• johned@aibi.ph

Wealth and Poverty


Causes of Poverty - Misfortune

(Ecclesiastes 9:11-12 NKJV) I returned and saw under the sun that; The race is not to the swift, Nor the battle to the strong, Nor bread to the wise, Nor riches to men of understanding, Nor favor to men of skill; But time and chance happen to them all. {12} For man also does not know his time: Like fish taken in a cruel net, Like birds caught in a snare, So the sons of men are snared in an evil time, When it falls suddenly upon them.

We don't like to admit it but life can be cruel and harsh and "rob us"of our prosperity that we have labored for and feel we deserve. The above verses tell us that in life there are no guarantees. The strong don't always win wars and though the normal course of life is for wisdom to make people wealthy (see Proverbs) it is not a rule. The wise can be without even basic sustenance "nor bread to the wise Nor riches to men of understanding.." A stock-market crash, a war, a famine, a car accident can suddenly make us poor. Poverty happens to even the best and wisest of people who, like Joseph in the dungeon, can be caught up in unfortunate circumstances beyond their control. Christians in Africa and war-torn, famine ridden countries know this all too well. One day a doctor the next a refugee. " Like birds caught in a snare, So the sons of men are snared in an evil time, When it falls suddenly upon them."

What is the proper Christian response to life's misfortunes? On an individual level we should be like Job who said to his complaining wife ...

(Job 2:10 NKJV) But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity? In all this Job did not sin with his lips."

As good as this answer is it lacks the dimension of Christian community. As a community we should care for our brothers and sisters who experience misfortune. The early churches sent a large contribution to the church in famine ridden Judea. Caring for orphans and widows was part of their practice from the beginning and seen as true religion. (James 1:27) We should cushion each other from the overwhelming burdens that life can lay upon us from time to time.

(Galatians 6:2 NKJV) "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ."

I am sure this does not exclude the economic burdens of our brothers and sisters who fall upon hard times. To expect a smooth life is to be overly optimistic and to deny the plain teaching of Scripture regarding this fallen world. As Job says...

(Job 5:7 NKJV) Yet man is born to trouble, As the sparks fly upward.

On average Christians have a trying time when they need each other about once every five years - a severe illness, a tragic death in the family, long term unemployment... these things strike most of us from time to time. Until then we help our brothers and sisters and when our turn for misfortune comes then we are helped and can know the love of the body of Christ. What I am saying is that you will probably experience poverty some time in your life. You won't deserve it, it will just happen to you. If you sow generously giving to the poor and helping your brothers and sisters it will come back to you then. You will know love and care and blessing. Here are some verses on this theme.

(Proverbs 19:17 NKJV) He who has pity on the poor lends to the LORD, And He will pay back what he has given.

(Proverbs 22:9 NKJV) He who has a generous eye will be blessed, For he gives of his bread to the poor.

(Proverbs 28:27 NKJV) He who gives to the poor will not lack, But he who hides his eyes will have many curses.

Causes of Poverty - Irresponsible Living

Poverty can be caused by irresponsible living such as laziness, love of luxury items, poor decision-making and the following of idle dreams instead of engaging in productive work. I have inserted this as a "mini-bible study" in the middle of this article...so grab your Bible and look up the following verses...

Proverbs 6:11, 10:4, 24:33,34 ______________________________

Proverbs 14:23 ____________________________________________

Proverbs 20:13 ____________________________________________

Proverbs 21:17 ____________________________________________

Proverbs 23:21 ____________________________________________

Proverbs 24:30 ____________________________________________

Proverbs 28:19 ____________________________________________

Biblical responses to these kind of people:

2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 ___________________________________

What are some other appropriate courses of action that we can take?

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________

The Love of Money Darkens The Soul

(Matthew 6:19-24 NKJV) "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; {20} "but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. {21} "For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. {22} "The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. {23} "But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! {24} "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

(1 Timothy 6:10 NKJV) For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

(Ephesians 5:5 NKJV) For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

(Colossians 3:5 NKJV) Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

These are some of the most absolute and severe verses in the New Testament and plenty more could be added to them. In the qualifications for deacons and elders (bishops) they "must not be lovers of money". On the other hand cult leaders and false teachers are frequently portrayed as "having eyes full of greed". The message is uncompromising - Christians must not love money.

