And they say, “How can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?” Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been stricken, and chastened every morning….until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end. (Psalm 73:11-14, 17).
Like Asaph cried in the above Psalm, many a Christian has also often lamented; God why am I always facing trials after trials, continuous hardship, difficulties around every corner, whereas the “man of the world” seems to be having a gala time, success in the office/ business, plenty of friends & parties and life seems rosy for him most of the time. It appears that many people in this world are rich and famous and seem to be enjoying life to the brim whereas the Christian appears to be grappling with constant troubles, and is put down ever so often instead of enjoying these “blessings”. Why do the wicked prosper, while God’s chosen people barely scrape by? Many of the heroes of the Bible were wealthy: Abraham, Joseph, David, Solomon, Job, Esther and others. Yet now, God does not seem to be using a large bank account as a form of blessing.
Jeremiah was another righteous servant of God who lamented: “Righteous are You, O Lord, when I plead with You; yet let me talk with You about Your judgments. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously? (Jeremiah 12:1)
Job had a similar plaint: “Why do the wicked live and become old, yes, become mighty in power? Their descendants are established with them in their sight, and their offspring before their eyes. Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them. Their bull breeds without failure; their cow calves without miscarriage. They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance. They sing to the tambourine and harp, and rejoice to the sound of the flute. They spend their days in wealth, and in peace go down to the grave”. (Job 21:7-13)
Typical of human nature, our eyes seem to be ever glued to the prosperity and prosperous ones around us. The newspapers feed our wanton desires as they report the escapades of the Rich and the Famous. Other sources such as the Forbes 500 Richest People or Celebritynetworth.com keep whetting our appetites, fuelling and stirring our desires for more of the same in our own lives. Coupled with all of this is the competitive spirit of being one-up or at least maintaining “status” in the neighbourhood. Let’s face it, keeping up with the Joneses has been the bane of many an individual, sparing not the Christian either. When we read about the amount of wealth the richest men in this 21st century possess, our hearts tend to ache with a similar longing; why cannot I possess at least 1% of that – which would of course run into millions of dollars (smile)? To make matters worse, we have highly questionable TV evangelists who insist on driving a prosperity gospel quite alien to the NT.
In Psalm 37, King David grumbled about this apparent contradiction, where the wicked often prospered and the obedient suffered. The entire Psalm 37 and Psalm 73 is worth a read as it perfectly expresses the aching heart and mind of many a pilgrim Christian ploughing through this pathway. [These are easy-to-remember psalms – just invert the numbers 37 and you get 73].
The Psalmist cautions us not to worry or be obsessed about the prosperity of the wicked. Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way……. Do not fret, it stirs up envy in the Christian, tempts him towards evil, and takes his eyes away from the Lord (verses 1, 7 & 8). Jesus reiterates this point in (Matthew 6:25-34), telling us not to worry about our life, our food and clothing and the troubles of tomorrow. Do not become worked up over it! In (v. 32 & 33) He emphatically states: “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you”.
What the N.T. Christian has not realized is that in the Old Testament, blessings were earthly and material in nature and were manifested in riches and possessions as a direct result of their obedience to God (see Deut 28). Thereafter came the transition moment when Jesus came onto the scene heralding a change over from the old to the new. The Old Covenant with its laws and material rewards was being phased away as the people of God (Jews) rejected their Messiah who had come precisely to save them – the lost sheep of Israel (Mt. 15:24). When they crucified Him at the Cross, The Father brought to a close the dispensation of the Law and its resultant earthly blessings.
In the post-Cross scenario, a new dispensation of GRACE was ushered in for all those who believe in the only Son of God (John 3:16). The point is this! With this new dispensation of Grace, the old economy under the O.T. with its earthly blessings and material wealth was set aside. Jesus having risen, has since ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father in power and glory and all Christians who are positionally in Him (see 2 Cor 5:17) are also seated with Him in the heavenly places far above all powers and principalities, thrones and dominions (Eph 1:20, 2:6-7). Hence, since God now looks at us – The Church – as seated with Christ in the heavenly places, our blessings are no longer earthly or material as under the old economy, but are now spiritual blessings in the heavenly places (Eph 1:3).
Once we understand this, we will realize the vanity of striving after wealth and material blessings on this earth where moths, rust and thieves come in to steal and destroy (Mt 6:19). Instead, we understand that we are no longer citizens of this planet, because since they rejected Christ, they will reject you and me also likewise. Therefore, Paul says our citizenship (as the Body of Christ) is of heaven (Phil 3:20 NIV), where Christ is seated as Head, and upon Christ we need to fix our gaze in worship. The Heavenly Father promises to meet our every need (and not greed) asked for in Jesus’ name, according to His riches in glory by Christ (John 14:13-14; Phil 4:19).
Further, Paul exhorts us therefore not to hanker after pleasures and desires of this world, but rather he writes in (1 Timothy 6:8-10): “And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows”.
By this, we do not mean that Christians should swing to the other extreme of a poverty mentality, or take to becoming a recluse like a monk (forsaking the material world entirely), or entering into unbiblical forms of ascetism to subdue the flesh. That is not biblical Christianity! God wants us to be in the world but not of it (John 17:15-16), and so as a dutiful Father He promises to meet every need (and not every greed) as we continue to live for Him in the place where we are planted.
The pursuit of wealth is a path that is likely to end in trouble and unhappiness. In my observation, money and wealth have a way of hardening the heart & swelling the head with arrogance and pride. Whereas, if we keep God’s way, the blessings will come automatically, as God sees fit. Sometimes, it is held back when the Master sees that it will be misused on fleshly appetites that will bring us long term harm. So, whether we prosper financially or not, we know that God has our best interests at heart (Romans 8:28). We can rely on Jesus’ promise in (Matthew 6:33) that God will give us all that we could ever need if we keep our focus on the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Praise His Name!
Application: We are rich in Christ, but this richness is defined by a different set of principles. “But just as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us – see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:7-9). Dear brother/ sister, do not run after riches which is a mere vanity and striving after wind. But instead, seek HIM, for in Him, we have everything, we are complete in Him (Col 2:9-10).