If you’ve ever visited a third-world country, then you probably know the feeling: When you encounter extreme poverty, it’s easy to feel extreme guilt about the abundance that we enjoy at home. But those feelings are misplaced; in fact, God intends for our wealth to be a testimony to His power.
Certainly there is plenty to criticize about the way our modern Western culture approaches money — we certainly do plenty of criticizing on this site. And if you struggle with greed, materialism or other financial sins, an experience with third-world poverty may be stirring up true conviction in your heart. But there is no reason to feel guilty or apologize for the blessings of the developed world. When we do that, we are disdaining things that God has intended to give us.
God doesn’t arbitrarily hand out wealth to some people while subjecting others to poverty. Wealth and poverty come from guiding principles that God has built into the universe. And He intends to use the blessings that come from following those principles as a testimony to His goodness, power and love.
We’ll dig into some scriptural evidence for this point in just a moment. First, though, I want to review a couple of key principles that help us put wealth into context. The first is that prosperity is a fruit of righteousness — God makes it clear that wealth and blessing come from living good lives in proper relationship with Him. Sin, on the other hand always costs us money. In fact, when you see a situation of poverty, you can almost always find sin somewhere in the root of the problem, either on a personal, familial or societal level.
The second principle is that money comes from serving people. There is no legitimate way to make money that doesn’t come from helping other people with things. Every occupation in life ultimately revolves around serving people. You may do a ton of stuff for a few people, or a few things for a ton of people. Either way, you make money by helping your fellow man. The more people you help, and the more you help them, the wealthier you will become. There is no shame in that. In fact, that’s the way that God created things to be. We don’t need to feel guilty for that, and we certainly don’t need to apologize.
These two ideas are important because they explain so much of why our societies have become prosperous. Much of the West was built on a heritage of faith and righteousness, and our economies are built on the ideas of free trade and adventurous servanthood. We have become wealthy because our societies have followed God’s principles and developed a culture of openness and service.
Now that we understand how people and societies become wealthy, let’s talk about why God set it up this way. Blessing, prosperity and wealth are intended to be a testimony to the goodness of God. Psalm 67 talks about this; we’re going to examine passages in verses 1-2 and verses 6-7.
1 May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine on us—
2 so that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.
6 The land yields its harvest;
God, our God, blesses us.
7 May God bless us still,
so that all the ends of the earth will fear him.
This verse spells the situation out very clearly — God blesses us so that His “ways may be known on earth,” and His “salvation among all nations.” Later on, it says that as God continues to bless us, “all the ends of the earth will fear him.”
What this tells us is that blessing from God isn’t just a reward that we get for being righteous. It’s a tool that He uses to demonstrate His love and power to people that don’t yet know Him. You may have arrived at the abundant lifestyle that you lead because you worked hard to serve people and to walk in righteousness before God, but He intends to make an example of you.
When God blesses us with anything, He intends for those blessings to speak of His goodness. All too often, though, we get in to trouble by taking credit for His blessings, and we use them to call attention to ourselves instead of to the Father who gave them to us. That is something to be ashamed of. God owns everything, and the fact that He has blessed us is a testimony to His love.
If our hearts and attitudes are in the right place, we should never feel the need to hide our abundance or apologize for our blessing. Rather, we should use the great things that God has given us as an opportunity to tell other people about the wonder of His love.
Photo by Mark Reidy. Used under Creative Commons License.