The love of money darkens the soul. Jesus taught this when, in the middle of his discussion of materialism he suddenly seems to break off and talk about the eye being the lamp of the body. If our eye is focused on material things then we are in darkness - and how great that darkness is. When it is focused on eternal things our bodies are "full of light". Do you wish to be "enlightened" - then shift your focus to things above.

In Timothy we see the love of money leading people away from Christ - the first examples being Judas and Ananias and Sapphira, and later Demas. Many in our churches are being "pierced with many a pang" because they have put money first and God second or even last. They wonder why their Christian lives never amount to much and why, despite all their hard work, the bills never seem to be paid. God releases His blessing on those who put Him first.

Finally the passages in Ephesians and Colossians tell us that greed is idolatry. And like all idolatry it has its sacrificial victims. People sacrifice their faith, their family life and their own souls for money. Few actually make conscious pacts with the Devil to "sell their souls". They sell them bit by bit as they put them second to the almighty dollar until they are dried up inside. Money should be a lowly priority and nothing important should be sacrificed for it.

Just as I was finishing this section the ultimate example of how money can darken our soul came on the news. The paparazzi were trying to sell photos of Princess Diana in the wreck for $1.3 million. That's sick.... that's the love of money being "the root of all kinds of evil". That's idolatry!

Where Should Our Attention Be?

(Matthew 6:33-34 NKJV) "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. {34} "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Sin often comes from meeting legitimate needs in wrong ways. Sexual sin is an obvious example - where the need for intimacy and sexual expression is met on our schedule, our way, apart from God's commandments. Idolatry - meeting spiritual needs with "broken cisterns" is another. Frequently our "need' becomes distorted and intensified when we try to meet it in wrong ways. The sin of financial anxiety causes us to focus on our need rather than the One who can provide it. We put our need for food and clothes and the things of this life above our need to obey God. We do not trust Him to provide, rather we meet our needs our own way, apart from Him.

Jesus radically alters this focus. He tells us that it is an out and out lie that we have to provide our own needs our own way. He points out in the preceding verses that birds don't have to work for a living but they are fed and lilies don't toil or spin but they are clothed. He points out that God provides for all His creatures and that we should accept our creaturely dependence on Him. We are of greater value than birds or lilies. God hasn't thrown us onto the planet and said "fend for yourselves". When I first understood what Jesus was saying about the birds and the lilies it astonished me. That God could be that generous and that He could provide my daily needs apart from my earning them in the marketplace. It threw me. For me being given anything was unthinkable. Being given my food and clothes by God - extraordinary. As we obey - He provides.

God will provide our needs just as He does for all creatures (as a friend says "have you ever seen a skinny sparrow") but that does not mean we are to be idle. God has a use for our energies once we are off the treadmill of eagerly seeking our daily needs. He wants them directed to "seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness". He gives us two choices. We can remain on the treadmill of eagerly seeking our daily needs just like the Gentiles do. Or we can seek God's kingdom and righteousness and let God take care of our daily needs. Since 1980 I have lived in this latter way. I have not starved to death or run out of coffee ( which I live on) or missed a rent payment. There have been lean times but even wage earners have those.

I am not asking you to give up your job and I am not hinting that you ought to be supporting me! I am simply challenging the way you view the world. Do you view it as being run by a providing God giving to all creatures their daily needs or is it a jungle red in tooth and claw? Are you a "survivor" hacking out a career path and worrying anxiously about tomorrow or are you a loved child of God sure of the future in the hands of a very good God? Is the God of church and the Bible a God who can meet your daily needs and pay your bills?

 

This article may be freely reproduced for non-profit ministry purposes but may not be sold in any way. For permission to use articles in your ministry, e-mail the editor, John Edmiston at johned@aibi.ph.