Dave Larson has walked with me from the very beginning of my work in international development. As a coach and a friend, he helped me navigate my first job in Cambodia and negotiate with armed police when I was driving down the wrong side of the road in Rwanda.
After reading the post on why we eliminated the words “the poor” from our HOPE mission statement, Dave wrote to me with this story. Thought it was too good not to share:
By Dave Larson
Recently, I met an extremely rich man—one of the wealthiest that I’ve ever encountered.
Manny is a taxi driver in the Philippines. He earns about $8/day.
Wait, rich? Extremely rich?
I learned about Manny’s wealth—and the source of it—while in his taxi during an hours-long Manila traffic jam.
I asked “How can you spend 14 hours a day in this, with the heat, humidity, pollution, stress?”
“It’s ok,” he smiled broadly. “I treasure my family. I’d do anything for them.”
Manny is relationally rich, with a loving family that he cherishes and that adores him in return.
Manny also told me about his vibrant relationship with Jesus. He’s spiritually wealthy—reconciled to God through Christ, and, through Christ to others. Manny has discovered Life through Death. Following 2 Corinthians 5:15, he’s died to himself and now lives for Christ.
But most striking and unusual to me—given what is, by many standards, a modest income—Manny is wealthy because he’s content.
“I earn about 350 pesos a day. It’s enough for my family’s needs, and we’re happy,” he reported with pride and dignity. “Would we like more? Of course, but we don’t need more; we have plenty. We’re satisfied.”
Like the Apostle Paul, writing in Philippians 4:11–12, Manny has “learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” He has “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.”
So…what is this “secret”? Paul doesn’t go into great depth explaining it, but he says in verse 13, “I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”
“All this.” That jumps out at me, partly because I often hear it translated as “all things,” without reference to the preceding verses. In the past, I’ve totally missed the meaning here, thinking that, “I can do all things” means I can do more, get more. But looking at verse 13 in context, I see that when Paul says he can do “all this,” he’s actually talking is about being content, empowered by Christ.
Manny is wealthy because he doesn’t take verse 13 in isolation, as I have at times. Instead, this low-income taxi driver has recognized that the verse is all about contentment—with less materially, and more spiritually and relationally.
Today, I’m writing about Manny from a hospital bed, awaiting a possible heart surgery. Things look clearer when you’re staring at an IV drip, waiting for doctors to try to fix an “achy breaky heart.”
Especially at times like this, the things that really matter rise to the surface. Like Manny, I have a loving family around me, and I would do anything for them. Like Manny, I have purpose in Christ. Honestly, though, unlike Manny, I have yet to fully get “the secret,” to completely grasp contentment.
But inspired by a rich apostle and a wealthy Filipino taxi driver, perhaps someday I’ll also more fully discover the secret to True Wealth, finding full contentment in what God has given me, whatever the circumstances.