GAINESVILLE, Ga. (BP) — When my oldest two sons, Hank and Todd, were small boys, we took a family vacation to the Colorado mountains with two other families. Both of the other families had far more money than the Bentleys. In my opinion, if we were to compare bank accounts at that time, theirs were probably 100 times larger than mine. Based on income or net worth, I could have been considered poor in this mix of families.
For some reason during the vacation, 8-year-old Todd became aware of this. We’re not sure how this came to his attention; perhaps the other children had more options when spending their pocket money. Regardless of the reason, one morning the adults were all sitting around a table outside a café, enjoying the morning conversation over a cup of coffee when Todd appeared.
He crawled up into my lap and began tugging on my arm just as I was making some point or other with the adults. I paused and excused myself to allow my curious son to ask his question. He had my full attention and, as I would soon regret, the attention of everyone at the table. All eyes were on Todd.
“Dad, are we rich?” Todd asked matter-of-factly and loud enough for everyone to hear.
I could not believe he was asking me about such a private matter, especially in the presence of the very people who had so much more money than we did.
I blushed and thought about how I was going to answer him. It got very quiet around the table.
“Well, yes, Todd, we are rich.”
He beamed with pride as a smile broke out across his face. I thought that would end the conversation and he would get back to playing with the other kids. He wasn’t quite satisfied, though.
“How rich are we Dad?”
His eyes locked on mine and I could hear a few folks chuckling from behind their coffee mugs as they waited to see how I would handle this one. This question drew more interest than the first!
“Todd, well, uh … we are very, very, very rich.” My son had to ponder this one for a few seconds. It also raised a few eyebrows on the faces of our friends who were aware of the vast difference in our incomes.
“Richer than Ross Perot?” Todd shot back.
He was not letting go now. He wanted some real answers. I have no idea how an 8-year-old even knew of Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot, or why he would want to compare our humble family with this icon of the mega-rich of Texas where we lived at the time. He was not going to let it go, however, even as I silently prayed for him to go back and play like the other good little children.
“Todd, I’m going to have to tell you the truth. Son, I don’t know Ross Perot so I can’t be certain, but I believe I am the richest man on the face of the earth.”
“Wow!” Todd’s eyes looked up and beyond into the sky as if he were trying to imagine just how vast my financial holdings might be. I let it hang there for a few seconds as everyone around the table enjoyed this spontaneous moment of intimacy between father and son. There were some quiet smiles on the faces of our friends who thought that this was finally the end of the conversation. Ann, however, was giving me a look that I knew meant, “Tell him the truth!” Perhaps I would have, but Todd had one more question before his curiosity would be satisfied.
“So, does that mean I can spend whatever I want on anything I want?” Now I finally knew what all this was about.
“No, Todd, you can’t spend money on whatever you want, because our riches have nothing to do with how much money we have. I wasn’t thinking about money when I answered you.”
“Oh, Dad, I thought we were really rich!” he said loudly as he jumped out of my lap and headed back to playing with his friends.
Everyone got a chuckle out of this exchange, knowing that I was on the spot answering such an unexpected question in front of a group of friends. I was about to get back to the regular chitchat with the adults when one of the other men looked at me and said, “Great answer.”
My friend, who had considerable money, went further. “You affirmed to him what is really true. Money and wealth are not the same.”
That story has always reminded me of Proverbs 16:16, “How much better it is to get skillful and godly wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.”
As believers, we are rich, richer than all others regardless of how much money they have accumulated, because the root of riches is found in Christ.
We abide in Christ and experience supernatural peace and security. God promised that He will never leave us or forsake us. That promise enables the believer to live without fear, without constantly worrying about not having enough money, or things or status. That believer has already been made rich in every way in God’s economy.
This is an excerpt from Bentley’s new book, “The Root of Riches: What if Everything You Think about Money Is Wrong.” Chuck Bentley is CEO of Crown Financial Ministries and host of Crown’s My MoneyLife radio feature and MoneyLife podcast (Crown.org/media/MoneyLife). To learn more, visit Crown.org or call 1-800-722-1976. Crown Financial Ministries (Crown.org) is an interdenominational ministry dedicated to equipping people with biblically based financial tools and resources through radio, film, seminars, small groups and individual coaching. Based in Georgia, the ministry has offices in the United States, Canada, Latin America, and Africa, Europe, India, Asia and Australia.