(My apologies in advance for this longer than usual post but I pray you will be as blessed to read this lesson as I was to learn and write it for you.)
I am blessed to live among prosperous people. Many of my dearest friends and family have beautiful homes, newer vehicles, second homes, travel, investments, etc. indicative of attaining success. I especially marvel at younger, twenty/thirty-somethings whose in-demand professions offer earnings more typical of fifty-somethings.
While I’ve enjoyed a modicum of career success, my years of higher earnings came along later and then were cut short unexpectedly. Unable despite considerable effort to secure a new position that allowed me to restore my earnings momentum, I’ve dialed-down considerably. Perhaps due to my experience, I marvel at those able to prosper at the level that most others only dream about.
TV commercials suggest that prosperity is readily attainable in our country but the $55,000 median household income in the U.S. only spells prosperity when compared on a worldwide scale – five times the worldwide median and 50 times that of the world’s poorest countries.
Even so, should not prosperity on the level of nice homes, cars, best schools, travel, investments, travel, etc. be appreciated and enjoyed? Yes, definitely. In fact, even the writer of Ecclesiastes acknowledges that prosperity is the best that mortal life offers while also cautioning that prosperity be enjoyed responsibly. (See Ecclesiastes 8:15; and Ecclesiastes 5:10-17)
However you define prosperity, handle it carefully because it tends to lull its beneficiaries into a dangerous, dulling state of being. Better to accept prosperity in stride and recognize it for what it is – from God’s bounty for us to receive with grace, be blessed by, express thankfulness for, look for lessons in, and to bless others with.
By entrusting us with prosperity, God expects we handle it responsibly such as not to hoard or be tempted to think we earned it, are entitled to it and deserve to use it only for us and ours.
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (1 Timothy 6:10, ESV; Also see Matthew 6:24 and Proverbs 11:4)
Unguarded prosperity can morph from blessing to curse. Christians in particular are vulnerable to this danger because we should know better. Jesus himself warned that to attach in any way to prosperity jeopardizes the joy in life intended for all who are “in Him. (See Matthew 6: 19-34)
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (v. 21)
While succumbing to the complacency of well-being and prosperity will not jeopardize a believer’s salvation, Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians cautions how such dullness will catch many believers unaware when the wrath accompanying Christ’s return occurs.
While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, (1 Thessalonians 5: 3a)
The Bible emphatically and often counsels that believers who stay in the Word and diligently pursue relationship with God will be in tune with the Lord and joyfully prepared when Christ returns even though no one knows when that will be. However, many in the church will be caught off-guard to suffer collateral damage not intended for them.
So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober….For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5: 6, 9)
As I consider this lesson, I confess I covet prosperity and miss being able to do some of what our higher earnings once afforded us. However, the Lord has provided and I am learning to be content with what I have and where I am. My new, dialed-down life is growing on me, allowing me to spend more time in the Word that, in turn, works in and on me in unseen ways. I find myself looking forward to Christ’s return and to when…
“ at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2: 10-11, NLT)
A new, somewhat alarming revelation for me is that unbelievers will not be the only ones remorseful about confessing Christ’s Lordship with “bended knee.” While those who refused to believe in Christ will regretfully realize their error and the gravity of their situation the most remorseful may well be believers who are caught up in the wrath because they are needlessly caught unaware.
Any of us believers caught up in the wrath will realize, too late, that we allowed our passion for Christ to lapse. Even worse will be to regret having missed out living the Kingdom life as mortals because we were too caught up in the world that is passing away like the vapor that it is.
So do appreciate prosperity but enjoy it responsibly.
Media household incomes: http://www.gallup.com/poll/166211/worldwide-median-household-income-000.aspx