What it Means to be Filthy Rich

December 2, 2013 | 30 comments

So, we found the secret to getting rich. We found it out on some jagged crook of island, where the ocean slaps against the rocky shore, and a persistent alleluia miraculously breaks through the growl of hunger.

We worshipped Sunday next to the richest people in the world. And they didn’t look a thing like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet.

They looked like Pastor Patrice and Judith and little Nadesh, with her scrawny arms raised in a wide Y toward the heavens.

The richest people in the world wear dirty shoes at the communion table, because they have to walk one stone-strewn path to get there.

I sat behind one rich woman. The hem had fallen out of her only church skirt, which she carefully pressed before gathering her tinies for the long walk to church. I watched her chin tremble when she sang. Her Bible was falling apart.

These are the filthy rich: dirt poor people with dirty feet … but rich in faith, hope and love.

The wealthiest of the wealthy drop their heads onto the pews in front of them, and I don’t know whether they’re crying or praising. Maybe both.

Maybe you’ve met the wealthy ones. Maybe you’ve met the ones who don’t have stock invested in Google, but in God.

Maybe you’ve met them in Haiti or along the red-dirt roads of Uganda. But maybe you never had to cross an ocean. Maybe you see the richest of the rich right where you are — in the deep south, or the blustery plains of North Dakota or under the tall spire of your church. I pray that you see the ultra-rich in your suburb and your carpool lane and your cul-de-sac and in your very own pew.  Maybe? You see her in your very own mirror. If you do, my friend, you have learned that the real secret to getting rich quick has nothing to do with a wallet’s thickness.

But maybe you know it like I do: How a life of excess can be the fastest road to spiritual poverty. How it’s hard to see the real richness of life, when you think it has to do with keeping up with the Joneses.

We could miss true wealth, because our eyes are on the stacks and stockpiles and Cyber Monday deals. Believe me: I love a good bargain, and I have enough food in my cupboard and freezer to feed my family for months. But at times, I live like I’ve forgotten where the real treasure is.

Corrie Ten Boom, a concentration-camp survivor, said that can happen: “You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have.”

But for most of us, we’ll never get to the point where we have nothing. Most of us will always be able to fill our bellies with food, our shelves with Captain Crunch, our garages with cars, and our cars with gas.

So, for us, we’ll have to train ourselves in the ways of the truly rich — by practicing the persistent alleluia. It’s that same alleluia that breaks through the unspeakable pain in Haiti. We need that same alleluia to break through our “stuff.”

At the orphanage where we’re staying, Nadesh instructs her toddler friends to sit down on the bench in the outdoor lunchroom. Then, Nadesh — who came to this orphanage terribly malnourished a few months ago — stands up in front of them like a tiny preacher. She throws back her head, lifting her face to the sky, and stretches out both arms to heaven.

She belts out one word: ALLELUIA! And the children, repeat: ALLELUIA! Then she dances in a circle, clapping and praying, and tiny orphans repeat her words. She repeats. And the children keep responding. Alleluia … Alleluia … Alleluia…

And every morning for the last few weeks, the workers have heard that one word — Alleluia — coming from behind the closed door of the “baby room,” where the littlest children of the orphanage sleep.

When the babies wake up, and they want someone to come and get them out of bed, they cry out one word: ALLELUIA! ALLELUIA!

And maybe that’s what we could do. It’s at least a really good place to start, to live our lives in this repeat cycle of waking up with the Alleluia on our lips. We could cry out for God to come and get us; we could cry out with our Alleluia. And all day long, we could sing it — with Nadesh — our continual thanksgiving to the heavens.




by | December 2, 2013 | 30 comments


  1. Mia

    Dear Jennifer
    Oh, the faith of a little child is such a beauty to behold, my friend. Behind their Alleluias there are heart resting in their Pappa’s embrace, loving Him for His love has been demonstrated to them ñ the orphanage. All the palaces in the world cannot be the palace this orphanage is for the true royalty of Heaven stay here. Oh, Jennifer, I live in a country where poverty is rampant and at times it breaks my heart to see the suffering of the majority of the population. Last week a mother with three children poisoned herself and her three children because the grant money was not enough to feed them, but a worst kind of poverty that’s shocked us also was a 24 year old man who raped a 6 weeks old baby. Great post!
    Blessings xx

  2. Debbie Keady

    thank you for sharing this. Beautiful and soul-searching. Your writing inspires me to keep sharing ViBella. Thank you for giving us a first-person peek into Haiti. You are doing Kingdom-work!!!

  3. Lori Alexander

    My son was just in Ethiopia. He is a dentist and pulled out more than 200 teeth in 5 days. The people wept with relief when they were no longer in pain. One woman held onto his legs weeping and bowing to him in relief. She had suffered pain for so long. He went with a group of people sharing the love of Jesus. He could not believe how little they have. We take so many things for granted, even things like going to the dentist.

