You live in a city, a town, or perhaps out in the country. You know your neighbors. It’s relatively calm where you are, and people know what to expect from each other. But, imagine this scenario: One day it is announced that one dozen multi-millionaires have decided to come to your street. These businessmen and women are philanthropists, and they’re coming to spend a week’s time on your street with hopes of having a positive influence on the lives of people in your neighborhood.
There would be immediate excitement. Multi-millionaires! Twelve of them. What great things they could accomplish and change in your little neck of the woods! Minds would race, but you’d be amazed at how they race in different directions. Teachers would think about a brand new, high-tech school building. Drivers would think about new roads. Doctors and nurses would think about the latest in health-care equipment. Those would be the thoughts of good, upstanding, citizens who contribute to the community. A discussion would erupt as to which need is going to be a priority. Among the upstanding citizens there would be some division.
But, another greater division would erupt as well. Some folks in the community would immediately think of personal needs. A house. A car. Tools, materials, pleasure items. The lists could be huge. Anticipation would be great.
And then they arrive…the good-hearted multi-millionaires in their limousines. Some folks on your street would sit at home and wait for news. Others would be right there waiting with a clear plan of action in mind for any potential conversation with one of the multi-millionaires. This is an incredible opportunity, after all…multi-millionaires coming to help YOU.
You’d be surprised by the reactions of some folks on your street. While one group of citizens would anticipate a community meeting with the group of multi-millionaires to discuss public needs, another group would be needling its way toward individual millionaires with personal requests...requests for good things, but personal none-the-less. “These are multi-millionaires,” people would say, “…and they can both build a road for the town and buy a speedboat for me without it making a dent in their bank accounts.”
As the sun goes down on day one, stories are flying around town. One of the millionaires was seen writing a check to so-and so. Another of the millionaires spent the whole lunch hour talking to Mr. What’s His Name. And two of the millionaire ladies visited the home of the Such-and-such family. What does it all mean?
On day two, you all see your local Dr. Everyman spend the whole day fishing with two of the millionaires. They’re out on a boat where no one can hear them, but you all see them laughing and having a good time. When the boat docks, Mr. Jealous is spreading the story that Dr. Everyman has asked the millionaires to build a third house for him…he already has two. Dr. Everyman was actually just being friendly and making the millionaires feel at home…he’s almost like them, after all. But when he hears the accusations of selfishness, he goes right up to Mr. Jealous and puts him in his place. There’s a conversation. Words. A push. And a punch. The millionaires stand there shocked at the bizarre behavior of people on your street.
By day three there would be more jockeying for position among some. Others would be disgusted and move further away from the millionaires deciding that this whole mess is no longer going to be fruitful. And as the days would progress, your calm neighborhood could become a completely different place. A huge amount of money does something to people. It changes us.
Money is not the big difference between me and and the people to whom I minister. As a wealthy person living in Haiti for Christ, may my message always be Christ and never money. May I be careful during my time on that little street. It’s a delicate walk, because sometimes millionaires can cause more trouble than they solve.