Thelma Howard, who had been the maid of Walt and Lillian Disney for 20 years, died in 1981. Every Christmas, Walt Disney would summon her to his office to give her a Christmas bonus of some sort. Instead of cash, every year for twenty years, Disney would give Lillian a piece of paper with some writing on it.
She died in dire poverty, a lonely old woman. But when her few possessions were being sorted out, it was discovered that she was worth an absolute fortune. Those bits of paper which Walt Disney had given her over the years were actually bonds and stocks and shares in the company. She had all the riches she could want and yet she never knew it.
Many of us are not wealthy in worldly terms: some of us are not even “comfortable” in the sense that it is a struggle to afford the necessities of life on the state pension or a minimum waged income. As 2018 continues - with talk of rising prices but unchanging income - everyday living is becoming more of a struggle for many.
Yet there are riches we can access if only we take the time to stop and to look around us. An very old hymn of thanksgiving has these lines in the chorus “Count your blessings, name them one by one…” Can I ask you do something? Stop for a moment and think about how we have been blessed and are blessed on deeper than a material level. There is the beauty of creation all around us, there is God’s provision of food and a home: for some (though sadly, not all), a family.
Over the years I have seen many people’s lives blighted or destroyed in the pursuit of worldly wealth. In chasing after gold, many have lost the ability to form and sustain supportive relationships. At the same time, I have been personally conscious in my own life and in that of others, that the deepest riches comes from the relationship with God, through Christ who is at the heart of the Christian faith.
Writing to a young church, Paul the Missionary and Apostle sums it up like this: (it is) the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7)
Knowing Jesus, following God’s way brings wealth beyond any imagining, it gives us strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow.