March 30, 2008
Part 1: The richest person on earth
We start a new series today. UnGoogleable! What does that mean? “To google” means to search the internet, specifically using the Google search engine. So “ungoogleable” means unsearchable. Is there anything that is ungoogleable? You can type in almost anything and find it on the internet, but there is something that is so rich, so deep, so huge, that it is unsearchable. You can spend the rest of your life searching it out and never come to the end of it. It’s called “the unsearchable riches of Christ”.
How would you like to be the richest person on earth? Today, I’m going to tell you how you can be.
Several months ago, I was reading Ephesians 3 during my daily time with God, and I read this verse:
Ephesians 3:8 Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ…
Paul preached the unsearchable riches of Christ. That word “unsearchable” caught my attention. The Greek word is anexichniastos (this is why you pay me the big bucks!). It means, “unsearchable”. Literally, it means “not traced out” or “untraceable”. Translators and commentators compete with one another to find a dynamic equivalent in English. The riches of Christ, they say, are ‘unsearchable’, ‘inexplorable’, ‘untraceable’, ‘unfathomable’, ‘inexhaustible’, ‘illimitable’, ‘inscrutable’, ‘incalculable’ and perhaps best, simply ‘infinite’. To all these, we add Ungoogleable! The same word is used in Romans 11:33.
Romans 11:33 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
Same idea. The riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge are so deep we could never plumb the depths, so infinite we could never track them to the end. Ungoogleable!
What are the unsearchable riches of Christ? I searched the Bible and looked up every verse that mentions riches and Jesus, and found some wonderful things. For the next few weeks, we’re going to unpack some of these unsearchable riches of Christ and we’ll only scratch the surface. We’re going to see just how amazing Jesus is, and how generous He is with us. I hope by the end you’ll be saying with Paul, “Oh, the depth of the riches of Jesus! They’re unsearchable!”
Today, I’m going to kick this series off by discussing three questions with you.
Who is the richest person on earth? I’m going to tell you in just a moment; it may surprise you to know that person is in the room today! Look around and see if you can spot him or her.
How can you become the richest person on earth? No, it’s not a multi-level marketing plan, or a high tech start up that goes public. I’m going to tell you how.
When you become the richest person on earth, what should you do with all that wealth? I’ve got some ideas about that too!
1. Who is the richest person on earth?
Who is the richest person on earth? Bill Gates? Warren Buffett? Carlos Slim Helu?
ILL: In terms of financial net worth, the new answer is: Warren Buffett.
After 13 years on top, Bill Gates is no longer the richest man in the world. That honor now belongs to his friend and sometimes bridge partner Warren Buffett.
Riding the surging price of Berkshire Hathaway stock, Buffett has seen his fortune swell to an estimated $62 billion, up $10 billion from a year ago.
Gates is now worth $58 billion and is ranked third richest in the world. He is up $2 billion from a year ago. Mexican telecom mogul Carlos Slim Helú now ranks as the world’s second richest person with a net worth of $60 billion.
Forbes Magazine reports that there are now 1125 billionaires in the world, worth a combined $4.4 trillion. Americans account for 42% of the billionaires and 37% of the net worth of the group. The youngest self-made billionaire in history may be Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg at 23. A billionaire at 23! What were you worth at 23? I was a youth pastor making $100 a month! I didn’t even have a checking or savings account, let alone a stock portfolio!
So if we were to list everyone in the world, from richest to poorest, we know who would be at the top of the list: Warren Buffett followed by 1124 other billionaires. Where would you be on the list? Where do you rank on the list of the world’s richest people? How rich are you? Did you know there is a website that will tell you? The address is on the bottom of your outline: www.globalrichlist.com. At this website, you can type in your annual income and it will show you how you compare to the rest of the world. It will show you on this graph, and by percentage and a number rank. Let’s type in a few examples.
- $48,000. In 2006, the median annual household income in the US was $48,201. In other words, half of households in the U.S. make more than $48,201, and half make less. That’s the median. If you make $48,000 or more, you are in the top 1% of the world. 5,940,000,000 people (99% of the world) make less than you. So roughly half of Americans fall in the top 1% of the world!
- $10,400. The 2006 poverty level in the US was $10,400 for a single person, $21,200 for a family of four. $10,400 puts you in the top 13.22% of the world; you are poor by US standards, but wealthier than almost 87% of the world (5,207,000,000 people).
- $850. $850 per year is the median world income. If you make $850 a year, 3 billion people are richer than you, and 3 billion are poorer. $850 a year-that’s $2.33 a day. Half the world lives on less than $2.33 a day. 1.3 billion people live on less than a dollar a day.
