You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which we swore to your ancestors, as it is today.
Another wonderful message from Pastor Rob Stewart of Ballard Church today. The message of his sermon focused on the purpose and reality of wealth. This is in comparison of what our modern society seems to have lost focus. The world strives to build up treasure for their own pleasure and enjoyment. Securing the latest modern technology as a must have when others are not in a position to afford such luxuries. The privilege of owning a home, ability to go on vacation, purchase better vehicles, and even trading in a late model smartphone for a newer smartphone. Our society is addicted to consumerism. The problem here is that there is nothing wrong with consumerism in general. The problem is how we approach consumerism and wealth.
Pastor Stewart showed a picture of a billboard in Seattle: “Nothing should come between you and everything” and it pictured a family with black and white products that are part of our everyday lives. This sign sums up the constant pressure where our society is constantly moving toward better things. In other words, modern society is driven by social consumeristic perspectives. This raises a very important question. How are we orienting ourselves within the Christian Faith in relation to social consumer pressure?
If there is anything our modern society teaches us is this: there is a disparity between the wealthy class of our society as opposed to those who are impoverished. This culture war between the rich and the poor seems to be widening at a high rate of speed. Talk of wealth redistribution has come up and engaged many people on both sides of the political arena. It is even reported that Pope Francis called for a legitimate redistribution of economic benefits. This conflict is played out in our own society where there is a call for higher wages than the standard federal minimum wage. This is based on the idea that there is a huge inequality in those who earn minimum wage than those who are earning more than the standard minimum wage.
In fact, according to Christianity Today:
The U.S. economy is distributed much more unequally than other Western economies. By the most common measures of inequality, the U.S. is ranked as the 39th most unequal economy (out of 136 countries). The U.S. is ranked near Uganda, Jamaica, Cameroon, and Cote d’Ivoire. Turkmenistan, Mali, and Cambodia have greater income inequality than the United States. Canada is ranked 101st; the entire European Union is ranked 111th. Sweden is considered the most equal nation.
What then are we, as authentic Christians, to understand about the purpose and nature of wealth, wealth redistribution and following Jesus Christ? The answer is this: God does not shame people who have obtained wealth. Neither does God punish and look down upon those who are impoverished. We are blessed whether we have or whether we are lacking. It is about being content despite where we find ourselves. The Apostle Paul himself writes to the Christians in his letter to the Phillipian’s that he learned to be content regardless of being in need or not.
Another aspect of wealth and authentic Christian living is based on the admonishment of Paul as he writes to Timothy:
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant not to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. ~ 1 Timothy 6:17-19
What Paul is saying is that we are to recognize the spiritual gifts of wealth. First, it is for our enjoyment so long as we do not become arrogant and take credit for the work in receiving the blessings of prosperity. Second, we must take the wealth we are blessed with and give to those who are hurting, broken and in need. In this understanding, we are called out to utilize those things that we are blessed with to help restore those who are broken and repair those who are in need of repairing.
We are left with the understanding that just as we are blessed by the Grace of God, we must also reach out and show that very same grace to others who stand in need. In need of God’s love, restoring hope and redeeming power that is only through Jesus Christ. This allows us to walk in humility and fulfill those good works that God has already prepared for us to walk into (Ephesians 2;8-10).
Remembering that wealth is a blessing from God, we must turn from worshiping the wealth that we accumulate and utilize all available resources we have to bless those who are in need. This is summed up when the Rich young ruler came to Christ and asked of the master, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The call to give up our worldly perception and love of those worldly possessions allows us to give our all in surrender to Christ in order to be of service to others and reach others who are despondent and in need of restoring hope. In addition, we who are impoverished must turn from the love of money and gain in this life and actively seek after the kingdom of God – knowing we will be blessed with greater riches in this life and in the life to come.