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Keith Wishum: Richer than Gates

She was the most incredible woman Joe had ever met. Supermodel beautiful, Einstein intelligent, with the sweetest possible personality, Rachel captivated the attention of every young man on campus. Joe’s heart raced as he summoned the courage to ask her out.
His heart collapsed when she said no. His knees nearly buckled when he heard her strange words, “Unless you are richer than Bill Gates, you will never have a date with me.”
Bill Gates! That ended it. Gates, the Microsoft chief, made more money in a few minutes than Joe made in a year with his part-time job. Even after he graduated, Joe couldn’t expect make that kind of money. It was hopeless.
But what a curious way for Rachel to reject him! Why had she picked Gates? She wasn’t the superficial type, interested only in money. And her playful grin seemed to be saying there was something Joe was missing. Some mystery dancing behind her eyes suggested that she was thinking, maybe even hoping, that Joe would be richer than Gates so she could go out with him.
Slowly, a new hope dawned for Joe, growing brighter as it rose into words. “If you would only go out with me, I would be a far richer man than Bill Gates ever dreamed of being,” Joe heard himself saying.
And she said, “What time will you pick me up?”
Crowds were drawn irresistibly to Jesus. They longed to be his followers. Until they heard him say, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees … you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).
Better than the Pharisees? Impossible! The Pharisees were the chief churchgoers. They prayed twice a day, fasted twice a week, gave alms, and, well, they did everything righteous people were supposed to do. Who could top that?
Some did. Those who discovered a new definition of righteousness did. Those who found that being right with God is not performance-based, but person-based — that belonging to Jesus would make them more righteous than anything they could ever do themselves. Those who, like Paul the former Pharisee, understood  “It is by grace you have been saved … not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
A richer man than Gates? A better person than the Pharisees? Both are possible for those in Jesus Christ.

Keith Wishum is minister, Williams Road Church of Christ, Americus.