  4. J Stults

    What a beautiful testament to beautiful faith. I especially liked this line: “Maybe you’ve met the wealthy ones. Maybe you’ve met the ones who don’t have stock invested in Google, but in God.” I just love the thought of “investing” with God. He is the Faithful One. I’m heading into this week with the hope of a persistent, “Allelulia.” 🙂

  5. HisFireFly

    on the red dirt road, yes
    and so we shall return, and return again
    to find His heart there
    beating strong

  6. ro elliott

    Thank you ….waking up with Alleluia in my heart…and praises on my lips!!!

  7. Sandra Heska King

    Your words are rich. And these photos say it all. Alleluia!

  8. Cindy Penrod

    Praise God for this timely word!! I’ll tell you, God has been speaking to my heart about some things I need to change in my attitude. Loving but tough words which I will obey with the help of His Spirit.

  9. Nancy Ruegg

    Oh, yes — Alleluia — Praising and boasting of our God! Your heart-touching post stirs up the alleluias in our spirits. Thank you for reminding us how rich we are in Jesus, as we enter this season that celebrates his birth.

  10. Deb Anderson Weaver

    This. Rich truth, undeniable hope, my desire.

    Deb Weaver

  11. Alison

    You know I’m near tears. Thank you. Mesi.

  12. lindalouise

    Perfectly beautiful Jennifer.

  13. Birdie Cutair


  14. Karrilee Aggett

    Once again, undone by your words and your heart and the truth that meets us here! Alleluia, sweet friend!

  15. Laura Boggess

    Yes, this is where the riches are. I am richer for the ways you share your love for these people, Jennifer. Praying so much fruit.

  16. Ashley Tolins Larkin

    Wow. And thank you.

  17. Esther King

    I so wish I had been there to meet you! You have just summarized what we are feeling trying to integrate back into Canadian life. Haiti is so simple, and so right….hope to be home soon!

  18. floyd

    I’m fascinated by how our Father created the most prized items in this life that we can possess can’t be calculated by a number. True riches are measured in the heart and by Him. Love the heart and message. I know you’re not looking for this, but nice job, sister.

  19. Carolyn Counterman

    I think I need Nadesh to come preach at my house. She obviously has something that I need to learn.

  20. Elise Daly Parker

    Powerful…I no longer feel like I want to keep up with the Jones…well at least most of the time. But how I wish I had seen this sooner. I love the idea of waking up with Alleluia on my lips. Blessings!

  21. Anita

    Joining with you -Alleluia!!! 🙂

    Thank you for sharing this joy with us.

  22. Ruthie

    This post gave me goosebumps – seriously! Living in Uganda, I have been privileged to meet the “rich” in God’s kingdom and they have taught me much about true riches and the language of “Alleluia.” Thank you for this beautiful piece!

  23. Leah Adams

    No words! Oh my, I think 98% of America is missing out on being filthy rich. This hit me personally, deep in my gut and my heart. My husband and I are having church issues and this is what we are seeking. I am praying so diligently for Holy Spirit delivered honest revival in America. We desperately need it.

  24. Leah C. Morgan

    Beautiful truth shared with lovely words. Reminds me of Ezekial 16. We always stray toward loving the blessings more than the Blesser.

  25. Jillie

    Oh Jennifer, this is so very good! Thank you for speaking to my heart today. In this world that seems to bring fresh horror to us every morning on the news, it is SO GOOD to read of the “filthy rich” there in Haiti. I have forwarded your post to a dear friend of mine, as she and I were just discussing this very thing last night as we shared our annual Christmas meal out, and exchanged small gifts. We have so much here, and we’re forever adding to our stockpile of “stuff”. Why? I for one, am tired of always trying to keep up with the Joneses. I try to make Proverbs 30:7-9 my daily prayer: “Two things I ask of You, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown You and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”
    Thank you for this rich word today, Jennifer.

  26. Jen Sandbulte

    Alleluia! No other word seems appropriate for how this settles in my heart…

  27. Mindy Whipple

    In this season where many find excess you bring us richness of soul. Alleluia indeed.

  28. Nannette Elkins

    So beautiful Jennifer…I have been reading my best friend’s posts and looking at her 100+ pictures as she just returned from her third trip to Haiti this year. She too is in love with those people, especially the orphans. If she could bring them all back to Tennessee she would! It breaks my heart to see them all and yet I rejoice in what God is doing through so many in her small town. As a pastor’s wife she has literally rallied the entire town around this cause and every time they go they take thousands of dollars and as many treats and necessities as their suitcases will allow. They think of everything. I am thankful for the burden that God has placed in the hearts of people like YOU and my friend Bonnie…God has literally changed her into a giver and a DO-er! Thank you.

  29. Micah

    Thanks for writing this, it’s beautiful. And so good to be reminded of what’s most precious.



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