True Prosperity in God’s New World
DAVID,* a Christian husband and father, moved to the United States, confident that he was doing the right thing. Though he did not like leaving his wife and children behind, he felt sure that he could make a better life for all of them if only he had more money. So he accepted an invitation from relatives in New York and soon found employment there.
As the months wore on, though, David’s confident outlook began to fade. There was little time spent in spiritual activities. At one point, he almost lost faith in God. It was not until he gave in to a moral temptation that he finally woke up to the reality of his situation. His focus on material prosperity was gradually leading him away from everything that really mattered to him. Something had to change.
Like David, many emigrate from impoverished homelands each year, hoping to improve their economic situation. Yet, all too often they pay a terrible spiritual price. Some have wondered, ‘Can a Christian pursue material riches and also be rich toward God?’ Popular writers and preachers say that this is possible. But as David and others have learned, achieving one without losing the other can be difficult.—Luke 18:24.
Money Is Not Evil
Money, of course, is a human invention. Like many other inventions, it is not bad or wrong in itself. Really, it is nothing more than a medium of exchange. Thus, when used properly, it can serve a good purpose. For instance, the Bible acknowledges that “money is for a protection,” especially against the problems associated with poverty. (Ecclesiastes 7:12) It seems, for some at least, that “money is the answer for everything.”—Ecclesiastes 10:19, New International Version.
The Scriptures condemn laziness and encourage hard work. We are to provide for our immediate family, and if we have a little extra, we have “something to distribute to someone in need.” (Ephesians 4:28; 1 Timothy 5:8) Moreover, rather than promoting self-denial, the Bible encourages us to enjoy our possessions. We are told to “carry off [our] portion” and enjoy the fruits of our labors. (Ecclesiastes 5:18-20) There are, in fact, several examples in the Bible of faithful men and women who were wealthy.
Faithful Men Who Were Wealthy
Abraham, a faithful servant of God, acquired great flocks and herds, much silver and gold, and a large household of servants numbering in the hundreds. (Genesis 12:5; 13:2, 6, 7) Righteous Job also had considerable wealth—in livestock, servants, gold, and silver. (Job 1:3; 42:11, 12) These men were rich even by today’s standards, but they were also rich toward God.
The apostle Paul calls Abraham “the father of all those having faith.” Abraham was neither stingy nor overly attached to what he had. (Romans 4:11; Genesis 13:9; 18:1-8) Likewise, God himself described Job as “blameless and upright.” (Job 1:8) He was always ready to help the poor and afflicted. (Job 29:12-16) Both Abraham and Job trusted in God rather than in their riches.—Genesis 14:22-24; Job 1:21, 22; Romans 4:9-12.
King Solomon is another example. As heir to God’s throne in Jerusalem, Solomon was blessed not only with divine wisdom but also with abundant riches and glory. (1 Kings 3:4-14) For most of his life, he was faithful. In his later years, though, Solomon’s “heart did not prove to be complete with Jehovah.” (1 Kings 11:1-8) Actually, his sad experience illustrates some of the common pitfalls of material prosperity. Consider a few.
Pitfalls of Prosperity
The most serious danger is that of falling in love with money and what it can purchase. Wealth generates in some an appetite that is never satisfied. Early on, Solomon noticed this tendency in others. He wrote: “A mere lover of silver will not be satisfied with silver, neither any lover of wealth with income. This too is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 5:10) Both Jesus and Paul later warned Christians about this insidious love.—Mark 4:18, 19; 2 Timothy 3:2.
When money becomes the object of our affection rather than merely a means to get things done, we become susceptible to all sorts of moral temptations, including lying, theft, and treachery. Judas Iscariot, one of Christ’s apostles, betrayed his master for just 30 pieces of silver. (Mark 14:11; John 12:6) Going to the extreme, some have even replaced God with money as the object of their ultimate devotion. (1 Timothy 6:10) Christians should therefore always try to be honest about their real motive for making more money.—Hebrews 13:5.
The pursuit of wealth also poses dangers that are more subtle. First, an abundance of riches tends to foster self-reliance. Jesus included this when he referred to “the deceptive power of riches.” (Matthew 13:22) The Bible writer James similarly cautioned Christians not to forget God even when making business plans. (James 4:13-16) Since money appears to grant us a measure of independence, for those who have it, there is the ever-present danger of trusting in their money rather than in God.—Proverbs 30:7-9; Acts 8:18-24.
Second, as David, mentioned earlier, found out, the pursuit of wealth often absorbs so much of a person’s time and energy that it gradually draws him away from spiritual pursuits. (Luke 12:13-21) For the wealthy, there is also the ongoing temptation to use what they have primarily for pleasurable activities or personal pursuits.
Could Solomon’s spiritual demise to some extent be attributed to his allowing luxurious living to dull his senses? (Luke 21:34) He knew God’s direct prohibition against marriage alliances with foreign nations. Yet, he eventually gathered a harem of some one thousand women. (Deuteronomy 7:3) Eager to please his foreign wives, he attempted a sort of interfaith arrangement for their benefit. As was noted earlier, Solomon’s heart was gradually inclined away from Jehovah.
Clearly, these examples show the truthfulness of Jesus’ counsel: “You cannot slave for God and for Riches.” (Matthew 6:24) How, then, can a Christian successfully cope with the economic challenges that most now face? More important, what hope is there for a better life ahead?
True Prosperity Ahead
Unlike the patriarchs Abraham and Job and the nation of Israel, the followers of Jesus have the commission to “make disciples of people of all the nations.” (Matthew 28:19, 20) Fulfilling that commission requires time and effort that might otherwise be used in secular pursuits. The key to success, therefore, lies in doing what Jesus told us to do: “Keep on, then, seeking first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you.”—Matthew 6:33.
After nearly losing his family and his spirituality, David finally got his life back on track. As Jesus promised, when David again started to give Bible study, prayer, and the ministry priority in his life, other things began to fall into place. His relationship with his wife and children was gradually restored. His joy and contentment returned. He still works hard. His is no rags to riches story. Still, from his painful experience, he learned some valuable lessons.
David has had second thoughts about the wisdom of moving to the United States, and he has resolved never again to let money dominate his decisions. He now knows that the most valuable things in life—a loving family, good friends, and a relationship with God—cannot be obtained with money. (Proverbs 17:17; 24:27; Isaiah 55:1, 2) Indeed, moral integrity is far more valuable than material riches. (Proverbs 19:1; 22:1) Together with his family, David is determined to keep first things first.—Philippians 1:10.
Human efforts to build a truly prosperous yet moral society have repeatedly failed. However, God has promised that his Kingdom will provide an abundance of the material and spiritual things that we need in order to live well. (Psalm 72:16; Isaiah 65:21-23) Jesus taught that true prosperity begins with spirituality. (Matthew 5:3) So whether we are materially rich or poor, giving priority to spiritual things now is the best way any of us can prepare for God’s new world just ahead. (1 Timothy 6:17-19) That world will be a truly prosperous society both materially and spiritually.
The name has been changed.
[Pictures on page 5]
Job trusted in God, not in his riches
[Pictures on page 7]
The most valuable things in life cannot be obtained with money