Have you ever wondered what God thought about prosperity? Do you think He intended for us to be poor? Do you think He’s just sitting around heaven looking down on us and arbitrarily choosing which ones to bless and which ones to curse?
“God moves in mysterious ways,” many a preacher has quoted, “His wonders to perform.”
The only problem is this quote does not actually come from the Bible; it comes from a hymn, written by William Cowper.
Some may counter with what the Apostle Paul wrote, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Please don’t stop reading at that verse because the one immediately following says, “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10 (NKJV]).
Paul goes on to explain, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10).
Did you catch that? That we might know the things that are freely given to us of God!
But I am getting off subject. What I really wanted to write about is the concept of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.
“Brother Tim, that’s an awful thing to say!” some may contend.
Look, I didn’t write the Bible. I just read it and heed it.
Jesus told an interesting parable late in his earthly ministry; it is typically referred to as the Parable of the Talents. It is found in both Matthew 25 and Luke 19.
At its conclusion, Jesus said, “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away” (Matthew 25:29 (NKJV).
The Amplified Bible renders it this way, “For to everyone who has (and values his blessings and gifts from God, and has used them wisely), more will be given, and (he will be richly supplied so that) he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have (because he has ignored or disregarded his blessings and gifts from God], even what he does have will be taken away” (Matthew 25:29 (AMP).
“Brother Tim, this parable is about talents!”
Please understand, Jesus wasn’t talking about tap dancing or juggling. He was talking about money. The text makes it clear in both New Testament passages:
“… thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury” (Matthew 25:27).
“… wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury” (Luke 19:23).
I know the King James Version can be cumbersome, but I wanted you to see the text in original English, so you wouldn’t think I was using a paraphrased version of the Bible.
Jesus was plainly talking about money and increase. It’s a cautionary tale of how to handle what we are given.
If you read Matthew’s version of the parable, you will note that one servant received five talents, one received two, and one only received one talent. In Luke’s version, ten servants received equally ten pounds. Regardless, the difference wasn’t in the amount received; it was in the actions of the servant while the nobleman was away.
Some increased tenfold, some doubled their amount.
In Matthew’s version, they were told, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21,23).
In Luke’s version, the servant who increased tenfold was told, “Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities” (Luke 19:17).
While the one with a fivefold increase was given authority over five cities (reference Luke 19:19).
However, in both parables, the one that produced nothing with the master’s talent (money) received the same treatment: What little they had was taken away and given to the one who would produce (reference Matthew 25:28 and Luke 19:24).
Some would contend, and rightly so, that the Parable of the Talents has spiritual implications, and the physical description is not the point. I will concede the spiritual connotations are paramount, but they do not diminish the monetary lesson of the parable. Quite the contrary, the spiritual interpretation strengthens the argument for the proper handling of money.
“Why are you sharing this story, Brother Tim?”
Because some people’s perception of prosperity and those that have money is warped.
I remember as a younger man, thinking rich people must be evil.
After all, James wrote, “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you” (James 5:1).
Who wants wealth if that’s the final outcome?
Then I met some people that had money and were using it for the Kingdom of God.
It was back in the late eighties when you could still buy motor oil in round quart containers for which you needed a “church key” bottle opener. The industry was switching to easy-open plastic containers and one young man in Chattanooga capitalized on the transition by servicing the regional convenience store market. He had the capability to bottle oil with a local store’s name and logo on the label. He had purchased a bunch of oil just before a price spike and offered it to small market stores. He made a fortune. Plus, it didn’t hurt that he married into money, as well.
I had never met anyone quite as wealthy. And they broke every stereotype of rich people I had heard growing up. They were kind and compassionate; plus, they were using a large amount of their own resources for Christian teaching and ministry. I had the opportunity to work with their outreach, so I knew them personally.
That’s when I realized, if you’re going to do anything big for the Kingdom of Heaven, you’re going to need lots of money to accomplish it.
If God says to open a mission in Kenya, it takes money to get yourself there and to get a facility off the ground.
If God says to open a homeless shelter, it takes money to secure a building, get the proper equipment, and staff it with qualified people.
If you’ve been called by God to do anything, money will help you accomplish the task.
Or as King Solomon put it, “They make feasts for laughter, and wine gladdens life; but money resolves everything” (Ecclesiastes 10:19 (MEV]).
As I wrap up this week’s column, I want to encourage you, Dear Reader, love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your body. And when He blesses you tremendously, use that blessing to love your neighbor as yourself.
Tim Hughes is a lay minister and elder at Ascension Life Church in Athens. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org