The crutch of prosperity

Faith & Inspiration

I heard a very wise man of God talk about abundance. Don't think, he admonished, that you have a nice home and fancy clothes because you work hard; there are plenty of people who work hard and have very little. Everything good is a blessing from God, he observed, but don't conclude from your more abundant blessings that you have more than others because you are more faithful. You have these things, he said, because you couldn't endure the poverty other Christians have faced around the world and throughout history. You have been appointed this time and prosperity not because of your strength, but because of your weakness.

It was a bracing tonic, even for someone like me who rejects the notion that America (and by extension, Christians in America) is more favored by God than other nations. Our wealth and relative safety are blessings, to be sure, but what if they've come not because we or our Founders were somehow more righteous, but rather because God knows how easily we'd forsake Him if we endured the hardships, say, of early Christians in Rome, or even of our brothers and sisters in modern China?

Of course, rather than thankfulness, too often our abundance leads to neglect of God instead. What need has man of God when he has 500 satellite channels and pills to ease afflictions? While some forsake God for entertainment and distraction, others conflate the soul's deliverance with the body's titillation. God wants you to have that new watch, that big car, I've heard a preacher exclaim. You'll have (material) blessings, promises another, when you're faithful enough to believe God is aching to give you all that stuff.

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It's a welcome message to hear, then, that while all those good things certainly come from God, they aren't merit badges, but crutches. This is not to say that physical comfort is sinful, or inherently a distraction from God. But His work here is the refinement of souls, not the filling of bellies. And somehow a great many of us have gotten the notion that the fullness of one's belly is an indication of one's rightness with God.

Perhaps we'd do better to think of it as an indication of one's inability to faithfully serve Him like the early Christians. There's a humbling thought, and I suspect a great many American Christians---perhaps myself most of all---could use more humbling thoughts. The full belly and the humbling thought are proof, perhaps, that God loves all His children, even those of us with well-paying jobs and fancy churches.


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