Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Real Wealth (Part 2)

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

… Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny You and say, "Who is the LORD?" or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God. Proverbs 30:8-9

Wealth and poverty both can become long-term trials in the Christian life.  The scripture from Proverbs teaches us to pray that God would not place these trials in our lives, but James teaches us to accept them joyfully and to respond with enduring trust.  
To respond properly to wealth or poverty, we need to maintain a heavenly
perspective as to the temporary nature of our current material state
and of the exceeding glory of our eternal riches in Christ.

James contrasts the poor brother with the rich one, teaching us to think rightly about our material wealth or poverty.  The poor brother is reminded of the riches he possesses in Christ.  The rich brother is reminded that his earthly wealth is a fleeting thing that has no eternal value or existence. 

This exhortation is particularly timely for us who have lived in one of the wealthiest nations and times of human history.  The attack on the WTC and the Pentagon served as a reality check to show us that our material wealth is very transitory.  Our wealth, or even our lives, can be taken from us in a tragic instant of time. We need to be preoccupied with the things that will endure past the grave. 

There is a sense in which a poor brother is often spiritually wealthier than a rich one.  Riches can easily become a snare, as we become complacent and self-confident in our comfortable circumstances.  The impoverished brother may frequently be driven to prayer to seek from God the things he needs for his daily existence.  The wealthy brother, if he prays at all for his daily needs, is often half-hearted or superficial in his prayers — not seeing his desperate and immediate need of God's continued protection and provision.  

The wealthy brother needs to realize just how fleeting and perishable his riches are — that God could take them away in an instant — and thus think of himself as being just as needy and poor as the poor brother.  He "should take pride in his low position", knowing that his time on earth is short, that death strips us of our earthly wealth, and, once dead, he will be no wealthier than the poor man.  

So, who are the rich?  While some may debate this, the answer from scripture is that the rich are those who have more than they need.  That means most of us are considered wealthy not only in the world’s eyes, but in God’s eyes.  With that wealth comes responsibility. Do you remember Jesus’ words to the Rich Young Ruler?

When Jesus heard this, He said to him, "One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." Luke 18:22

God had given him abundant wealth so that he could share it with those in need, but he selfishly kept his abundance for himself.  In so doing, he clung to his own resources instead of trusting God.  He displayed a selfish heart as well.  Is he really any worse than us?  
Scripture to Claim:
And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

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