WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT WEALTH?

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Wealth is the abundance of valuable possessions or money. When we have wealth, we have more than we need to sustain a normal life. By this definition, and in comparison with the rest of the world, most people in developed countries are wealthy. Some believe wealth is wrong and, if someone has more than enough, he or she should spread it around equally. Others say that wealth is the result of hard work and wise investments, and no one else has any claim to it. Wealth is dealt with in the Bible, and it is there we find the proper perspective on it.

We know that wealth itself is not sinful. Wealth is not offensive to God because He often blessed His servants with wealth when they pleased Him (Deuteronomy 28:1–8). Abraham (Genesis 13:2), Jacob (Genesis 30:43), and King Solomon (1 Kings 10:23) are examples of wealthy men in the Bible who were used by God in mighty ways. In the Old Testament, wealth was sometimes an indicator of the Lord’s pleasure and blessing. However, wealth has never been an accurate barometer of a person’s standing with God. Some righteous people are poor while some wicked people are rich (Psalm 73; Jeremiah 12:1).

In the New Testament, too, several wealthy people were instrumental in advancing God’s kingdom. Matthew (Luke 5:27–29), Joanna (Luke 8:3), Joseph of Arimathea (Matthew 27:57), Zacchaeus (Luke 19:8), and Lydia (Acts 16:14–15) were all individuals of great means who were called by God for a special work and who used their wealth for a righteous cause. Wealth itself is morally neutral. What we do with wealth can either enhance good or create more evil. Wealth can be used for God’s purposes or for selfish goals.

One verse about wealth often misquoted is 1 Timothy 6:10, which says, in part, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” This verse is sometimes used to say that money is evil, but that is not what it says. It is the love of money, not money itself, that leads to evil choices. In this epistle, Paul warned his young protégé Timothy about false teachers who would infiltrate the church for financial profit. Their greed would not only fleece unsuspecting believers but also infect the church with the love of money. The verse goes on to say, “Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” The Bible never says that money is evil, only to avoid the love of it.

Another warning the Bible gives us about money is that it can quickly become an idol: “Though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them” (Psalm 62:10). When we have abundance, we tend to grow lazy spiritually, believing our money will take care of us. Our hearts grow resistant to self-sacrifice, and our focus shifts from eternal riches to earthly bank balances. Jesus said that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it was for a rich person to inherit eternal life (Mark 10:25). Our Lord put wealth in perspective when He said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions” (Luke 12:15).

When wealth becomes an idol, it also becomes our downfall. Jesus illustrated this in the parable of the rich fool, which teaches the foolishness of trusting in riches without keeping God as the center of one’s life (Luke 12:14–21). Jesus, who knows our hearts, warned us about trying to serve two masters (Luke 16:13). We cannot love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength if we also love money (Mark 12:30). God will not share His throne.

Proverbs 30:7–9 is a prayer that models the right attitude about wealth: “Two things I ask of you, Lord; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” When our daily prayer is that God will meet all our needs according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19), we remind ourselves where our help comes from (Psalm 121:1–2). Any abundance beyond that daily sustenance is a gift from the Lord, and we are to use it wisely. When we consider that all we have and all we are belongs to God, we are more careful to use it all for His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). When we see wealth as an investment entrusted to us by its rightful Owner, we are more likely to keep it in right perspective.

Prophet Nathan Emol

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT PROSPERITY?

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Prosperity is a popular theme that has woven itself into the Christian message. Because it sounds so encouraging, and there are Bible verses that seem to support prosperity, many popular teachers have substituted prosperity teaching for the sound doctrines of repentance, the cross, and the reality of hell. Our desire to be prosperous is so strong that we are drawn to this teaching like a moth to a flame. The promise of prosperity, wedded to spirituality, offers hope, financial help, and a relationship with God all at once. Preachers of prosperity also tell us what we want to believe. The premise of prosperity preaching or Word of Faith teaching is that, because God is good, He wills that His children should prosper in health, wealth, and happiness. And because He is rich, He can make it happen. It can become difficult to separate biblical fact from man-made fiction. What does the Bible actually teach about prosperity?

