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The Test of Prosperity

A preacher from another country was speaking about people from his homeland who had migrated to America. Many of them had found the truth and had become members of the church. However, they had also gained prosperity. He said this is a challenge because once they feel secure and enjoy a pleasurable lifestyle, they are tempted to lose interest in spiritual things.

People from other cultures are not the only ones who face this temptation. There are ups and downs in all of our lives. When we are down we tend to pray more and when we are on top we can easily become careless. Jesus warned that some who are converted become “choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life” (Luke 8:14). Later He rebuked the church at Laodicea: “So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:16-17). The pull of the world is strong.

This is an old problem. People have not changed. Consider these kings:

  • “Now it came to pass, when Rehoboam had established the kingdom and had strengthened himself, that he forsook the law of the Lord, and all Israel along with him” (II Chron. 12:1).

  • Uzziah began as a good king, “and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper…But when he was strong his heart was lifted up, to his destruction” (II Chron. 26:5, 16).

  • “In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death, and he prayed to the Lord; and He spoke to him and gave him a sign. But Hezekiah did not repay according to the favor shown him, for his heart was lifted up; therefore wrath was looming over him and over Judah and Jerusalem” (II Chron. 32:24-25).

The book of Deuteronomy shows Moses in his final days teaching the Israelites to keep the commandments of God and not forget Him. He told them they were going into a good land. They would have wealth and pleasures they had never experienced. But he also urged them,

“Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God…then you say in your heart, 'My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’ And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth” (Deut. 8:11-14, 17–18).

Moses said these words many times: Remember God. What a timely warning for us!

There is an encouraging side to this problem, however. While there are many Christians who succumb to this temptation, there are many who do not. To their credit they have wealth but are still spiritually minded. They could live in pleasure but they choose to live for God. The poor have temptations; the rich have theirs (Prov. 30:7-9). Sometimes we who are preachers commend Christians in poor countries for trusting in God. That is good. Poverty is a trial, but so is wealth. Perhaps we need to appreciate Christians in a wealthy nation who don’t let worldly excitements distract them or go to their head.

Kerry

West End church of Christ Bulletin article for May 28, 2023.

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