As a nation, America has its share of problems and imperfections, be it institutions or systems of justice, finance, politics, government, or religion. We can easily lose perspective on our standard of living when we compare ourselves with neighbors, celebrities, media’s view of the “good life,” and what we want and strive to own.
Please read this sobering, brief article by Annalyn Censky retrieved from CNNMoney.com:
The United States holds a disproportionate amount of the world's rich people. It only takes $34,000 a year, after taxes, to be among the richest 1% in the world. That's for each person living under the same roof, including children. (So a family of four, for example, needs to make $136,000.)So where do these lucky rich people live? As of 2005 -- the most recent data available -- about half of them, or 29 million lived in the United States, according to calculations by World Bank economist Branko Milanovic in his book The Haves and the Have-Nots. Another four million live in Germany. The rest are mainly scattered throughout Europe, Latin America and a few Asian countries. Statistically speaking, none live in Africa, China or India despite those being some of the most populous areas of the world. The numbers put into perspective the idea of a rapidly growing global middle class.
Sure, China and India are seeing their economies grow quickly, and along with that growth, large portions of their populations are also becoming richer. But remember, the emerging world is starting from a very low base to begin with, so its middle class is just that -- still emerging, says Milanovic. "It doesn't seem right to define as middle class, people who would be on food stamps in the United States," Milanovic said. The true global middle class, falls far short of owning a home, having a car in a driveway, saving for retirement and sending their kids to college. In fact, people at the world's true middle -- as defined by median income -- live on just $1,225 a year. (And, yes, Milanovic's numbers are adjusted to account for different costs of living across the globe.) In the grand scheme of things, even the poorest 5% of Americans are better off financially than two thirds of the entire world.
What a wakeup call—“even the poorest 5% of Americans are better off financially than two thirds of the entire world.” But let us not stop there. Instead of comparing your life with those around you, compare your life with how Jesus lived. At best, He had only one extra set of clothes, no air conditioning, no Aquafina or municipal water fountains, little to no body lotion to combat the dry and arid land. He traveled by foot—not possessing a car, bike, horse or even a donkey. He had no scholarship or family college fund, no Sleep Number Bed, no underarm deodorant, no hot shower, no Cottonelle toilet paper, no computer and He couldn’t browse the Internet. And unlike ET, he couldn’t phone home or email His BFF. He never listened to music CD’s, cried at movie or laughed at a TV program, reminisced while viewing a family album, or leisurely boarded a plane to a beautiful vacation spot. He had no income, no home, no retirement account, no medical or dental plan and only a limited selection of and no pantry of food. Life was harsh and uncertain. Today, life expectancy in America is around 78, while in Jesus’ day it was about 35—not much time for leisure, accumulation of wealth or changing careers.
Perhaps it should be a goal of every individual or part of our formal education for everyone to visit and help out a person in a third world area or country. I have witnessed people living in dilapidated tin huts and those who made cardboard boxes their homes while their only food was others’ discarded leftovers in dumping grounds. Those unforgettable experiences shaped my life. Those kinds of experiences help return us to the knowledge and reality of how many of the world’s comforts we Americans possess and how good life is here. These understandings can change us and prompt us toward greater thankfulness for freedom, inventors, capitalism and God who make all this possible. And if we set our minds on things above, the immaterial, we can find a renewed appreciation for the many (and ultimate) sacrifices Jesus made for you and me while on earth. His unqualified giving provides us with spiritual riches the world searches for and fights over—love, peace, joy, security and life without end. Beyond the comforts and material things of this world we have Him and He has us. Though no life is without considerable pain and groaning, we Christians in America are both materially and spiritually rich. Most of us live better than all the kings and rich people of the remote past.
This perspective gives new meaning to these challenging words: “Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it” (Proverbs 23:4). “If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:8,9).