I have often thought about what I would do if the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Prize Mobile showed up in front of my house and the driver rang the doorbell. More than likely, I would be giving him directions to where one the neighbors live in that I never enter the contests, but if all of a sudden I came into a large sum of money, man, could I do a lot of good things. But is prosperity, especially great prosperity, always the best thing for man?
As I write this week’s THOUGHT I am preparing to begin an expositional study through the book of 1 Corinthians for our Sunday evening services. In doing my research into the background of the book, I found that Corinth was a prosperous city of exponential proportions. Unfortunately, the debauchery of the city reached equal proportions. Only worse than the moral climate of the city was that the same moral laxity was found within the church at Corinth. While prosperity, in and of itself, is not evil, it does bring with it possible evil consequences, even for Christians.
Prosperity can be a platform for extreme pride. Every year Forbes magazine comes out with a list of the fifty richest people in the US. Have you ever seen a list of the fifty poorest people in the country? Consequently there can be a competition to see who gets to the top. And when one makes it to the top, their ego may become more inflated than their bank account. My mentor in Bible College often said that, “Man is the most curious of God’s creation. Pat him on the back and his head swells.”
With the desire to become prosperous also comes the opportunity to become prosperous in unethical ways. Proverbs 13:11 says, “Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase.” By no means is God against those who are prosperous. Some of the most godly men in the Old Testament were wealthy (e.g. Abraham. David, Solomon). But the promise of God is that wealth that is gotten by vanity (set in opposition to labor) will be diminished.
And even if the wealth is gotten by valid means, with the coming of wealth comes the temptation to use it on immoral things. In my research I found that in the Temple of Aphrodite in Corinth were found 10,000 temple prostitutes. Consider how much money was necessary to support this vice.
But even if the temptation to spend one’s wealth on immoral things is overcome, there also comes the seeming necessity of spending one’s wealth on preserving one’s wealth. Thieves generally do not break into a poor person’s house. Only those who have something worth taking require some sort of security system. And then there is the need to hire financial advisors, legal advisors, etc.
The greatest negative consequence of prosperity, though, is the possible forgetting of Who is responsible for the provisions of life. The Apostle Paul writes, “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;” (1 Timothy 6:17). The history of the nation of Israel when they entered the promised land bears this out. Achieving victory and its consequent prosperity, the people forgot God and became conquered and impoverished.
Certainly I would rather be prosperous than poor. Should the Prize Mobile show up at my door and not be looking for one of my neighbors, after paying the medical bills associated with the heart attach that I would then incur, I would be able to do some great things. But even if I never achieve great financial prosperity, I can do some great things in a far less expensive way. Any act within the will of God is a wonderful accomplishment.