So this article could be dangerous. I have to be careful and navigate the many different perspectives that would criticize what I am going to write today. There are two opposing thoughts when it comes to prosperity in the Scripture. There are those who look at the Sermon on the Mount where it says “Blessed are the poor” (Luke 6:20) and teach that God wants us to be poor. There are some, especially in some Catholic communities, that take a vow of poverty. The thought is that we are somehow more blessed if we are poor. This has caused a great deal of controversy at times when priests and pastors have nice houses or cars.
There is nothing that indicates that we are to strive toward the conditions in the Sermon on the Mount in order to receive blessings. Otherwise, we would all be on hunger strikes, work to get people to hate us, and cry all the time just to get the blessings of God. Does this seem backward to anyone else? Yeah, the point of the Sermon on the Mount is that for those who find themselves in those conditions, they can cry out to the Lord and He can minister to them in a beautiful way even as they suffer. But to work toward being poor, sad, hated, and hungry does not fit the entire context of Scripture.
Ok, so that is one side of the spectrum, but there is another side of Christianity way over on the other side of the room. Many of you have heard the term ‘prosperity preaching.’ The belief behind this is that if we are faithful to the Lord, especially if we give to churches, ministries, televangelists, that the Lord will bless us with extreme wealth. For something to be true, it must be true in every situation. And if we look at Christians from a world perspective, prosperity preaching is an untruth. Americans, in general, are quite wealthy, including American Christians. However, should we look at the percentage of wealth given to ministries by Christians all over the world, we would see that Americans do not necessarily give larger percentages. If they did give larger percentages, then the fact that American Christians are wealthier than others around the world might prove prosperity preaching. But this is not the case. There are Christians around the world giving the same percentage if not more, but they are not getting wealthy because they live in a culture that does not allow for financial gain. The capitalist society of America gives greater opportunity for wealth building then, let’s say the Christians in China or Africa may have. Some Christians give all they have and continue to live in abject poverty their whole life. Prosperity preaching is just as off as the thought that Christians are supposed to be poor.
Ok, now, let’s look at our Verse of the Day:
4 Humility is the fear of the Lord;
its wages are riches and honor and life.
Just to cover all of our bases, it is important to note that nothing has been lost in translation. The word here used for riches means in the original language ‘accumulation of wealth.’ This proverb is speaking of wealth. Wealth along with honor and life are the result of humility and fear of the Lord. This can shut down both philosophies mentioned above. Giving money to the church is not responsible for wealth here as prosperity preaching might suggest. But to seek humility and obedience fits well into the plenary context of Scripture but it produces wealth. This shuts down the idea that Christians are supposed to be poor. So, does God want you to be rich or poor?
When God first established His covenant with Abram, the Lord said that He would bless Abram and Abram would be a blessing (Genesis 12:2). Now we know that not all blessings are financial, but many ways that we bless people do require wealth. This is why Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes that money was the answer for everything (Ecclesiastes 10:19). If you want to send Bibles to Africa, it is going to require money. If you want to feed the poor, it takes money. If you want to visit those in prison, you have to put gas in your car. Ok, I know some of you are thinking you could walk to the prison. This is true, but they won’t let you in if you are naked so you at least have to spend some money on clothes so you can get in.
Obviously, not all blessings are about money which was also a point Solomon was trying to make. You can’t just throw money at a situation and expect it to get fixed. It is with love that we change the world and love is free, but the acts of love many times do require finances.
This is why the Lord established His covenant with us by giving us the ability to produce wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18). He blesses us with the ability to produce wealth so that we can then use that wealth to bless others. So, does God want you to be poor? I would say no, but then I have to hesitate a bit. Does God want you to be rich? Well, we could say the more money we have, the more blessings we can bestow on others. We know people such as Green’s, the owners of Hobby Lobby have done so much in the name of Christ with their enormous wealth. But we also know that salvation comes by hearing which means there must be face to face evangelism. For this reason, the Lord has dispersed His church to every situation and every culture.
The corruption of the human heart has produced nations and systems full of corruption that have created places of great poverty. Those people in poverty need to hear the Gospel so the Lord has placed Christians in the poorest areas of this world to have a witness and testimony of Jesus Christ. If it were God’s will that every Christian be rich, then the poor would only be ministered to by missionaries going into those areas temporarily. True evangelism happens within the culture so there are some believers the Lord will allow to remain in poverty to minister to the poor. There are some who the Lord will call to give up their wealth to live with the poor such as James Barnett, whom God called to leave a six-figure income to become homeless in order to minister to the homeless. At the same time, rich people need the Lord as well so we must also have super-wealthy Christians to reach people in that culture as well.
In the end, we must submit to the wisdom of God who knows what is needed to bring souls to salvation. When we live in humility and obedience, it will produce wealth. Wealth is relevant to the culture. The Lord will provide for those even in the worst situations comparable to those around them. But the Lord also may call someone to use every bit of that wealth for the poor. For others, having wealth to give away, but still, be able to leave an inheritance to their children’s children is God’s will (Proverbs 13:22).
What can we take away from the Verse of the Day then? Well, we know that if we humble ourselves before the Lord in obedience, then we are committing ourselves to the culture He has called us to. Within the context of our calling, the Lord will bless us with wealth, honor, and life. This does not mean that we will be super-rich compared to the rest of the world. It does mean that He will supply all of our needs and the wealth necessary to be a blessing to those around us. I once led my next-door neighbor to the Lord. He was a cocaine addict living in a middle-class neighborhood. It was necessary for me to have the wealth necessary to live next door to this man. I have other neighbors that I try to minister to or witness to when I have the opportunity, but it is the wealth I have that allows me to minister to them. The Lord may someday call me to give up all my wealth to live in poverty to minister to a different people group. But even there, He will reward my humility and obedience with wealth that is comparative to that culture which would still allow me to be a blessing to others.
It is not wicked to be rich nor is it holy to be poor. All of us have been placed in certain places in our lives and we all have gifts from the Holy Spirit for the purpose of ministry. The Lord will bless each of us according to our calling with wealth, honor, and life when we live in humility and obedience to Him.
Let’s leave the amount of wealth we have to the Lord and just serve Him humbly.
I always pray for everyone who would read these devotions so I am praying for you. God knows what you need and I am asking Him to supply all of your needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19).
Please help me get the word out that I am writing these daily devotions to go along with the Verse of the Day from Bible.com which is also the YouVersion Bible app. If these have been a blessing to you, share them, like them, forward them. And don’t forget to let people know about my free ebook “Breaking Free From Your Past” which is a book for emotional healing. Just share the link with them.
Please pray for me as I seek to minister the Word of God to the utmost of my ability. And don’t forget that I enjoy doing Biblical Life Coaching. If you have a situation you are unsure of how God would want you to proceed, I would love to share with you Biblical principles specific to your situation. Just reply to this email and let me know what’s going on.
Live Blessed and Be a Blessing!