1 October 2017

God wants you to be wealthy

There's no virtue in being poor. Sometimes the church has given the impression that to be very godly we must take a vow of poverty. No wonder some people think of God as mean and boring.

People often say to me, 'if I become a Christian, what will I have to give up?' (as if becoming a Christian will take all the joy out of life). Who'd want to be in heaven with God if it meant living like a nun or a monk forever?

The Bible has loads to say about wealth, but here's a few things to get straight and talk about.

True wealth comes by returning to God our Father
The wealth God wants us to have is not self-made or made for yourself. Apart from being selfish and boastful, that sort of wealth is also short-lived. However well you do, you can't take any of it with you beyond the grave. In death, we're all poor. We're left with nothing we have made or gained in this world.

No. The wealth God wants us to have starts with being rich towards him.

Because we are so obsessed with money and possessions (whether we are rich or poor) we forget and ignore God and have a poor relationship with him. This is called sin. But when we turn back to him, and make him the most important person in our lives (which he is!), and love him more than life itself, then we are rich towards him.

When we are rich towards him, God relates to us as a loving Father towards his own children. And like any good father who deeply loves and cares for his own children, God shares the riches of his wealth with us. Can you imagine! This is wealth beyond our wildest imagination, that neither death nor anything else in creation can rob from us. God is eternal and his wealth infinite, to generously supply the needs and godly desires of all his children.

Our enjoyment of true wealth is 'yet to come' not 'for now'

In the first part of the Bible (Old Testament) God's direct dealings were mostly with the nation of Israel. They were like a prototype, for God to show what the real deal would look like for all his children in the end and forever. Israel would often forget and ignore God, and all sorts of things would go wrong that ended up in material poverty. Then, when they returned to God, and got up close and personal with him again, God would restore their material fortunes.

Bad Bible teachers sometimes take those early parts of the Bible and say that's what we can expect for ourselves now - today. It's called 'the prosperity gospel'. Get close to God and he will make you wealthy and healthy now - today. That is not what the second part of the Bible teaches. The wealth God wants us to have is no less real and material than Israel enjoyed when they turned back to God. But it is promised wealth, like an inheritance.

So Peter, sent by Jesus to teach us the gospel, says 'Praise be to the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ! He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power...' [1 Peter 1:3-5]. In other words, if you are a child of God now through faith in Jesus Christ, God your Father is keeping your wealth/inheritance safe in heaven, and will guarantee to bring you safely through death to heaven to enjoy it with him forever.

This requires us to exercise what's called delayed gratification! Unlike children who open their presents under the Christmas tree before Christmas Day (and spoil everything), we are to wait patiently for the true and massive wealth God is going to share with his children in heaven. And equally, we are to wait eagerly for it – get really excited now about him and what he has laid up for us to enjoy with him in eternity.

And being so rich, it frees us to be generous with whatever God has given us now: to spend generously on gospel causes (close to our Father's heart) and also to help anyone in the Christian family who needs help. As God has shared his wealth generously with us, so we share whatever we have generously with others.

Simon Smallwood – Pastor