I recently read a book that is not my typical choice, but having heard so much about Maya Angelou over the years, I decided to read the memoir of her childhood and teen years: I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. This post is not a review of the book, but will jump off of a quote from the book.
Angelou was shifted around in her childhood between her parents and grandmother/uncle. A number of years she lived in the black area of Stamps, Arkansas. This was in the 1930’s. While her grandma ran a store which gave them some advantages, they were nonetheless poor by our standards, and she described the desperate hand-to-mouth existence for many of the blacks during this time. But she notes how thankful to God they were for what they did have and God’s daily provision, and offers this commentary:
“People whose history and future were threatened each day by extinction considered that it was only by divine intervention that they were able to live at all. I find it interesting that the meanest life, the poorest existence, is attributed to God’s will, but as human beings become more affluent, as their standard and style begin to ascend the material scale, God descends the scale of responsibility at a commensurate speed.” (page 118)
Isn’t this the sad truth? Affluence often leads people away from God. So much Scripture, from both the Old and New Testament, comes to my mind. Such as Deuteronomy 8:10-14. God brought the Israelites into some stability and affluence, but there was a warning about what could happen:
“When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”
Proverbs 30: 7-9 states the problems with having either too much or too little in life. Either extreme causes trouble. Note: Expressing caution about affluence does not mean that dire poverty is the desirable alternative!
“Two things I ask of you, Lord;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.”
This reminds me of 1 Timothy 6:3-9 where Paul emphasizes the importance of contentment, and that a desire for affluence can lead to ruin and destruction.
“If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing.….they think that godliness is a means to financial gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.”
Jesus said that is was “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:24)
Now to clarify, there is nothing wrong with affluence in and of itself. Some people have a gift or knack for making money. Money can be made honestly. Jesus did not say it is impossible for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God, just more difficult. If we are born into affluence, it may be harder for us to see our need for God. If we become affluent, it is easy to forget God. Or we can end up serving 2 masters (God and money), and Jesus is to be our only Master (Matthew 6/Luke 16).
One can be an affluent Christian, take Scripture warnings into account, and live a life that pleases God. There are indeed wealthy Christians who have honored God with their wealth.
However, the cautions are overwhelming, and this got me thinking about the prosperity gospel — and its emphasis on physical/material wealth and success in this life. The focus is on the very thing that the Bible contains so many cautions and warnings about!
The famous blessings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Beatitudes, Matthew 5) stand in contrast with the blessings of the prosperity gospel. After listening to some prosperity or positivity teachers, read the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus, and be stupefied by the different focus. In addition, the New Testament has a pronounced spiritual and eternal perspective. For example, in Ephesians 1 and 2 the blessings we possess are spiritual and linked to Christ. It was an eternal perspective that got Paul through difficulties in this life (2 Corinthians 4).
That is all. A past post that could interest you: 5 reasons to be concerned about prosperity or positivity teachings.