Had the most fascinating discussion on Facebook recently.
A gentleman posted his receipt from a few months back for his visit to Victoria & Albert’s. If you’re unfamiliar, this restaurant is a fine dining experience located in the Grand Floridian Resort at Walt Disney World. I’ve never dined there myself, but I’ve been informed it is quite the culinary experience.
Anyway, the post was a revelation. For a party of two, with tax and tip, this bill came to just under $1600. To put that in perspective, that is 2.7% of the Median Household Income in 2016, the last year reported by the Census Bureau.
Reactions ran all across the spectrum, from sticker shock to envy, from agreement on how amazing the experience it was to some people boasting about their ability to do this multiple times.
But one person surprised me. He was one of those multiple visitors to this restaurant, and his response was quite defensive. He stated that those who have never visited it should be quiet because they had no idea what the experience was like.
Now, V&A is obviously a gateway experience, based on wealth. But to say someone shouldn’t be allowed to make a statement is strikingly elitist. And what was more amazing was when I dug a bit further into the identity of the person making this post on Facebook, he was revealed to be… wait for it… the youth minister at a Christian church in Tennessee.
Now, I do not purport to be a Christian myself, but I try to respect the teachings of Christ. Moreso, apparently, than this lay minister, since he’s forgotten Matthew 19:24.
And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
I sometimes believe I have a grasp on the modern evangelical Christian movement in America, especially with its preoccupation around the prosperity gospel. Wealth has worked for centuries through various versions of Christianity as a yardstick makes for an easy, tangible measurement of blessings. No matter how many times that message and ideal has been disavowed and chastised by faith leaders throughout the community, it always seems to return. Why?
My best guess is that it is easy to delude yourself while you indulge in $1600 meals that you’re also doing some good on the side – like, oh, part-time work as a youth pastor at a very wealthy, very well-off church. I’m sure he probably donates to just the right charities – not ones that make any real difference, mind you, but ones that make him feel like his avarice is well-earned.
Wealth might open opportunities to experience things in life, but it is your choices among those things that show what you value and make you better. You do indeed have the option to spend $1600 repeatedly on a single meal, over and over, for a couple. Or you could do that once, mark it as an experience accomplished, and then use those funds earmarked on other priorities. For example… how many meals would that $1600 have purchased at the local food bank in your hometown?
It comes down to what you value. Or don’t.
I speak from experience. I’ve made too many bad choices in this lifetime at the height of my own prosperity to know it. Perhaps my mistakes might inform someone else’s choices.