Monday, April 03, 2006

Is It Wrong To Be Rich?

This is my personal summary of the expository preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on James 5:1-6 on 2 April 2006

This passage talks very sternly about the danger of riches. It is a refutation against the prosperity theology. The Bible says that in the last days people will be sick of the Truth and will only listen to what they want to hear. As a result, a lot of false teaching is produces. We live in an era that takes great care of economic benefits. This passages give us very stern warning about God's judgment for the rich.

God is the God that gives grace and also is the God that punishes. We have to see both. Can we have the freedom to choose God's grace and refuse His punishment? God creates both light and darkness, gives grace and allows disasters.

From the temptation of Christ where the devil promised to give the world's kingdom to Him if He would worship the devil, we can see that a lot of prosperity in the world could come from the devil.

Therefore we cannot see things simplistically in dualistic manner where we attribute all wealth as blessings from God and all misfortune as from the devil. This is a very great obstacle to Christian understanding. God can give wealth and God can punish too. Likewise the devil can give wealth to trap people or inflict misfortune on people. So we need to learn to discern spiritual things. Today we have too much wrong understanding to be corrected.

The key to spiritual success is to determine in our heart that we seek only to please God. But often times we seek to please men, especially the rich ones. Therefore, a lot of the rich people are living in a very sad state because there are few people who would speak the truth genuinely to them and there are a lot of people who will get close to them and speak only to please them because of their wealth. Many of them lack very valuable things in life, that is, the opportunity to hear the Truth and friends who would faithfully point out their wrongs.

The passage here talks about God's judgment on the rich. It says that misery will come unto you because you have too much of what you do not need such that your possessions are rotting away. Is it wrong to be rich? What about David, Solomon and Abraham? Would God always curse the wealthy? Are we not encouraged to keep pursuing and developing our potential? Should we reject all opportunities for wealth development and just keep what we need per day? Human beings indeed are created with the fighting spirit such that we want to do better although we already have our basic needs fulfilled, because it is a challenge towards our potential. Therefore if we fight, we do not waste away our time, talents, opportunities, strength and ability so it is something to be desired.

The thing being condemned here is not the wealth, but it is the greed. But if we fight, aren't we desiring more? It is right to fight, but it is not right to be greedy. So what kind of spirituality should a Christian have?

There are 3 questions we ought to ask ourselves regarding wealth:

1. Where does the wealth come from? Is it from God or from the devil? The blessings of God do not bring bitterness but whatever devil gives comes with a lot of traps. So we need to discern carefully.

2. How do I acquire my wealth? We have to reflect upon ourselves by what methodology we get our wealth. It should not come by exploitation and illegal means.
3. How am I responsible before God and men over my wealth? So finally, if indeed God has given us wealth and we have acquired it by hard work and honest means, we ought to ask ourselves further what we should do with the wealth we have so that it will have meaning before God, bring values to others, and remembrance in history. We ought to use it to do good works of building faith, culture and education.


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