Jeremy Myers: Rich, poor, something more

At what age do we begin to observe and understand the concepts of wealth and poverty?

I’m not referring to the deep, philosophical concepts and systems surrounding these two polar twins. I’m talking about the basic observation that one’s own family is either rich or poor.

Thinking back over the years of my own life, I had no idea whether my family was rich or poor when I was in preschool and kindergarten. I knew some of my friends had various toys I did not have, which I wanted. We always had a roof over our heads, food to eat, clothes to wear, a few toys in the chest and enough money left over to grab some pizza and rent some movies on Friday nights. What more could a person want in life?

My first memory of a friend being better off than me came when I was 7 or 8. One of my best friends invited me over to play at his house after school one day. His house was massive. It was a two-story house. Under the staircase, there was a small room that was set up as a clubhouse in which my friend could hang out. He seemed to have every toy I’d ever seen on a commercial. His mom kept bringing us plates full of various Little Debbie cookies and cakes and name-brand fruit snacks.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, they had their own indoor pool in the back of their house. I remember thinking, “This sure ain’t the trailer park.” While I wouldn’t have phrased it this way at the time, my friend’s family was clearly in a different tax bracket. My friend was rich. I was decidedly less so.

It’s safe to say at a fairly early age, we develop some sense of what we believe it means to be rich or poor. Those early perspectives are incredibly narrow and undeniably childish. Unfortunately, those childish ideas stick with us as we grow older.

This may be due, at least in part, to the fact that humanity as a whole has a very shallow view of what it means to be rich or poor. Our ideas of wealth are predicated on obtaining an abundance of possessions and money. Surely, life is about more than nice houses, an abundance of things and robust bank accounts.

Last night, I watched as my wife’s grandmother’s, whom we call Nana, possessions were auctioned off. Nana is just months shy of 100 and no longer able to live on her own. I confess my heart was heavy as I watched a lifetime of accumulated goods, many of which were undoubtedly deeply treasured, sold away to the highest bidder.

Based on recent conversations family has had with Nana, she was aware of what was happening and consequently is struggling with feelings of loss and uncertainty. Nana recently told one of her daughters, “What am I going to do? All I have now is money.” Her words were profound, but they were also untrue.

Nana’s words were profound because if money is all we have to show for our years of living, we have failed. We have missed the fullness that life has to offer, selling off the most meaningful things for profit to those who would purchase our time, attention and effort.

Money, along with the possessions it can purchase, isn’t an end we should seek to achieve but a necessary resource that allows us to live. When all is said and done and the years of our lives are all but spent, it will not be our possessions or bank accounts that determine whether we were rich or poor.

Nana’s words were untrue because she has so much more than money. Every year on Thanksgiving Day, we gather at Nana’s church to celebrate three important events: Thanksgiving, Christmas and Nana’s birthday. About 40 of us gather for this special celebration.

The last thing we do each year is sing “Happy Birthday” to Nana. This is Nana’s legacy. This is Nana’s great wealth. It is the daughters that she raised to be wonderful women. It is the grandchildren she has loved and influenced over the years. It is the great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren she has gotten to hold and love.

Nana may not have many possessions left, and her physical property may be limited to numbers on a ledger. But she is a wealthy woman because of the family and friends she loved and the God she served through her long life.

In Psalm 127:3-5, it reads, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the [person] whose quiver is full of them.”

Nana is an incredibly wealthy woman, not because of the size of her bank account or the multitude of her possessions but because of the richness of the love she has shared and received.

An abundance of stuff doesn’t make one rich, and their absence doesn’t make one poor. They are just things. When we use our lives to love and invest in our family, friends and broader community, our life becomes more rich.

To use the metaphor in the Psalm, our quiver becomes full as we become wealthy in what truly matters, connections with gracious and loving souls. I hope one day I am as rich as Robyn’s Nana.

The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at