More than 3,000 years ago, a humble but envious singer-priest of Israel went into God’s sanctuary deeply troubled over the apparent prosperity, freedom from care, arrogance, indifference, and power of his unrighteous neighbors. “Why do I even bother to seek after righteousness?” Asaph wondered. “Why do I bother to keep my heart pure? It hardly seems worth the effort, when they prosper and I don’t!” (See Psalm 73.) In answer to his questions, the Lord showed Asaph that appearances are often deceiving, and that God has truly reserved the best for those who are faithful to Him. The prosperous wicked have their rewards, such as they are, during this lifetime; but they will perish in their unfaithfulness.
Some Christians are bothered by observing the apparent prosperity and success of non-Christians while they themselves face all kinds of hardships.
After patiently listening to the inquirer who registers this sort of complaint, reassure him or her of your interest and concern. This is an area that troubles many of the Lord’s people. Express that you are glad to share what you can, and hope it will be an encouragement. Discuss the following considerations:
1. Prosperity doesn’t necessarily indicate God’s blessing. Wealth is in many cases ill-gotten and amassed at the expense of others. There are, however, many wealthy Christians who are thoroughly committed to Christ and attribute their wealth to the blessing of God. They joyfully support the Lord’s work as faithful stewards, while many wealthy nonbelievers are simply enjoying “the passing pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25).
2. The inquirer is not accountable to God for the excesses of the rich, so he or she shouldn’t assume this responsibility. God will deal with them in His own time and in His own way. Remember, God keeps the records, both theirs and ours!
3. Encourage him or her to avoid being envious or bitter, not coveting what another has. He or she must not become immersed in self-pity. Such thoughts are displeasing to God and will destroy a person’s spiritual life. Remember that most of the world’s Christians are poor—if the inquirer is a poor Christian, he or she is in good company! “God [has] chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith” (James 2:5).
4. The caller should be objective in evaluating wealthy people. Why do they have so much? Do they have a better education or special skills he or she doesn’t have? Have they taken better advantage of their opportunities than he or she has? Did they inherit their wealth? Be sure he or she does not accuse all wealthy people of “getting all the good breaks” in life, or of having gotten rich at the expense of others.
5. Recommend renewing his or her own vows of faithfulness to God, determining to love and serve Him whatever the cost. Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15). We must seek to be rich in faith; it is faith, not riches, that pleases God (Hebrews 11:6).
6. Encourage praying about material needs and learning to trust God to supply them. Paul said, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12–13, NIV).
7. Encourage the person to continue faithful in the giving of financial resources. This will keep him or her in tune with God’s eternal purposes and will bear witness to a committed heart.
“Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all” (1 Chronicles 29:12, NIV).
“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” (Mark 8:36).
“Then he [Jesus] said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions’” (Luke 12:15, NIV).
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God. . . . But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. . . . For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Luke 12:20–21, 31, 34, NIV).
Other suggested Scriptures:
The Billy Graham Christian Worker’s Handbook; World Wide Publications, 1984, 1996