Better to be rich or poor?

English: President Reagan presents Mother Tere...
English: President Reagan presents Mother Teresa with the Medal of Freedom at a White House Ceremony, 1985. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Russell Conwell was a writer, lawyer, orator, university founder, philanthropist, and Baptist preacher about 100 years ago. He delivered one speech over 6000 times, called “Acres of Diamonds.” This speech was about a man who traveled to the Middle East and heard his guide tell a story about a man who left home looking for wealth. The man didn’t find it and became so discouraged he killed himself. Later, someone else found acres of diamonds on his land, right under his feet. The dead man would have found them if he had bothered to look for wealth right where he was.

Many say this story means that true wealth and happiness are right where you are if you know how to find them. Tens of thousands of people heard this speech and many were so moved by it that they found motivation to seek wealth right where they were. One man, for example sat listening to the speech and saw a lady with a hairpin that looked rather difficult to insert in the hair. The man sat thinking of a way to improve the design.  He did and made a fortune selling the new hairpin.

Another man used the few pennies he had to buy needles and thread to sell on the street. He didn’t sell the products and realized he should find out what people want to buy before investing in the product. He observed that many were buying certain kinds of clothes and he invested in them. He began to sell his wares very quickly and after some years became the richest man in New York City at that time.

Conwell believed strongly that anyone could become rich if they had strong desire and worked toward that goal. He said

 “I say that you ought to get rich, and it is your duty to get rich…. The men who get rich may be the most honest men you find in the community. Let me say here clearly .. . ninety-eight out of one hundred of the rich men of America are honest. That is why they are rich. That is why they are trusted with money. That is why they carry on great enterprises and find plenty of people to work with them. It is because they are honest men. … … I sympathize with the poor, but the number of poor who are to be sympathized with is very small. To sympathize with a man whom God has punished for his sins … is to do wrong…. let us remember there is not a poor person in the United States who was not made poor by his own shortcomings. …”

I don’t fully agree with Conwell’s statement, because people are poor for many different reasons including poor health, living in an area of the world where everyone is poor, mental retardation, and some choose to be poor to spend time helping people, such as Mother Teresa.

Some feel it is a sin to be wealthy and some people even believe Jesus taught that. I believed that for awhile, but while reading the Old Testament I saw over and over again that God promised prosperity to everyone who followed his commands and did certain things. Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1; Deuteronomy 30:15; 1 Kings 2:3; Psalm 37:11; Psalm 25:12-14 Proverbs 8:17-19; Proverbs 19:8 Jeremiah 29:11 are a few examples of many promises in the Bible. But unfortunately, they have to be accepted by faith, which is extremely difficult. Also, it can take years, and lots of hard work for promises to come about.

I find that in general, rich people can do more good for the world by donating money and time than people who are not rich. It doesn’t have to be that way, but it usually is. Poor people who have lots of free time could become very powerful prayer warriors, but most do not. They could spend time helping people, some do, but I find most don’t. It is usually the wealthier people who do this. Strange, but that is just what I have observed.

I know many will disagree, feel free to leave a comment expressing another viewpoint.


  1. I think when it comes to money, people either prosper or live in poverty because of underlying emotions or views about money, similar to your point about how some think its a sin to be wealthy. Whether we realize it or not, we probably grew up in an environment that looked at money as either a positive or negative thing.

    Me… I am poor. I wish that I had a bucket load of money. Not because I’m greedy, but I could do so many great things with it! I know so many people that I’d like to bless with a gift card to the grocery store for Christmas. I’d love to fill up the gas tank of a stranger behind me at the pump. I’d like to pay for someone’s meal behind me in the drive through. It is so much fun to see people’s faces light up when you’ve done something nice for them. I do what I can… But it’d be so much more fun to have more money for those kinds of things!

  2. ” Rich people can do more good for the world by donating money and time than people who are not rich.” Wealthy people, of course, would need to give a lot more in order to give proportionately the same as poorer people.

  3. Wealth is not related to happiness for me. Poor people seem to find happiness faster because they do not take everything for granted but appreciate a lot more simple things than rich people. I am rather poor and healthy and happy than anything else.

  4. Wealth is in the eye of the beholder…and often is so much more than monetary! Money helps, but I recently heard a report that suggested the average person who earned above around $75K actually became less happy due to the stresses associated with the money. Life is so much more …

  5. The pursuit of wealth is a large part of the cause of the GFC. I think it is more pursue your potential, which in turn may bring you wealth. Be all that you can be, do all that you can do, give without binds.

  6. I suppose it’s nice to be ‘comfortably-off’ but I don’t think for one moment wealth brings any happiness at all. It’s too superficial and many of the things it provides don’t make you feel any better in yourself. I’ve been pretty well-off and also pretty damn broke but haven’t ever really found having lots of money has made me happier – just possibly less worried!

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