We in America live in a land of prosperity. We are regarded by much of the world to be rich. Wealthy by the world’s standards. But are there other ways to be prosperous besides financially? And does money equal happiness?
Jesus told a story about the contrast between a wealthy man and a poor one. “There was once a rich man who used to dress in purple and fine linen and lead a life of daily luxury. And there was a poor man called Lazarus who was put down at his gate…Well, it happened that the poor man died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried… ‘Father Abraham!’ he cried out, ‘please pity me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in agony in these flames’ “ (Luke 16:19-24, J. B. Phillips).
What was the difference? It must have been that one had time for God in his life, but the other one didn’t. And what matters most? What happens here or in eternity? If we don’t prepare for eternity by trusting God now, all the riches in the world don’t matter. Jesus said in Mark 8:36: “What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?”
Jesus himself was a poor man from a poor family and a poor town when he lived on earth. All through His ministry it seems He had a heart for the poor. But was He poor from a heavenly standpoint? Not at all. Paul reminded us of that in Philippians 4:19: “My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” And in his prayer for the Ephesians, he said, “I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man” (Ephesians 3:14-16).
What got me thinking about all of this was meditating on Psalm 1 when I had trouble getting to sleep last night. It was a good way to pass the time because I was reminded about priorities. “Blessed is the man,” the Psalmist said, “whose delight is in the law of the Lord.” He went on to say that this person would be prosperous (Psalm 1:3). Did he mean rich in worldly goods? Obviously not. He contrasted him with the wicked who would be judged by God. The wise man, the God-centered person, was likened to a strong, fruitful tree. But the wicked one was painted as “chaff, which the wind drives away” (vs. 4). It perishes. Don’t you just love the word pictures in the Bible?
Which would you rather do? Prosper or perish?