In 2010, Forbes named Howard County, Maryland the 3rd richest county in the entire United States. The median household income of Howard is $101,710.00 and 60% of residents over 25-years-old have bachelors degrees or higher. Right next door is Montgomery County which comes in at 10th on the list with a median household income of $93,999.00 and 59% of residents over 25 holding a bachelors or higher.
My family's house is in Howard County and right next door is a community that I often walk through. It feels a bit like walking through a neighborhood of palaces. Every one of the houses is huge and impressive. There is a golf course that runs through the neighborhood and the residents are always riding around on their golf carts as they play a few rounds. It's understood that people in the United States live like Kings compared to much of the world, but if that's the case what does that make the people who live the best among the Kings? What's higher than a King? Emperors? Pharaohs? ...Gods? From the outside, not even the recession seems to be a threat to the people here.
In the last year or so I've had to come to grips with the fact that I've never been very good with money. Growing up I would always go for the instant gratification and blow my money on video games or something else ridiculous. That has carried over into adulthood and it has been a painful journey as I've tried to learn how to be responsible financially. However, the great blessing that has come out of my lack of stability is the way that I've had to rely on God. There have been some very scary moments for me, but God has always been there to make sure that I make it through. What's hilarious about it is that as soon as I do start to feel stable, I immediately return to my comfortable place on the throne. I begin to think, "Hey, I've been doing a great job with money and here are all of the ways I believe it should be spent." Now, for whatever reason, God has decided that it's not my lot in life to live without financial stress because inevitably something happens that forces me right back off the throne. But I've learned to be very thankful for that. It's amazing how quickly I forget that ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING I own is a gift that can be taken away at any time. I'm glad that God doesn't leave me to my own devices and continues to remind me who's really in control.
Jesus was pretty clear about how difficult it is to understand our dependence on God when we are surrounded by riches. I've observed this in my own heart and I think I've seen the effects of this in the area that I live in here in Maryland. I believe that I live in a culture of gods. I believe that around here it is so easy to feel like we have earned the right to all of our possessions and we hold onto them for dear life. I see it in the way people treat each other everywhere, even at church. Here is what I'm learning and what I would encourage everyone else to learn: Examine every part of your life. Money, relationships, work, play, church, whatever. Chances are if you take a close enough look, you will find yourself sitting on the throne. Chances are you will find yourself having strong reactions to God's desire to take you off that throne. This is where you find out what it means to follow Christ. Do you feel threatened and protective of that part of your life? Or do you allow yourself to trust Him and let Him show you how much better of a job He can do than you will ever be able to? I'm trying to trust Him and so far the returns have been nothing but joy and peace.