When the apostle John wrote his letter to Gaius in the letter we know as 3rd John he told him that he prayed that he would prosper and be in health even as his soul prospered. It would seem that prosperity wasn’t wrong or in violation to God’s plan since John was praying that Gaius might have it. One of the challenges for people in every age is to determine what God wants of each of us with regard to prosperity. Is it right for one to work hard at a job or have a successful career in which they earn a lot of money? Or should the Christ follower be one who sells everything and lives off of the basics of life so that they can devote themselves completely to working for God in helping others in life or in teaching the gospel to people in other cultures?
It seems that many would use one story in the life of Jesus to determine their view of what God wants from every person in all times. The story that has become the standard is the one about a rich young man who ran up to Jesus to ask, “What good thing should I do to have eternal life?” Jesus responded, “Why do you call me good? There is only one who is good and that is God. Keep the commandments.” The young man wanted to know which commandments he needed to keep and Jesus gave him five of the six commands that relate to our treatment of one another and added the command to love one’s neighbor as ourself. The young man responded that he had kept those commands from his youth. He asked, “What do I still lack?” Jesus told him to “Go, sell all that you have and give it to the poor and come follow me and you will have great treasures in heaven.” The young man went away sadly because he had great wealth.
It is often stressed that this is what God wants of each of us. We need to go and sell all we have and give it to the poor to come follow Jesus. But what makes this doubtful is that Jesus never gave such a charge to anyone besides this young man. Many people came to Jesus wanting to know what to do. He told Nicodemus to be born again but not to sell everything to follow him. He was often in the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus but at no time did he tell them to sell everything and give it away. Instead when Mary came to Jesus and broke the seal of an alabaster box and poured the entire content on Jesus, the disciples were led by Judas to criticize her saying that she could have sold this for a years wages and given it to the poor. But Jesus told them to leave her alone. He said she had done a good and beautiful deed anointing him for his burial ahead of time and what she had done would be told about wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world. Jesus didn’t object to the family having wealth or demand they give it all away.
Why did he treat them differently than he did the rich young ruler? It had to do with their different attitude toward their possessions. When Jesus told the story of the rich farmer who trusted in his riches telling his soul to take it easy since he had lots of wealth laid up for many days. God told him he was a fool since his soul would be required of him that day and then whose would these things be? Jesus then added this statement to what was said to the man. “So is everyone who is rich in this world and is not rich toward God.”
One can be rich in this world and poor toward God. They can be poor in this world and rich toward God. They can be poor in this world and poor toward God. They can be rich in this world and rich toward God. Poverty doesn’t make one rich toward God and wealth doesn’t make one poor toward God. If one makes his wealth his
god he is going to be poor toward God.
Wealth makes a good servant but a lousy god. God doesn’t ask all of us to lose everything to be his disciple. He wants us to be devoted to whatever job or career we have. He had Paul to say to slaves that they should work heartily for their masters as for the Lord. How we work for the job indicates our dedication to God. Our example on the job has a great deal to do with our influence over the world around us. If we have allowed wealth and things to become too important in our lives and centered our whole lives around things we need to get rid of the wealth and make God the center of our lives. If we gain the whole world and lose our soul we have made a horrible choice in life.