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March 12, 2007 / beidson

Filthy Rich in Christ

Should Christians expect God to bless them financially? If the Father of lights is the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17), and if God does not withold any good thing from those who ask of him (Psalm 84:11), and if, when we ask, we receive, then will God give us money because we ask for it?

From my own personal experience, I would have to say “No.” But really, my personal experience doesn’t mean much apart from Scripture, and Scripture as a whole tell us “No” as well.

“But God wants to bless us” someone might say, and to that, I would heartily agree. But does “blessing” refer to financial prosperity? Maybe, but it is much broader than financial prosperity and may not even include it, depending on God’s will for individuals and families and nations.

So what exactly does “blessing” refer to? Well, Scripture tells us that children are a gift (blessing) from the Lord, and that the fruit of the womb is a reward (Psalm 127). The same psalm goes on to say that the man who has many children is “blessed”!

Scripture also tell us that suffering is a blessing. Jesus said “Bless are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12). 1 Peter 3:13 asks, “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good?” and the next verse answers, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness sake, you will be blessed.”

Jesus said, “Therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). This is what disturbed the rich ruler, who upon Jesus’ statment “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me” (18:22), became very sad because he was extremely rich.

Jesus also warned, “Take care, and be on your gaurd against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). He goes on to tell the story of a rich man who tore down his warehouses to build bigger warehouses in which to store his wealth. So why this stern warning against covetousness? Because covetousness is the root of rebellion against God and man. It is the pursuit of what you do not own at someone else’s expense. It is putting into practice the selfishness of our wicked hearts. It is a grand declaration to God and to the world: “I am not satisfied in God alone; give me more, and give it to me now!”

Jesus commands us to lay up treasure in heaven, where moth and rust cannot destroy, and where thieves cannot break in and steal (Matthew 6:19-20). No matter what measures we take to protect our earthly assets, it is no secret that they will finally be destroyed, if not by earthly elements, then finally by death, the great consumer of human wealth.

So what then? Are we not allowed to be rich, or to have financial security? Of course we are. Proverbs 3:9 tells us to honor the Lord with our wealth, and Scripture teaches that money is not evil, but the lust for money/possessions is evil. Riches can be used strategically to advance against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavnly places.

But true wealth, according to Scripture, is not paper money, or gold bullion, but a Person, Jesus Christ. To believers, Scripture says that “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasureable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7).

Ephesians 1:11 tells us that in Christ “we have obtained an inheritance, having been presdestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will . . .” Should Christians expect God to bless them financially? No. God will provide our daily sustenance, and if you ask, he may give you financial blessings, if he so chooses. But true wealth is in Christ, who has given us an inheritance in heaven, by whom God has shown the riches of his mercy and grace. Jesus is the “hidden treasure” in the field. When you find him, you sell everything you have to purchase the field in order to have him. Why? Well, who wouldn’t want to be filthy rich? I do.

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