Surprisingly the Bible calls us to be rich. But wait- what? Doesn’t the Bible say that it is harder for a wealthy man to enter the Kingdom of heaven than a camel to go through the eye of a needle? So why is this constant assurance and encouragement by preachers/ teachers for Christians to hope in the Lord and that He will make them rich?
It is not without context that I address this topic. I have struggled with it myself. Surprisingly even in the days of wandering, not knowing the Lord, some of the best teachers or Christian friends would give me the assurance that I am going to be ‘big’ and ‘be prosperous’. Although my eyes weren’t yet open to understand the Word of God, I still knew in my heart that there was a huge misconception around this word ‘richness’ that gets tossed up in the Christian circles. I understood that there are unmistakably many verses in the Bible that point towards prosperity and wealth. But is this wealth then that ‘God’ promises, one, that is perishable? Doesn’t Jesus tell us to work for wealth that is nonperishable?
You may have to be patient with me as I try to put in words what God has revealed to me about this word from the Bible. I do not wish to preach but I believe that the Bible encourages young searchers to not be afraid to discuss what the gospel says. Also, again coincidentally many of the same verses that people used to hand me for ‘prosperity’ came up in my personal Bible study and what I understand ‘now’ is by His providence and wisdom. Some of the common verses in the Bible that point towards God’s promise of prosperity and wealth is this:
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
“For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
“Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth.”
The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, without painful toil for it.”
Philippians 4: 13 (NIV)
“I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
So the counter argument for gaining wealth, is to address whether actually being poor in the physical world, a ‘calamity’? Does it mean that living in poverty, even though one toils hard and gained nothing, because God has not been happy with him? Would our Biblical God perish the ones who are poor and not bless them at all? Definitely not. For Jesus himself says in the famous sermon on the Mount, that :
Mathew 5:1-12, He said:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Surprisingly, the so-called ‘blessed’ here are the ‘poor’. But they are not the ones who are hungry and going without bread, but the ones who are seeking to have God in their lives. The hunger and thirst is for ‘righteousness.’ Those who mourn, mourn ‘in spirit’. The lacking of their hearts is not for the riches of the world, so that they ‘inherit the earth’. But they seek to be comforted by the assurance of being called God’s children. This, Jesus says is the ‘greatest blessing’. So, then the continuing teachings of the Bible about the ‘poor’ were never about the ones who had ‘lesser physical wealth’. The poor, throughout the Bible who were asked to correct their ways so that they may be ‘rich’ were always the ones who had stopped seeking God’s righteousness. They were not ‘poor’ because of lack of wealth, but were poor in every way for losing sight of God’s righteous ways. They had gone so far off from God’s righteousness that they constantly needed to be disciplined so that they may be ‘rich’ again. And all the time, God himself had to work for it, instead for them to come around on their own.
In Jeremiah 29: 11, we read that, God says –
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Further He says,
12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.[a] I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
This was the devastating time when the Israelites were in exile in Babylon. An exile prophesized by Isaiah, the prophet, by God’s spirit, many years before. The exile was for the chosen people of God to remember their God and for the ‘remnant’ to come back to Him. The whole story was orchestrated by God himself.
So, in short, the next time you hear this verse, dished out on prosperity, remember – that what God calls prosperity is not for you to gain wealth and honour but for you to seek His righteousness and follow His ways. This is what He has planned for you. This is, so that you will have an everlasting relationship with him even through eternity. His plans for you doesn’t end with you in this life. It carries on even after it.
Also, whenever you come across verses like
Proverbs 10: 15 – “The wealth of the rich is their fortified city, but poverty is the ruin of the poor”, it would be good to be insightful and keep reading and come across verses like,
Proverbs 21: 17 – “Whoever loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich. “.
The crux of the matter is this – seek to be rich, be prosperous, crave for blessings. But let not your hearts be made to misunderstand God’s word that He will prosper you with money, physical wealth and reputation. That will never satisfy you. The more you get, the more you will want. And someone who serves God, cannot serve two masters. So examine your life. Has this life sucked out the fullness of Spirit from you? Does it feel empty even when you try to make it through the day by hard work and honesty? Does it feel God doesn’t care for you anymore? I pray that it never happens or even if it does, now, would be the good time to take up your Bible and start reading. Your Loving God is waiting for you to come to Him and speak to Him. He always seeks us, but we always seem to have plenty up our sleeves that talking to Him is the last possible thing to do.
So, I wish and pray that God prospers you. May your lives be filled with the abundance of God’s riches. May Jesus, by the Holy Spirit remind you of the ‘gift’ of righteousness to which each one of you has access to, when you believe. May God train every part of your body to be ‘slaves’ to righteousness and not the flesh. Praise the Lord, for He alone can do so even today. Amen.