Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Real Wealth

All of the protesting being done about corporate greed has prompted me to consider the place of wealth or poverty for Christians.  

But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away. James 1:9-11

We Christians can have some strange ideas about money.  This is not new.  Many centuries ago, Emperor Julian of the Roman Empire confiscated all of the property of the Christians so they could be poor and thus enter into the kingdom of God!  Down through the centuries many have held the mistaken notion that poverty and Christianity go hand in hand.
The earliest Christians were from the poorer classes in society.  At times in Christian history a vow to poverty has been part of a person's commitment to Jesus Christ. There are some who feel that “money is the root of all evil” and condemn the rich.  Others see money as the evidence of the blessing of God and elevate those who are wealthy.  The Bible does say "the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil." (I Timothy 6:10)  

However, the Bible does not attribute to material poverty a great virtue, nor does it declare one cannot be rich in material possessions and spiritual blessings at the same time.  James addresses this as he discusses the trials of life.  In James' understanding, both prosperity and poverty can present us with difficulties.  Either can lead to spiritual disaster without the God’s wisdom.

The problems of poverty are quite evident.  Without enough money, many needs are not met and many desires are not fulfilled.  When we are not able to buy for ourselves and our children the things we need (or want), it can lead to envy toward those who have more.  If this poverty lasts over a long period of time, it can create bitterness toward those who are able to do what we cannot do.  When this bitterness runs its course, it can produce self-pity.  Self-pity says, "We are poor because the circumstances of life are against us. It is someone else's fault."  This victim position is certainly a slap in the face of God.

The problems of prosperity also need to be recognized.  An abundance of money does not remove our troubles. In many cases, it increases them.  Abundance of wealth tends to give us a false sense of self-security.  Such self-security leads to a dependence on our money that causes us to forget our need for God.  (Deuteronomy 8:11-14)  We are tempted to believe our money will provide for us all the things we need.  

So, both poverty and prosperity can present us with troubles.  However, in most cases the temptations of prosperity are greater.  This is true today as it was in James' day.  Material possessions are transitory.  A person who depends on his riches will be like a colorful flower in the desert.  His life may be spectacular and colorful, but it will also be short-lived and he will discover emptiness (v.11).  Poverty in itself is not bad as long as we have invested our lives in God.  This will bring eternal rewards.

The haves and the have-nots; both have problems.  But Jesus is the great equalizer.  Both have a position in Jesus Christ which makes our material standing irrelevant.  Both have a position in Jesus Christ in which they can find peace, power, purpose, and fulfillment.  The ground is wondrously level at the foot of the cross.  In Jesus Christ all human distinctions are abolished and we are all made one in Him.  The lesson for the day is clear.  Don’t be deceived by the world’s value system.  

Scripture to Claim:
But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."  1 Samuel 16:7

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