We’re rich, folks. We don’t think of ourselves as rich because we look up the list at Warren and Bill and Carlos and the other 1122 billionaires-that’s rich. But most of us live in the top 1-10%, and the rest of the world is looking up the list at us. In fact, here is a graph that illustrates the worldwide distribution of wealth.
ILL: Show graph.
As you can see, there is a small minority that controls the majority of the wealth. Bill Gates has more wealth than the bottom 45% of American households combined. Warren Buffett’s net worth exceeds the combined gross national product of many third world nations combined! A single man has more money than many nations. And the gap between the rich and poor is growing wider: the rich are getting richer and poor poorer.
What can we do? Very simply, we can share the wealth. Here are some examples from www.globalrichlist.com.
- $8 could buy you 15 organic apples OR 25 fruit trees for farmers in Honduras to grow and sell fruit at their local market.
- $30 could buy you a DVD Boxset of ER OR a First Aid kit for a village in Haiti.
- $73 could buy you a new mobile phone OR a new mobile health clinic to care for AIDS orphans in Uganda.
- $2400 could buy you a big High Definition TV OR schooling for an entire generation of school children in an Angolan village.
This is not hard to do. You’re rich; share with others. There are many fine organizations that are meeting needs of the poor here at home and around the world. Share the wealth. I hope every one of you will become advocates for the poor and marginalized, and will make a lifelong habit of sharing your wealth with the needy.
ILL: We’re going to give you a chance to do that in a really cool way in a couple weeks. Life Center is partnering with Habitat for Humanity to build a home for a Life Center family. Habitat is a wonderful faith-based program that uses volunteer labor to build affordable homes for those who otherwise couldn’t afford them. The cost to build the home is approximately $90,000; on April 13, we’re going to receive a special offering to raise as much of that as we can. There will be a chance later to provide in-kind gifts. Besides funding the project, we get to work side by side with our family to build the home. You don’t have to be a skilled craftsman; anyone can come and help, and that is the really fun part. You’ll hear more about that as we get closer to the build. One more thing: Habitat is looking for land to build on. If you have a buildable lot or parcel that you’d be willing to donate, let us know. There’s information about all this on the inside of your program. I hope you can all help! Let’s share the wealth!
I told you that the richest person in the world is in the room today. You may be looking around for Warren Buffett and his $62 billion. Warren is not here today. He’s got a lot of money, but it’s not unsearchable. There is an end to Warren Buffett’s resources. They are huge, but finite.
But I know someone whose riches are infinite, unsearchable. The richest person on earth is Jesus! (Sorry I didn’t have a current picture!) Paul loved to talk about the unsearchable riches of Jesus, the limitless, infinite riches of Jesus. There’s an end to Warren Buffett’s riches; there is no end to the riches of Jesus. And He’s here in the room today! The richest person on earth is here in the room with us today. He said,
Matthew 18:20 For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.
The richest person on earth is here today, and He’s here to share His riches with you. What are those riches? That’s what we’re going to unpack in the next few weeks.
2. How can I become the richest person on earth?
You’ve probably already figured out where I’m going with this one. Obviously, none of us is likely to make more money than Warren or Bill or Carlos. If you do, please tithe! So you’re not likely to become the richest person on earth in terms of financial wealth, nor, in my opinion, would that be a worthy goal.
And obviously, if Jesus is the real richest person on earth, this must have something to do with Him. So how can you become the richest person on earth? By receiving Jesus. Jesus wants to give Himself to you, and when you receive Jesus, you receive the unsearchable riches of Christ. Think of it this way: When you receive Jesus, you become God’s child, and as His child, an heir. All that God has becomes yours.
Romans 8:16-17 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
Galatians 4:6-7 Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.
When you receive Jesus, you become God’s child, and as His child, an heir. All that God has becomes yours.
ILL: Laina and I adopted Andy as a newborn; we picked him up when he was 3 days old, fresh out of the oven. I’ll never forget our excitement when we held him the first time, or our panic when we couldn’t get him to stop crying on the way home! We stopped at a shopping center to buy a thank you gift for the couple who arranged the adoption; lots of people stopped us to ogle our new son. They’d ask how old Andy was-we’d say 3 days-and they’d look at Laina and say, “Wow! You look great!” I thought so too! We’d just smile and say thanks!
When Andy became our son, all that we had became his. All our “riches” became his. Every resource-physical, financial, emotional, spiritual-they were all at his disposal…and still are. And when we die, our vast estate will be his, shared with his sisters and brother. He is our son, and everything we have is his. The same is true for each of our children: they are our kids; all we have is theirs.
