SJC Month 7: What if the Joneses Aren’t American?

By July 22, 2010 culture, faith No Comments

When I think of wealth, visions of opulence come to mind. I hear Robin Leach narrating a mansion tour. I think mansions, fleets of cars, acres of land.

What I don’t think of is me—my house, my car, my lifestyle. I see my life as rather average—a good one, certainly, but not wealthy. My life is not Robin Leach material.

But I’ve come to realize wealth is all a matter of perspective.

My perspective started changing a few years ago, when my pastor was preaching on our responsibility to help those in need. He displayed a chart showing that even a lower annual salary in the United States (something like $25K) is wealthy compared to what the majority of people earn in the world. Although I cannot remember the exact stats, the message has stuck, and I no longer think of wealth and poverty the same way.

Now I’m reading The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns for the SJC. It’s powerful! It defines the magnitude of the problem while breaking it down into chunks I can handle. The many facts and figures provide similar comparisons that my pastor spoke of in that message. I’ve found it so helpful in grasping the true definitions of wealth and poverty.

We joke about keeping up with the Joneses, but the Joneses are so narrowly defined . . . they are like us, our American neighbors, who only account for five percent of the world’s population. If we looked to the other 95 percent of the world, the Joneses are wealthy beyond compare.

Check out a few of the stats from the book. According to these standards, I think most of us in the United States would qualify for the international version of Robin Leach’s show. Wouldn’t that be something? A whole show featuring regular folks, regular American Joneses . . . living in luxury with access to clean water and heat and food and cars and jobs and education and entertainment and leisure time and more. I don’t feel so average anymore. I am blessed beyond compare!

Defining the Global Village: Population 100
If the world’s population was boiled down to just 100 people, here’s what it would look like.

Ethnicity Snapshot
60 would be Asian
14 would be African
12 would be European
8 would be Latin American
5 would be American or Canadian
1 would be from the South Pacific

Sociographic Characteristics
51 would be male; 49 would be female
82 would be non-white; 18 white
67 would be non-Christian; 33 would be Christian

Income Dispersion for $100
5% for 40 people: 12.5 cents per person
20% for another 40 people: 50 cents per person
75% for 20 people (4 of the 5 Americans/Canadians are in this group): $3.75 per person

Redefining Wealth
Living here in a land of plenty has skewed our perspective on true wealth vs. poverty. Here are a few comparisons to reset the bar.

Keeping up with the Joneses or indulging our insatiable desire for more?
If your income is $25,000 per year, you are wealthier than approximately 90 percent of the world’s population.
If you make $50,000 per year, you are wealthier than 99 percent of the world.
93% of the world’s people do not own a car.

How much money did you make today?
3 billion live on less than $2 per day
1.5 billion live on less than $1 per day
.3 billion in the United States live on $105 per day

U.S. Spending Plans vs. Worldwide Change
Just a little less on our part could make an immeasurable difference throughout the world. Here’s the true value of a dollar!

How do Americans spend all that money?
$705 billion on entertainment and recreation
$179 billion was spent by teens ages 12–17
$58 billion on state lottery tickets
$13 billion on cosmetic surgery

How much would you give to change the world?
$65 billion would eliminate the most extreme poverty worldwide for 1 billion people
$13 billion would give basic health and nutrition to everyone in the world
$9 billion would give clear water to most of the world’s poor
$6 billion would give universal primary education for children worldwide

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