Like ancient the land promised Israel (Exodus 3:8), Canadians today are blessed to live in a prosperous part of the world. Yet the Bible tells us that prosperity comes with responsibilities. How does God want us to live with the material gifts he has given us?
As Christians we often don’t want to talk about material prosperity. I think there’s two reasons for this.
- We’ve absorbed at least some of Jesus’ teaching that there is more to life than just possessions. For an example of this look at Luke 12:13-24. This means we’re somewhat hesitant to speak of material things as blessings. We prefer to speak of the simpler things in life and spiritual blessings.
- We’ve probably overheard or stumbled across some of the other things Jesus, Moses and the Prophets said about the responsible use of money and possessions – and they make us uncomfortable. So we don’t raise material blessings knowing it could lead to some challenging conversations. Yet we have to since Jesus speaks about money and possessions more than any subject other than the Kingdom of God (and he often speaks about both at the same time).
Does this sound right to you, or do the Christians you know readily talk about material prosperity? Might there be other reasons Christians often shy away from this subject? Do you feel comfortable talking about material things as blessings and what the Christian faith has to say about how we use our money and possessions?
While we must give priority to what Jesus says about material things and possessions we also can’t ignore the fact that the Old Testament frequently speaks about God’s blessings in highly concrete physical terms. Read and reflect on the following:
- Genesis 1:26-31 & Genesis 12:1-3
- Exodus 3:7-12 & Numbers 13:21-24
At the same time the promise of physical blessings came with a call to obey God’s ways and teaching, including the way in which these blessings are to be shared:
- Deuteronomy 6:1-9 & Deuteronomy 15:7-11
- Numbers 25 in particular reminds Israel that the land and it’s blessings are God’s – they are meant to be shared fairly.
The Hebrew Prophets show us how God called his people to account when they failed to share material blessings fairly:
- Jeremiah 5:26-28; Isaiah 58:1-12 & Amos 8:1-8
We also see that at least some among the people of Israel also began to wonder about the connection between wealth, blessing and righteousness (see Psalm 37). Jesus also challenges the idea that there’s a clear and automatic link between material prosperity and God’s blessing (see the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12 & Luke 6:20-26).
While we can’t assume that material prosperity is a clear cut sign of God’s blessing (and in light of what Jesus and prophets teach we should never assume that poverty, sickness or trials signal God’s displeasure – it can actually be the opposite), we need to take seriously what the Bible says about wealth as a kind of blessing and the responsibility that comes with receiving it.
Here are some closing questions for reflection: Would you describe Canada as a land of “Milk and Honey”? What do you see as the particular blessings God has given to this land and it’s people? Are these blessings shared equally or unequally? What responsibilities do you think go along with our wealth and material prosperity?