Prosperity, Poverty and Our Daily Bread
"Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income" - Ecclesiastes 5:10
Discontentment seems to be one of the themes of our generation. For one reason or the other, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the jobs we hold, the gadgets we use, the house we live in and the relationships we have - seem to leave us empty and disgruntled, always wanting for something bigger or something better.
Often times, the things we desire are the things we do not need. In other words, they are not our daily necessities, but just ‘wants’ that reflect our greed, envy, and discontentment.
Christians, in specific, have a tendency to over emphasize either Prosperity or Poverty in trying to deal with their discontented hearts.
Therefore, it is not uncommon to see some Christians desire prosperity to live comfortably and to help people in need. If they are not careful, this desire can quickly turn into an unhealthy craving and obsession for wealth to satisfy the demands of their wants. Jesus said that we can't serve both GOD and money. In reality, we will end up loving one and hating the other (Matthew 6:24).
It is also not uncommon to see some Christians who have had enough with wealth and materialism, so they camp on the other extreme. If they are not careful, their desire to abandon wealth in order to identify with the poor can quickly turn into pride and judgementalism towards those who do not hold the same kind of conviction. The Apostle Paul did not choose poverty over prosperity or prosperity over poverty. He reminded us to be content regardless of what situation we are in (Philippians 4:12-13).
Both these camps are adamant that they are right and look with suspicion over the others desire. The problem here is that both these claims cannot be applied universally in all cultures, in all contexts and to all people groups.
We need to understand that pushing prosperity or poverty universally in the name of GOD is not healthy. What could be helpful is learning and teaching contentment. I think Agur’s prayer in Proverbs 30:7-9 sheds some wisdom on this.
“Two things I ask of you, LORD;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and
disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my GOD.
Here, we see that Agur neither prayed for prosperity nor poverty. He neither craved for his wants, nor denied his daily needs. Agur acknowledged his needs and asks GOD to supply them.
Not only that, Agur was fully aware of the temptations he could face when his basic needs weren't met and when his wants take control of him. He expressed his concern that too much or too little wealth could get in the way of his commitment to GOD and his relationship with people. So, he wisely prayed for his daily bread.
If God chooses to prosper us, may we acknowledge that it is He who has blessed us and positioned us to share it with those who are in need. And, if we feel convicted to abandon wealth to serve the poor, that is great too. Let us educate and partner with those whom GOD has blessed with resources and together reach out to the needy.
As Agur pointed out, having a slant on either prosperity or poverty, claiming one to be better than the other can come in between our relationship with GOD and people. A healthy balance is learning to be content in all situations GOD places us in and sharing what we have been given with those who are in need. As it is said, anyone who is generous by giving some of his food to the poor will be blessed (Proverbs 20:9).
Did you realize that Agur's prayer is no different than Jesus' teaching on prayer? Jesus did not teach us to ask for nothing or ask for all our wants.
On the contrary, Jesus taught us a prayer of contentment:
"Give us today our daily bread" (Matthew 6:9-13).