If I Were Rich
Listen to “If I Were Rich” By Fred Smith
“If I were rich, I would tell them exactly what I was thinking and not hold back. I would ask the hard questions. What could they do to me?”
Like my friend, which of us doesn’t say that to ourselves now and then? Of course, there are people who have enough confidence or lack of experience being rebuffed who are able to say what they are thinking without considering the consequences. That is why Doc Martin on PBS is one of my favorite characters. His personality is gruff, to-the-point, and completely lacking in bedside manner. His total absence of filter means he has few, if any, friends but that doesn’t bother him. He has no capacity for nuance or consideration of feelings. If the truth is obvious, why not say it?
For people like Doc Martin, even their own families have trouble tolerating them. In the Old Testament, we read the story of young David being sent by his father to see how his brothers are doing in the battle with the Philistines. Shortly after arriving, he discovers the army is basically getting up in the morning, standing on one side of the valley listening to Goliath’s taunts, and then retiring for the day. David asks the obvious question which turns his brothers against him and he is asked, “Why have you come down here? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is.” David and his brothers are estranged for the rest of their lives.
Take the example of young Joseph. Because Jacob had made it clear that he loved Joseph more than all the rest of his children, his brothers already hated him and were plotting to be rid of him. That Joseph never did anything to earn Jacob’s favor or had never accomplished anything deserving the ornate robe only made it more blatant for the family.
In spite of that and without considering the obvious consequences, Joseph shares his dream with his family. “Someday all of you will bow down to me. I didn’t make that up. God told me.” As if they were going to celebrate his good fortune! No, in fact, it brings out the very worst in them as it often does when we meet people who consider themselves superior. We say “who died and left you in charge?” or we might do something worse – as the brothers did with Joseph by selling him into slavery. We want to put them in their place and say, “I am as good as you.”
The feeling of “I am as good as you” made my friend want to be rich. He believed that would give him the confidence to speak boldly. That same desire for equality drove the brothers to strip Joseph of the despised robe and throw him into the cistern. Of course, the result is always the same. As long as we want to be as good as someone else we are caught in a trap we have laid ourselves.
In “Screwtape Proposes A Toast” C.S. Lewis writes, “No man who says I’m as good as you believes it. He would not say it if he did. The claim to equality is made only by those who feel themselves to be in some way inferior. What it expresses is precisely the itching, smarting, writhing awareness of an inferiority which the patient refuses to accept. And therefore resents. Yes, and therefore resents every kind of superiority in others; denigrates it; wishes its annihilation. Presently he suspects every mere difference of being a claim of superiority.”
Those who are truly confident and comfortable with their talent never consider being as good as someone else. They do not envy the achievements of others or begrudge their success. They do not need the acclaim or the recognition to shore them up. They do not perform for the applause of the audience but for the love of their craft. As William Blake said, “I will not reason or compare; my business is to create.” They often are, as were David and Joseph, misunderstood and mistreated but they persevere. In the end, they fulfill their purpose.
Joseph’s final request as he was dying in Egypt was to be buried in Shechem where he had been sold into slavery. Instead of a grand monument that would recognize for the ages his stature and success in Egypt, he wanted to return to the place of the darkest time in his life. And, as powerful and famous as he was there is no marker to note where he rests. It is added that this invisible tomb is the inheritance of his descendants. I believe it is also the inheritance of everyone who speaks the truth, asks the obvious questions, and is not the least concerned with being as good as anyone else.