Friday, June 8, 2012

True Prosperity


We often think of wealth and prosperity are judged by the material things that we have.  If we have a nice car, large mansion, millions of dollars in the bank, gold, jewelry, etc, we think that we are rich.  Many in the church teach us that this is the kind of prosperity that God wants to give us implying that this is how God also defines wealth and prosperity.  I am not saying that you can not be Christian and have a lot of money.  It does happen, but to those I say to remember that the Bible teaches that to whom much is given, much is required.  That is an aside, I want today to be a lesson on economics.  Those who teach about worldly wealth being godly prosperity have very little understanding economics as it pertains to God.  Worldly economic principles are not applicable to the economics of the Kingdom of God. 
Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'--and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked-- I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, [that] the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.  Revelation 3:17-18 NKJV
This is a perfect picture of the failure of earthly economics as applied to the kingdom of God.  This was written to the church of the Laodiceans.  They were rich by all earthly standards.  They lived opulent lives and had no material needs.  They had what many teachers would call prosperity. They had money and possessions and yet Jesus called them poor.  In fact, He called them wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked.  In the economics of God they were not rich or prosperous at all.  So the first thing we know about the economics of God is that it is not measured in dollars and cents or in any earthly possession.  For example, Bill Gates, lest he comes to Jesus, is miserably poor in the eyes of God. 

We also begin to learn just what is wealth in the economics of God.  Jesus tells them to buy gold from Him, that is gold refined in the fire.  That gold Jesus is referring to is not the gold of this world.  We will talk more about that later. 
Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many [who were] rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to [Himself] and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood."  Mark 12:41-44 NKJV
We see another great example of how the economics of God have nothing to do with the economics of the world.  Many rich people today like to think of how generous they are.  We call them great philanthropists and spend much money on monuments to how much money they gave to various charities.  We never hear about the poor person who gives their last dollar to his local church.  Sure sometimes we hear of children giving small donations, but those are just passing news stories to try and lighten things up with something "cute."  We certainly do not create monuments for them.  However, Jesus paints a much different picture.  Jesus tells us that generosity is not measured in how much you give but in how much you hold back.  In the kingdom of God, the more valuable gift is the poor person's last dollar bill over the countless millions of dollars given by someone like Bill Gates. 

I think by this time it is clear that being wealthy in God's eyes is much different than being wealthy in the world's eyes.  It is absolutely nothing to do with early mammon.  This point is made abundantly clear in Scripture.
By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.   Hebrews 11:24-25 NKJV
The reproach of Christ is better than the treasures of the world.  Moses could have lived in the lap of luxury as the son of Pharaoh's daughter.  He would have been loved by society, living in any kind of sin and vice he desired, not having to worry about money or provision.  His life could have been what many dream to have today.  Yet, he had his priorities in order. He knew that the reward to come was far greater than any life he could live on earth.  He knew that the reproach of Christ was far more valuable than being rich and famous.  Again, in terms of the economics of man, this makes no sense.  How can reproach and persecution be better that wealth and fame?  That comes down to a matter of heart.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.   Mattnew 6:19-21 NKJV
Your treasure is where your heart is.  If your heart on the things of this world, then that is where your heart will be.  You can try to spiritualize it into some kind of prosperity doctrine as much as you want, but you can not deny that any desire of earthy prosperity is a desire of the flesh.  You also can not deny that this earth is where your heart is.  How can you?  How can one say that their heart is in the reward to come when they are so concerned with being rewarded in the here and now?  Are you disagreeing with Jesus about your heart being where your treasure is?  The Bible is clear that the spirit and the flesh do not mix.  You can not have earthly treasure and claim your heart is in heaven and if your heart is in heaven you will not be concerned with earthly treasure. 

So what is wealth to God?  It begins with Jesus.
To me, who am less than the least of all the saints, this grace was given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.  Ephesians 3:8 NKJV
As we have already learned, wealth to God is not the same as wealth to man.  In fact, wealth from our perspective is meaningless to God.  Many think that Heaven's streets being paved with gold is a sign of opulence.  For me, it is a sign of how irrelevant gold is in heaven.  It's pavement.  Its what we walk on.  The unsearchable riches in Christ is so much more than our limited perspective of having more pavement than other people. 

So what are these riches of Christ.  This takes us back to where I began in Revelation.  "I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, [that] the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see."  If you want to be rich, the answer is not found in earthly things but in gold refined in the fire purchased straight from Jesus Christ.  This gold is salvation.  This gold is the pure blood of Jesus Christ.  This gold is the holiness imparted on a life devoted to God.  The gold is fellowship with God.  This gold is the reproach of Christ.  That gold is grace.  There is nothing more precious than the precious blood of Jesus.  What can ever be greater than salvation?  What can ever be added to Jesus?  What can be mixed with the blood of Jesus to make it better?  Of course, the answer is nothing.

The sad thing about people who latch onto the prosperity doctrine is they fail to see that the grace of God is the prize.  They fail to see that they are already wealthy in Christ and seek to add earthly junk to the glorious riches awaiting them in eternity.  It is like having the purest most delicious spring water ever forced out of the rocks on earth and adding Kool-Aid mix to it.  It is like having the perfect meal prepared for you and adding ketchup all over it (and not even Heinz).  It is like having the most beautiful view in the world and hanging a picture in front of the window.  It is like having a pure 24 karat gold ring with the clearest of clear diamonds and painting it.  In other words, to teach that there needs to be more carnally on earth only serves to hide the amazing awesome wonderful riches you already have spiritually. 

If you are in Christ, stop seeking after riches that will only make you poor.  Instead, understand just how rich you are already.  You are a child of God, purchased with the precious blood of Jesus.  You are destined to rule and reign with Christ and to reside with Him in paradise for eternity. One other comment I want to make before I close.   There is something amazing about the economy of God that only God could plan.  The blood of Jesus is so precious that all the money and gold added up together could never be enough to purchase just one drop of it.  All the good works of man ever done in all the earth could ever be enough to earn one drop of His precious blood.  Yet, despite how precious and valuable it is, there is always enough and it is free to all who honestly ask for it.  Many people work their whole lives trying to attain or protect false riches yet true riches are free and eternally secure for all who simply ask. 
Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which [is] from the law, but that which [is] through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.  Philippians 3:8-11 NKJV

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