Do You Want to Be the Richest Person in the World?

By Mark D. Roberts

January 20, 2021

Scripture – Luke 9:24-25 (NRSV)

For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?


According to recent news reports, Elon Musk is now the richest person in the world. But he seems strangely unimpressed. In fact, he’s spending half of his fortune building a city on Mars, just in case the world is destroyed. Jesus warns us about caring so much for this world that we lose ourselves in the process. Instead, we are to give ourselves to Jesus – all that we are – so that we might receive the riches of his grace and fulness of his life.

Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.


A recent headline caught my attention: “Elon Musk becomes world’s richest person as wealth tops $185bn.” And just when I had gotten used to thinking of Jeff Bezos as the world’s richest person! As it turns out, Tesla stock value has increased dramatically in recent days, propelling Musk (founder of Tesla) ahead of Bezos (founder of Amazon). I was rather amused, maybe even impressed by Musk’s response to the news of his material prominence. When Twitter announced that Musk was now the world’s wealthiest person, he tweeted, “How strange.” Followed by, “Well, back to work . . . .”

Elon Musk is an unsual person, to say the least. Though he is wealthy beyond what any of us might imagine, he is curiously uninterested in “gaining the whole world.” In fact, he is not sure the world is going to be around for much longer. Musk is spending half of his fortune to establishing “a self-sustaining city on Mars to ensure the continuation of life (of all species) in case Earth gets hit by a meteor like the dinosaurs or WW3 happens and we destroy ourselves.”

Ironically, both Elon Musk and Jesus are less than enthusiastic about “gaining the whole world,” though in different ways. For Musk, the problem lies in the fact that the world might be destroyed someday. For Jesus, the problem with gaining the whole world is what you give up in return. Jesus said, “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?” (Luke 9:24-25). If we seek only for success in this world, if we desire only to save and enrich our earthly life, then we will lose our life. Even if we remain physically alive, we will lose our inner life, our eternal life.

What ought we to strive for if not for earthy life and financial gain? Jesus said those who want to follow him should “deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). He suggested that we must not be “ashamed” of him and his words (Luke 9:26). Rather than seeking our own benefit, we should seek instead to give our whole life to following Jesus, to being devoted to him and his teachings.

Elsewhere, Jesus urged us to “strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). The top priority of our life should be to live intentionally each day with God as the ruler of our lives. We should seek God’s ways in all that we do, offering all we are to God and his purposes. Yes, in a sense we are giving up our lives to Jesus. But, in the process, we are receiving his life in return, abundant life, life as God intended it to be, both in this age and in the age to come.

When that happens, we become immeasurably rich, not in dollars, but in God. We have confident hope in “the riches of [God’s] glorious inheritance among the saints” (Ephesians 1:18). Though we begin to experience God’s grace right now, we look forward to the time when God will “show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” Elon Musk is worth only $185 billion these days. Nobody can even measure just how rich you are in Jesus Christ.


What do you want most out of life? What are your greatest longings? hopes? Desires?

You may not want the whole world, but are there things you desire that might keep you from seeking first God’s kingdom?

In what ways have you “lost your life” for the sake of following Jesus?

How do you experience the life of Jesus today?


Are there things in your life that you need to surrender to the Lord? Take some time to reflect on this. If you realize you’re holding on to some things too tightly, choose to give them to Jesus. Offer him all that you are.


Lord Jesus, I don’t want to gain anything and, in the process, lose myself. Yet, I know there are things I desire, even crave. Not wealth, though I do want to have enough to be comfortable. My longings are for things like family love, security, safety, health, meaningful work, the chance to use my gifts in service to others. None of these are bad, of course. But they can take precedence over you, Lord. Forgive me when this happens.

Help me to have things in the right order, to live with the right priorities. May I seek you and the life you offer more than anything else. May I hold loosely other things, even those I value. May I be willing to give to you all that I am, day after day, moment by moment. Help me to live under your kingdom, for your purposes and glory . . . even now. Amen.

P.S. from Mark

Friends, next fall I will begin another D.Min. cohort focusing on Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation. This degree program includes three years of course work plus a doctoral project. It’s intended for pastors and other leaders with a theological master’s degree. If you are interested, you can learn more here. Or you can reach out to me personally if you have questions. Alternatively, you might know somebody for whom this would be a great opportunity. Please let them know. Thanks so much.

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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the High Calling archive, hosted by the Theology of Work Project. Audio on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: You Define Success for Yourself

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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