Doesn't God want me to have health and wealth?
When is Jesus going to solve my problems?
Why hasn't Christianity worked for me?
Most of the people reading this post are from the first world, who wouldn't think of themselves as rich. Rich people have multiple homes, hire servants, and dodge the paparazzi—right?
But how many of us have electricity, indoor plumbing, and fuel to operate mechanized servants such as washing machine, furnace, and motor vehicles? Do we travel freely, with a hotel room (or camper) to shelter us in any city we visit? Are we intimate with the paparazzi, feeding on media round the clock?
Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, "How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!"
~ Mark 10:23 (NKJV)
Jesus well understood that the kingdom of God, with its spiritual riches, would have more appeal to a poor man than a wealthy one. The more we own, the more difficult it is:
– to be satisfied with soul comforts when we've grown accustomed of flesh comforts;
– to appreciate access to divine power when we have so much other control at our disposal;
– to worship God and seek His interests when our lives are absorbed with caring for wealth.
Many preachers offer Christianity as an invitation to health and wealth. Jesus offers a completely different invitation—an invitation to death (Luke 9:23-24). His observation—that having riches is an obstacle to entering God's kingdom—is only the beginning of some difficult truths spoken by Jesus:
"Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword."
~ Matthew 10:34 (NKJV)
"Blessed are you when men hate you, And when they exclude you, And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man's sake."
~ Luke 6:22 (NKJV)
"In the world you will have tribulation."
~ John 16:33 (NKJV)
"As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten."
~ Revelation 3:19 (NKJV)
A common expectation is that Christianity will make our lives better—more like Heaven. The Bible says that following Christ instead makes us better—more like Jesus.
To be sure, following biblical principles puts us in a better position to have health, wealth, and harmony with others. Caring for our bodies as something that belongs to God helps maintain physical well-being. Conducting life's affairs with honor, under God's direction, definitely invites prosperity. Behaving with humility and demonstrating love for others makes for better relationships.
You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.
~ 2 Timothy 2:3-4 (NKJV)
The Christian life is no vacation from problems. It is more like boot camp—and battlefield. One expects neither coddling from a marine drill sergeant nor comfort in a war zone. Following Christ means training for spiritual warfare and fighting daily battles—and the true R & R of His rest. (See Hebrews 4:9-10; also see "Never Work Again.")
First world people generally observe war briefly from afar, via the media, and expect to live amid more pleasant circumstances. War and conflict are often more familiar to third world people, and therefore less unexpected among the world's poorest. Following Christ doesn't mean keeping conflict at a distance, but access to strength and peace in the face of inevitable conflict.
And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.
~ 1 Timothy 6:8 (NKJV)
As far as I can tell, the desire for health, wealth, and conflict-free comfort is the biggest obstacle to Christian contentment—the biggest obstacle to believing that living for Jesus Christ "works." Such contentment appears to be more elusive for those with riches. The problem isn't as much in having riches as trusting in them (Mark 10:24), loving them (1 Timothy 6:9-10), and being burdened with their accompanying cares (Luke 8:14).
For the wealthy, there is a tendency to add Christianity to our existing life rather than embrace an entirely new way of life—Jesus is simply another of life's treasures. For the poor, and for the poor in spirit, Jesus is the only true treasure to be had, giving Him a bigger place in one's life.
Those caught up in this world's riches refuse bruised produce (transported across continents!) and a sirloin too pink or brown. Those caught up in the riches of God are able to thank Him for even the bread of affliction.
I ask of You …
Give me neither poverty nor riches;
Feed me with my needed share of food—
Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, "Who is the LORD?"
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God.
~ Proverbs 30:7-9
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Copyright 2013, Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.
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