A lot of people work hard. A lot of people work very hard. Often times, hard work is a requirement for prosperity, especially in a land like the United States. However, working hard, in and of itself, doesn’t guarantee prosperity. There are plenty of single parents in our nation working two jobs and sleeping very little who are merely trying to keep food on the table and the rent paid. You can’t tell them that working hard leads to prosperity because they are working hard, harder than the vast majority of folks who are “prosperous.” At their current rate, they will never see “prosperity.”
Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ – Deuteronomy 8:17, ESV
This is a warning Moses gave to the Israelites. It is a warning we should heed today. We too often want to take primary credit for our “own” accomplishments. We want to believe we are the leading reason for our successes. The truth of the matter is that if God decides not to grant us success, we aren’t going to have it. If you doubt this, let me refer you to Pharaoh and the Egyptian army who pursued the Israelites to the Red Sea. Let me also refer you to Jacob, whose flocks grew and who thought initially that it was due to the color of the strips of wood that he used. In one case God chose to stifle success and in the other He chose to grant it. As Christians we should never forget that any success or prosperity we experience is ultimately due to the providence of Almighty God.
When we start to understand and believe this, it changes the way we look at the world. It alters the way we think about money, about possessions, about vacations, and about “stuff.” When we start to comprehend that what we have is due to God, then it becomes easier to part with those things, to give them up. Why would we want to give them up? We would want to give them up for the furthering of His Kingdom, the accomplishment of His will, and the calling we have as Christians to glorify God first. This isn’t to say that we can’t enjoy what we have. Often times God tells His people to enjoy, but to remember where it came from. He also tells them to be good stewards of it and to be obedient to Him first. In other words, there’s nothing wrong with taking that cruise as long as God isn’t pinging you to do something else with the money and you aren’t being disobedient in some other way. However, if he is telling you that you need to put that money towards backpacks for school kids, as a friend of mine recently campaigned to do, then the money had better go to the backpacks. Wealth, in and of itself, isn’t a sin. It’s the love of that wealth, the abuse of that wealth, and the worship of that wealth that are. If you are looking at God to make you “healthy, wealthy, and wise,” as some preach, I would point you to the passages which point that wealth isn’t the mark of God’s favor, but suffering for His name’s sake. That may not be a popular message but it’s the only sound biblical one.
Put your prosperity into proper perspective. Don’t let any success you have get in the way of your relationship with God. Instead, let any accomplishment or achievement be an opportunity to praise God for His providence (so long as that achievement or accomplishment occurred in a non-sinful way… if there was sin involved, repentance is the only correct choice). When you suffer a setback or a hit, let that situation be an opportunity to praise God for remaining with you and still providing for your needs. All our paths should lead back to God. All of efforts should point back to Him. All of our desires should be centered in Him. Remember that our prosperity is ultimately due to His providence and detach yourself from your successes, your money, and your things. Instead, find your wealth in your relationship with Jesus. It’s the only thing that lasts.