We must start with the recognition that all creation belongs to God (Psalm 50:12). He owns everything, and it is His decision what He does with it (Isaiah 45:9; Jeremiah 18:6–10). We also know that He is good and desires to give us good things (1 Chronicles 16:34; Psalm 100:5). The greatest gift God has already given: His own Son, Jesus (2 Corinthians 9:15; John 3:16–18). When we have received that gift and accepted the high honor of being adopted into God’s family, the Creator becomes our Father (Romans 8:15). He loves us as His own dear children. Just as an earthly father wants his children to prosper in many ways, so does God. Just as earthly fathers love to give their children good gifts, so does our heavenly Father love to give us good gifts (Matthew 7:11). As His children we can expect Him to take care of us (Philippians 4:19).

It’s true that God wants His children to be prosperous, but in what ways? The popular understanding of prosperity reaches beyond what the Bible teaches. Prosperity teachers focus primarily on the here and now, seeking wealth as “proof” of God’s blessing. They attach a couple of out-of-context Bible verses to their hype and call it biblical teaching. However, God’s desire for us to prosper may not include material wealth at all. First Timothy 6:9 warns, “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” There are different types of prosperity, of which material or financial prosperity is only one. Other types of prosperity may be far more important in God’s eyes.

Many times, God cannot trust us with material prosperity because we would make an idol out of it. Jesus said, “How difficult it is for the rich to inherit the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:24). Wealth quickly takes hold of us and promises a security it cannot deliver. Prosperity can become a substitute for the real goal of pursuing God and His righteousness (see Matthew 6:33). As a good Father, God may withhold what we clamor for, choosing instead to give us what we truly need. He has our eternal benefit in mind, not our short-term comfort (Luke 12:33–34).

Prosperity teaching also goes wrong in that it includes the idea that the cross of Christ took care of all our physical and mental ailments. If Jesus’ atonement provides for physical healing and prosperity now, then we should expect to live long, prosperous lives free from all sickness, infirmity, and disease. But it’s not earthly, physical prosperity that’s provided by the atonement of Christ; it’s heavenly, spiritual prosperity. Some of God’s most loyal servants suffered physical ailments that were not miraculously healed (Philippians 2:24–28; 1 Timothy 5:23). And many believers throughout history were imprisoned, tortured, and eventually killed. “They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated. . . . They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground” (Hebrews 11:37–38). The early church knew nothing of today’s popular prosperity teaching. They may not have been prosperous in riches and lands, but they prospered in generosity, in love, and in fellowship with Christ and each other (1 Corinthians 1:5; 2 Corinthians 6:10; 9:11).

God’s ideal for this world was perfection (Genesis 1:31). He created it perfect, desired that we enjoy perfect lives and perfect fellowship with Him, and intended that prosperity would be a way of life. But sin corrupted that perfect plan, and now prosperity, health, and a trouble-free existence are impossible for many and fleeting for the rest (Romans 5:12; Genesis 3). God does offer to prosper us beyond explanation, but it may not come during our short earthly stay. For many, the full realization of God’s restoration will be experienced only when we leave this world behind and enter His presence for eternity. Hebrews 11 lists dozens of faithful servants of the Lord who one might expect to have lived prosperously because of their faithfulness. Yet verses 39 and 40 say this: “And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect.” Every child of God, bought with the blood of Jesus Christ, will experience prosperity beyond our wildest imaginations for all of eternity (1 Corinthians 2:9). Until then, we walk by faith.

Romans 8:17–18 promises this: “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Being co-heirs with Christ means that forever we will enjoy everything God owns. No earthly prosperity can compare with that.

Prophet Nathan Emol

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT POVERTY?

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The Bible has a lot to say about being poor, and we have many examples of poor people in Scripture. Since material wealth is not a sure indication of God’s blessing, being poor is not necessarily a sign of God’s disapproval. In fact, it is possible to be poor in material things but rich in spiritual things (see Revelation 2:9).

