeply. Through the invitation we offer them and the relationship we offer them they will come closer to God.
Another “sunny” idea Nouwen suggests is that we learn to trust in God rather than money. Wouldn’t it be great if we all lived the truth expressed on the American coins, “In God we trust”? And we would become richer by sharing what we have?
“You will be enriched in every way for your generosity” (2 Corinthians 9:11). In the end it doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor. What matters is that you offer to share what you have. God blesses and uses the generous gift, even if it is only five loaves and two fish.