One important lesson I learned in seminary relates to how we must be careful not to overestimate our own spiritual ability. A professor and some students and I were talking about how a prominent Christian leader at that time had been vacillating on a hot-button issue in the church instead of taking a firm biblical stand. Though we all lamented this leader’s apparent love for people’s approval over God’s, our professor said to us, “Just remember that boldness is a lot easier when you are not so well-known. The more successful you are, the more you will have to lose in speaking unpopular truth.” I suddenly realized that being a nationally recognized pastor brings levels of temptation and pressure that I simply didn’t face as a seminary student. I also understood that, as much as any pastor wishes for his church and ministry to grow, God is kind not to give a person more than he can handle, even if that means a person ministers his whole life to a small flock of believers in obscurity.
As we consider Sunday’s sermon, we can see a similar principle applies to wealth. Wealth can be useful and is itself a gift from God (Eccl 7:12; 10:19; Prov 3:9-10; 8:12-21). Yet wealth also brings with it a set of temptations and concerns that we would be wise not to rush after. As someone once said: wealth is both a blessing and a test. After all, wealth exerts a kind of gravity on its owner, constantly pulling on its possessor’s heart towards worry about, distraction with, and even worship of mere stuff. And, often, the greater the wealth, the greater the pull. Consider how much God blessed Israel after the conquest of Joshua and how the people soon departed from God to idols for the sake of their own concerns and pleasures (Dt 8:11-14; compare Mk 4:19 and Lk 8:14). Or consider Solomon himself—his heart also drifted to search for ultimate gain in his God-given prosperity and success (Eccl 2:1-11)! Though each of us would like to think that we could manage the temptations of wealth more properly, an appreciation of the deceitfulness of sin and the weakness of our own flesh should give us a more sober outlook.
One very poignant prayer in the Bible, therefore, is Proverbs 30:7-9. If we truly love the Lord and want to beware the deceitfulness of wealth, we should be praying this wisdom also.
Two things I asked of You,
Do not refuse me before I die:
Keep deception and lies far from me,
Give me neither poverty nor riches;
Feed me with the food that is my portion,
That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the LORD?”
Or that I not be in want and steal,
And profane the name of my God.
Questions to Consider:
1. Have you ever felt possessions exert a pull on you in your own life? How did you respond?
2. How should the above truths help you in your heart’s fight against envy?
3. Will God ever deny to his children that which is truly good for them (consider Ps 34:10; Mt 7:11; Heb 12:4-11; 2 Cor 12:7-10)?