Of course, sometimes being poor is the result of bad choices. The Bible warns that laziness will lead to being poor: “A little sleep, a little slumber, / a little folding of the hands to rest— / and poverty will come on you like a thief / and scarcity like an armed man” (Proverbs 24:33–34; cf. 6:11). Following wild dreams will likewise lead to poverty: “Those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty” (Proverbs 28:19), as will failing to heed wise advice: “Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction” (Proverbs 13:18, ESV).

In other places, the Bible portrays poor people as having been blessed, and many who are rich are seen in a negative light. Jesus Himself was poor, not having a home or a “place to lay his head” (Matthew 8:20). The disciples and most of Jesus’ followers were poor, at least in worldly terms, but rich in spiritual wealth. The disciples even left all they had to follow Him, giving up all they owned, placing their full trust in Him to provide what they needed. Jesus said the poor will always be with us (Matthew 26:11). There is no shame in being poor. Our attitude should be that of the writer in Proverbs who said, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread” (Proverbs 30:8).

The rich are generally portrayed negatively in the Bible. Wealth itself is seen as a hindrance to those who desire to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus declared, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:23), and He repeated this statement in the very next verse. Why did He make such a shocking statement? Because the rich tend to trust in their riches more than in God. Wealth tends to pull us away from God.

The story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19–31) displays the temporary nature of riches. The rich man enjoyed great luxury in life but spent eternity in hell because of his greed and covetousness. Lazarus suffered the indignities of extreme poverty but was comforted in heaven forever. Jesus Himself left His throne in heaven in order to take on the lowly form of a poor man. Paul said of Him, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

At some point, as Christians we must ask ourselves: What are we really doing here in this temporary place? Where is our heart (Luke 12:34)? Are we really denying ourselves? Are we really giving sacrificially as did the poor widow (Luke 21:1–4)? To follow Jesus is to take up our cross (Luke 9:23). This means to literally give our total lives to Him, unencumbered by the things of this world. In the parable of the sower, riches are like “thorns”: “The worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke [the Word], making it unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22).

It is those thorns, “the worries of this life” and the “deceitfulness of wealth,” the not-so-subtle tools of Satan, that lure us away from God and His Word. The Bible paints for us a contrast between those who are poor yet rich in Christ and those who are rich yet without God.

Prophet Nathan Emol

SELF EXAMINATION:

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Self-examination is an important part of living as an authentic Christian, but by nature we prefer self-deception. Deceiving ourselves is easy and comfortable. We want to believe ourselves better, smarter, and more ethical than we really are, so careful, Spirit-directed self-examination keeps us honest with ourselves and with God.

We need self-examination to combat the spiritual deception rampant in the world. Scripture tells us to confess our sin to God, which requires a certain amount of self-examination. If we can never find any sin to confess, then “we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). It is dangerous to lie to ourselves. Second Corinthians 13:5 instructs us to examine ourselves to see if we are truly in Christ. One of Satan’s favorite traps is to whisper false assurance to an unregenerate heart. Without Spirit-directed self-examination, our enemy’s lie is too pleasant, believable, and palatable to challenge on our own.

First Corinthians 11:28 warns of another way we deceive ourselves. In giving instruction about taking the Lord’s Supper (Communion), Paul says that we must first examine ourselves so that we do not take the elements “in an unworthy manner.” We take the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner when we harbor willful sin in our lives and refuse to repent of it (see 1 John 1:9). When we examine ourselves before partaking of the Lord’s Supper, we have the opportunity to agree with the Lord about our sin, repent of it, and receive His forgiveness. We can then take the elements in a worthy manner, in fellowship with God and other believers, purified through the blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7; Romans 5:8–10).

We should also self-examine our motives and attitudes before taking the Lord’s Supper. If we are distracted, angry, or impatient, we should get our thoughts under control (2 Corinthians 10:5) before entering into that sacred act. The ordinance loses its meaning when we are not fully engaged in its symbolism, and that dishonors the sacrifice of Christ. Paul scolded the Corinthian church for the disrespectful way they were participating in the Lord’s Supper. Some were hogging the food, and some were getting drunk on the wine (2 Corinthians 11:20–22). They were told to examine themselves or they would face judgment; some had even died as a result of their lack of self-examination (1 Corinthians 11:30–32).

