Rich and Poor

How much wealth we accumulate doesn’t matter very much in the end, but our attitude toward wealth and the resulting actions matter very much.

The prophet Jacob gave the following warning:

Wo unto the rich, who are rich as to the things of the world. For because they are rich they despise the poor, and they persecute the meek, and their hearts are upon their treasures; wherefore, their treasure is their god. And behold, their treasure shall perish with them also.

2 Nephi 9:30

The problem, as Jacob defines it, is twofold:

  1. Looking down on those who are less wealthy than you: “Despising the poor.”
  2. Setting your heart upon riches: trusting worldly things to save you.

Jacob later gave this advice to those who had “obtained more abundantly” than others:

Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.

Jacob 2:17

I think the phrase “familiar with all” is particularly important. We live in a world in which many neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces are segregated by social class. Many people object to mixed-income housing or school district realignment because they fear it will affect the value of their home or the quality of their children’s education. But more interaction among people of different social classes is good for the community, and befriending people from diverse backgrounds is good for our souls.

And what about the poor? Their attitude toward wealth can be just as destructive to their happiness. King Benjamin gave the following guidance to those who were less well-off:

I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.

And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received.

Mosiah 4:24-25

Just like the rich, the poor can also be dragged down by their attitude toward wealth.

In June of 1831, the Lord gave similar warnings to church members gathering in Kirtland, Ohio:

Wo unto you rich men, that will not give your substance to the poor, for your riches will canker your souls; and this shall be your lamentation in the day of visitation, and of judgment, and of indignation: The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and my soul is not saved!

Wo unto you poor men, whose hearts are not broken, whose spirits are not contrite, and whose bellies are not satisfied, and whose hands are not stayed from laying hold upon other men’s goods, whose eyes are full of greediness, and who will not labor with your own hands!

Doctrine and Covenants 56:16-17

The attitude of both rich and poor toward worldly wealth can “canker” (corrupt) their souls and lead to decisions which harm others. In contrast, the Lord provided the following description of people whose attitude is appropriate:

But blessed are the poor who are pure in heart, whose hearts are broken, and whose spirits are contrite, for they shall see the kingdom of God coming in power and great glory unto their deliverance; for the fatness of the earth shall be theirs.

Doctrine and Covenants 56:18

As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has observed, we can be part of the fulfillment of that promise as we share what we have with those in need:

In an 1831 revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord said the poor would one day see the kingdom of God coming to deliver them “in power and great glory.” May we help fulfill that prophecy by coming in the power and glory of our membership in the true Church of Jesus Christ to do what we can to deliver any we can from the poverty that holds them captive and destroys so many of their dreams.

Are We Not All Beggars?,” General Conference, October 2014

Today, I will heed the Lord’s warnings to both rich and poor. I will strive to be less reliant on worldly possessions, to give generously with those in need, and to interact meaningfully and consistently with people of every socioeconomic status.

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