That is Paul’s thought here. When you receive Jesus, you become God’s child and you receive all God has, the unsearchable riches of Christ. Here are a few more verses.
Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
God gave His Son, the best and greatest thing He could give, and wrapped up in that gift is everything else! The unsearchable riches of Christ are yours!
1 Corinthians 3:21-23 So then, no more boasting about men! All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future-all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.
Because you are in Christ, all things are yours. The unsearchable riches of Christ are yours.
Ephesians 1:3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
We are blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing. The unsearchable riches of Christ are yours.
2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
Jesus emptied Himself-God came to earth as a man, as a servant, spent his last three years homeless, had only the shirt on his back, and was executed as a criminal. He became poor so that you could become rich-the richest person on earth-rich with the unsearchable riches of Christ.
So here’s the big idea: Jesus is the richest person on earth and there is no end to His riches, and He wants to share them with you. All of them. He wants to make you rich.
Now…am I talking about money? When I talk about the unsearchable riches of Christ, if you think only of money or stuff, you are thinking way too small. There is money, and then there are the true riches.
Luke 16:11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?
There is money and then there are the true riches. There are things far more valuable than money or stuff.
ILL: On Friday, I officiated at Keith Lotze’s memorial service. Keith was a very successful businessman, a commercial realtor. Keith helped us move from Mallon to Nora, and in the process, became a Christian, and a member of our church. 15 years later, he helped us buy this property.
I wish all of you could have been at Keith’s memorial service; it was inspiring! Keith made quite a bit of money during his lifetime, but no one talked about that. Lots of friends and family shared memories that had to do with his character and his love for people and for God. Businessmen shared with tears how Keith mentored them, and talked about his friendship. Keith’s kids and grandkids shared about a father or grandfather who loved them and had a huge influence on them.
Keith Lotze died a rich man, and I’m not talking about money; I’m talking about the true riches. He was rich with friends, rich with influence, rich with family, and rich toward God.
There are things more valuable than money or stuff. Jesus said that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. The true riches have nothing to do with money or stuff. How can you be the richest person on earth? By receiving and following Jesus, the unsearchable riches of Jesus, the true riches, become yours. What are those riches? That’s what we’re going to unpack in the next few weeks.
One last question:
3. What should I do with all this wealth?
When you receive Jesus, you receive the unsearchable riches of Jesus; you become the richest person on earth. What are you going to do with all those riches? The answer: share it!
2 Corinthians 9:11 You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
Paul doesn’t say, “you will be made rich in every way so that you can keep it all to yourself and be your own selfish pig.” He says, “you will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.” In other words, God gives you the unsearchable riches of Christ to share with others. He gives to you so you can give to others. Jesus put it this way.
Matthew 10:8 Freely you have received, freely give.
God gives freely to you so you can give freely to others. Does this include our money? Yes. But again, if you think only of money, you are thinking way too small.
- God gives you forgiveness so you will give it to others.
- God gives you mercy so you will show it to others.
- God gives you kindness so you will be kind to others.
- God gives you wisdom so you will share it with others.
- God gives you love so you will love others.
- God gives you power so you can help others.
- And yes, God gives you money and stuff so you can share it with others.
Freely you have received, freely give.
ILL: You all know the story of Jesus feeding the 5000. Jesus had been teaching a large crowd all day when the disciples came to him and suggested it was time for everyone to go home and get dinner. “You feed them,” Jesus said. “With what? We’re in the middle of nowhere, not a 7-11 in sight, and we’ve got no food, except this little boy’s sack lunch-five buns and two sardines.” Jesus told them to have everyone sit down, and he took the sack lunch and thanked God for it, and then Jesus started giving it to His disciples, and they gave it to the people. They fed 5000 men, not counting women and children, with one sack lunch!
Imagine this scenario. Jesus starts giving the food to the disciples and they keep it all. “Thank you, Jesus. This is great! We’ll have a big dinner tonight!” And pretty soon, the food is piling higher and higher! “Wow, thanks Jesus!” Pretty soon, the disciples are almost buried in buns and sardines. “Woohoo! This is so cool!” Meanwhile, everyone else is going home hungry.
Crazy, isn’t it! It would be ridiculous to imagine that all that food was given to them for any other reason than to feed those in need. It was given to them to share.
Likewise, it’s ridiculous to think that Jesus is giving you His unsearchable riches for any reason other than to share them with others. Freely you have received; freely give.
For the next several weeks, we are going to unpack the unsearchable riches of Christ, and encourage you to receive and enjoy them…and to share them with others.