One difficulty with self-examination is that we do not always know our own hearts. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” True self-examination must be done with the Holy Spirit, who searches the deep things of the heart (1 Corinthians 2:10–11). The church of Laodicea was in sore need of self-examination, but they had a hard time seeing their problem: “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17). The psalmist says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way” (Psalm 139:23–24). The psalmist here admits that he does not even know whether his actions and motives are pure. So he invites the Lord, the Righteous Judge, to test him and reveal to him his own sin.

Lack of self-examination can lead to ongoing self-deception; however, an over-attention to one’s self is also unhealthy. We can become so inwardly focused that we take our eyes off of Jesus and make self-improvement our god. A.W. Tozer, in his classic work The Pursuit of God, says, “The man who has struggled to purify himself and has had nothing but repeated failures will experience real relief when he stops tinkering with his soul and looks away to the perfect One. While he looks at Christ, the very thing he has so long been trying to do will be getting done within him” (p. 85). We should examine ourselves in light of the truth being revealed to us from Scripture and allow God’s Word to convict and change us. At the same time, we must humbly admit our inability to change ourselves and rely on the power of the Holy Spirit within to transform us into the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).

Prophet Nathan Emol

IS IT IMPORTANT FOR A CHRISTIAN TO HAVE DAILY DEVOTIONS?

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Daily devotions is a phrase used to denote the discipline of Bible reading and prayer with which Christians start or end their day. Bible reading in daily devotions can take the form of a structured study using a devotional book or a simple reading of certain passages. Some people like to read through the Bible in a year. Prayer in daily devotions can include any or all of the different types of prayer—praise, confession, thanksgiving, petition, and intercession. Some people use prayer lists for their daily devotions. Others prefer to pray as they read the Word in an interactive manner, listening for God speaking to them through the Bible passages and responding in prayer. Whatever the format of daily devotions, the important thing is that our daily devotions, as the name implies, be truly devoted to God and occur daily.

It is important to spend time with God in daily devotions. Why? Paul explains: “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6). The experience of having God’s light shine in our hearts comes in our times spent in the presence of God. Of course, this light comes only from knowing God through Christ. The marvelous treasure of the Holy Spirit is given to each Christian, and we need faith to believe and act upon that truth. In all reality, if we truly yearn to experience the light of our Lord, we will need to be with God every day.

Someone once said, “The gospel brings man to God; devotions keep him close to God.” The apostle James wrote, “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:8). As the children of God seek a closer relationship with God, they will find God is closer than ever. In their daily devotions, Christians seek to draw close to God’s heart, understand more about Him, obey His commands, and hold on to His promises. The impure and double-minded will have no such yearning in their hearts. In fact, they will seek to separate themselves from God as much as possible.

In daily devotions, we want to draw near to God. The expression “draw near” was originally associated with the priesthood in Israel. Under the regulations of the Old Covenant, the priests represented the people before God. However, prior to approaching God’s presence, the priest had to be washed physically and be ceremonially clean. This meant he had to bathe, wear the proper garments, and offer the proper sacrifices. His own heart had to be right with God. Then he could “draw near” to God on the people’s behalf. In time, the concept of “drawing near” was applied to anyone who approached God’s presence in worship and prayer.

The sincere believer knows that God wants His people to draw near to Him with true and pure hearts, and that’s what daily devotions are all about. “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22). This verse applies the language of the Old Testament ceremonial system to us today. Just as those ancient priests prepared themselves to be near God, we also should prepare ourselves spiritually to worship Him, whether in formal worship or in our personal devotional times.

After salvation, the spiritual growth begins. The believer will, like Enoch, naturally want to walk with God (Genesis 5:22). He will, like Asaph, desire to be near God (Psalm 73:28). He will, like the disciples, yearn to pray effectively (Luke 11:1). In short, the child of God will want to find time for daily devotions.

Prophet Nathan Emol