Prosperity is the prevailing mood during Chinese New Year. But does wealth equal genuine security?
Tis’ the Chinese New Year season once again! Caught up in its festive mood, Christians of Chinese descent often wish one another a blessed new year filled with peace and prosperity.
Actually, there is nothing wrong with wishing our friends and family members, “A Happy and Prosperous New Year”, for it is a socially acceptable greeting akin to what John wrote. “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 2).
Certainly, there is no inherent virtue in poverty. And we, in our right mind, would not wish that our family or friends remain poor like a church mouse.
But a rethink is needed. Is this emphasis on prosperity, which is ingrained in Chinese culture, correct in light of biblical teaching?
As believers, how much significance should we attach to prosperity?
Wealth is positive in many ways. It protects us and our family from danger and ill health. We can live in secure, guarded and gated homes. We can afford insurance, more nutritious food and better healthcare. It grants us opportunities to pursue tertiary studies and widens our options for work and leisure. Going on a holiday overseas, which would not be possible if we are poor, may help us to manage stress and improve our overall health.
The rich man’s wealth is his fortress, the ruin of the poor is their poverty (Proverbs 10:15).
A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his own imagination (Proverbs 18:11).
But if he is haughty and thinks that wealth makes him absolutely secure in life, he is wrong. In many ways, wealth is like a fortified city, but clinging to riches as our security blanket is most unwise.
Christ warns of the danger of attaching too much importance to wealth in the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:16-21):
Following a bumper harvest, a rich man thought that he should tear down his barns and build larger ones. He trusted in his wealth and told himself, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.” But God told him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ Self-centered and covetous, he did not realise that wealth is transient, uncertain and will lose its value the moment he dies.
This reminds me of those who keep on accumulating freehold property, not realising that they themselves are “leasehold”. God holds the “title” (our life) in His hands and He can choose to terminate the lease period anytime.
Like the rich man in the parable above, those who find security in possessions are constantly driven to acquire stuff. Sadly, they are often insensitive to God’s calling on their lives or the needs of others. And when they die or their empire collapses, they lose everything they hope will grant them security.
Our riches won’t help us on Judgment Day; only righteousness counts then (Proverbs 11:4).
We are warned: “Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist” (Proverbs 23:4).
The principle here is that it is not wrong to make money through hard work and legitimate means—or even to have a lot of money. Money in itself is not evil; it is the love of money which is a root of all kinds of evils (1Timothy 6:10).
Those who are consumed by a desire for riches without God in the picture, neither consulting Him nor living for Him, are foolish from a biblical viewpoint. Why? We brought nothing into the world and we cannot take anything out of the world. Instead, we should demonstrate contentment, set our hopes on God, be generous and be rich in good deeds (1 Timothy 6: 7, 1 Timothy 6: 17-18).
Honest work and an enterprising spirit are good and bring honour to God’s name. In fact, businessmen and entrepreneurs can play a vital role in the marketplace by creating job opportunities and funding corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects. Laziness and indolence, on the other hand, should be condemned.
The danger lies not in the abundance of wealth we possess but how much the wealth possesses us. The issue is not how much money we have; it is the state of our heart—whether it is covetous/self-centered or God-centered.
A splendid example of a rich man who was unaffected by his wealth is Job. Though wealthy, Job was blameless, upright and feared God. Even when he was afflicted with many woes, including disease and the loss of his children and wealth, he did not curse God when pressured to do so by his wife.
In fact, he accepted his losses with a philosophical approach that reflected God’s sovereignty in His dealings with man:
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
“I know that You can do all things,
And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.”
How many of us (myself included) would be able to maintain our integrity like Job in the face of such monumental losses, pain, heartache and misery?
If our security is tied to money, things or self, we’ll be badly shaken, even panicky, if one or more of these props are removed.
However, if God is the centre (not money, things or self), we know that His peace, presence, wisdom & strength are with us as we go through trials in life.
“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” (Isaiah 26:3) http://bit.ly/2EkhpAm
Because of his integrity amid adversity, Job was vindicated. God not only restored his fortunes but blessed him with twice as much. He started a new family and died in fullness of age. Thus God blessed Job’s latter years more than his early days.
Here was a man who had absolute trust in God. He trusted not in gold; neither did he rejoice because his wealth was great (Job 31: 24-25). Even in the storms of life, he was not overwhelmed because he had deep spiritual roots. His security was primarily in God, not in money, things or self.
Is the prevailing mood of prosperity during Chinese New Year aligned with biblical values? Or is it mainly cultural?
Jesus came that we might have an abundant life. But we must not hastily equate abundance with material wealth. That said, Jesus also taught that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions and we are to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
‘Seek first’ does not just merely imply the sequence of things: We seek God and then we can do our own thing. Rather, ‘seek first’ means that we must give God the priority over our concerns, legitimate though they may be.
- “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10b).
- “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15).
- “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
Let’s be reminded that when we love the world and the things of the world, our love for God diminishes. And we cannot love God and money to the same degree.
- “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father, but is of the world. The world and its desires are passing away, but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17).
- “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money”(Matthew 6:24).
- “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”(Colossians 3:1-3).
Clinging to material wealth as our security blanket is unwise. We certainly do not want to be like the self-centered man in the Parable of the Rich Fool, whose end was most tragic.
During this season of celebration, let’s be reminded that while there is nothing wrong in greeting one another, “A Happy and Prosperous New Year”, we must not get carried away by the prevailing mood of prosperity, which is more cultural than biblical.
Though wealth may make us more secure, it does not mean that prosperity will invariably guarantee security—whether now or in the hereafter.
FAITHFULNESS AND PROSPERITY
The life of Job is the embodiment of the following verses:
“The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honour and life.”
“Praise the Lord!
Blessed is the man who fears the Lord,
who greatly delights in his commandments!
His offspring will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in his house,
and his righteousness endures forever.”
(Psalm 112: 1-3)
How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.
He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
HIGH DEMAND FOR PROSPERITY
What does Jesus actually mean when He says, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10)?
The belief that Jesus was rich lends support to the prosperity gospel. But was Jesus truly rich when He walked upon the earth?
Facing hard times? An all-sufficient God is able to meet all our needs. How can we affirm and declare this truth?
Our worldview and values determine how we make financial decisions in life. A wise move from an earthly viewpoint may not necessarily be so from an eternal perspective.
Note: Dr Lim Poh Ann is a medical practitioner. He was the former editor of Asian Beacon magazine (Dec 2008 – Oct 2011). He can be reached at his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/AskDrLi
SOURCE OF ARTICLE: http://limpohann.blogspot.my/2018/02/does-prosperity-guarantee-security.html
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