To be or not to be wealthy

I found this interesting post on Setwatchman’s blog this morning, responding to an article about Nigerian pastors being rich as oil barons. This is relatively long but I think it is an important topic. Like setwatchman, I will not judge. I know that like almost every good thing, we all walk a tight rope. God’s blessings, in the absence of God, can become a curse very quickly. Good qualities can become evil very quickly, when God is no longer priority. Even humility can become pride. Confidence in God can become self confidence. Appreciation can degenerate into lust and covetousness. Possession of wealth can very easily grow into the love of money, the root of all evil.

But do we say that because we walk a tight rope and good things can become bad, we should not desire the good gifts? Most of the godly men in the old testament were super wealthy: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Job, David, Solomon and others. In 1Chr22:14-16 and 1Chr29:1-5, look at the wealth David prepared for the temple. At today’s gold and silver prices that is not in the tens of billions of dollars. That came from God, who owns it all. Let us even forget Solomon whose drinking cups were pure gold but Job, a man who “feared God and eschewed evil,” had excess. If Job was living in the 21st century, his transportation equipment could be equivalent to several jumbo and private jets. If God created and creates all the wealth, how can it be bad to have them?

I think what is bad is that there is poverty at all in a world where God’s creative power exists. Was Jesus poor? It would be faulty to call a man poor according to our standards of poverty if he could create at will, whatever was needed. Twice, it was recorded that he fed multitudes using just one person’s meal and He used money from a fish’s mouth to pay His taxes. If He could do that, it would probably not be difficult for Him to purchase a jet if He were physically here today. Having God’s creative power takes you beyond wealthy. Describing God as wealthy for instance would be limiting because wealth sounds static. Like Christ, a creator brings into being whatever is needed, so is beyond wealthy.

Moreover, even in the dreaded book of Revelation, scriptures record the angels saying “worthy is the lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom…” and many good things. The riches here are translated from a Greek word that translates into money and wealth. I believe everything in scriptures, including the second coming of Christ, holiness, fear of the Lord, love your neighbor as yourself and the “holy” things. I am not prepared to junk wealth because Christ obviously died to procure it, if the scriptures are true. I know some will debate this to hell.

Interestingly, musing about this one day, I said to my wife (I am very provocative), if being wealthy is bad, then adultery and fornication must be good. She laughed and said I should blog it, so here am I blogging it. The things of God do not fit into our conception of how things should be. We cannot take one and leave the other. A God who has a city whose grounds are millions of square miles of pure gold, a city that is 1500 miles high, could hardly be described as a lover of poverty. Referring to Christ coming to earth, scriptures say he became poor that we might be rich. Hey, if Christ who could just by speaking produce enough resources for thousands of people in a moment, is referred to as poor, then we do not know wealth. Maybe we have too much of a poverty mindset. Maybe God did not plan for there to be poverty.

I do not think riches are the problem. I think poverty is the problem. I think what we need is how to use God’s creative power to lift people en masse out of societal poverty. No where is that needed more than Nigeria. True creativity takes you beyond wealthy because like God, you can transform decadence into beauty, poverty into opulence in little time rather than through evolutionary processes.

Having said that, if I am surrounded by diseased individuals and I have found how to live above disease, should I be painted in a bad light for being healthy? Yes, I have a responsibility to share my knowledge with folk around me who are diseased but they have the responsibility to believe the good news that they can live above diseases like me and do what it takes to be disease-free. What am I to do if they do not believe? Share their diseases? I think not. Poverty is a disease every human has a responsibility to lift themselves out of and no one can do it for you.

This week, reading about Jesus in the gospels, I noticed that he said “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” For the first time, I noticed that while He would heal the broken hearted and the bruised, He was not making the poor rich per se. He came to preach to them just as He came to preach deliverance to the captives and preach the acceptable year of the Lord, which also has to do with deliverance from poverty if we trace it from the old testament. Preaching imposes a responsibility of acceptance on the hearer and unless they accept, the status quo remains.

You cannot set captives free per se, you have to share the good news with them and that imposes the responsibility of faith on them to be free, because captivity is not physical but mental and spiritual. It is one thing to have the emancipation proclamation but quite another for the slaves to quit being slaves. You cannot really lift anyone out of poverty, they have to believe the gospel and the gospel is that this is the acceptable year of the Lord. The gospel is that there is deliverance available now and the poorest of the poor can become an employer of thousands helping others. I should not be crucified for believing the gospel and riding a jet while others are riding bicycles. This is also about allowing the giant within to emerge and rule his circumstances. I have a responsibility of releasing the giant within me. No one, not even God can do it for me.

Mrs Khoja, who runs Roshan, the biggest telecoms company and employer of labor in Afghanistan together with her husband, told a humbling story at a meeting I was at in Portland, Oregon in April. A young former Taliban man in his early 20s approached the company for distributorship a few years ago. He was poor and could not afford the down payment but being a humanitarian company, they had mercy and took a risk on him after he scraped together some money from family and friends. Today, still in his 20s, his turnover, in impoverished Afghanistan, is about 40 million dollars. Now, someone may say that is a one in a million occurrence. Precisely. One in a million people truly believe they do not have to be poor. One in a million people believe there is a giant within them. Why crucify those who believe even if they are surrounded by people living in penury.

We might say Pastors are wealthy because they have access to billions of dollars of people’s offerings but I refuse to believe that is necessarily the case. Why can’t a Pastor be wealthy like any other person simply because he believes the good news like any other person? Why should he or she be poor? What if he has access to the God who created the silver and the gold and the diamonds and that God can show him how to righteously and “holily” access wealth? Should he be painted in a bad light? After all, the Holy Holy Holy God is also the only person who created a city paved with gold, whose opulence we do not have the capacity to fathom.

I may be crucified for saying this but my firm conviction is that wealth is a choice, a matter of faith. Poverty is also a choice, a matter of faith. Everyone has a right to choose to live as wealthy or poor as they want. My choices as a child of God and follower of Christ should however be of service to God and humanity, just like Christ.

Setwatchman, these are my thoughts. Thanks for your post.

11 thoughts on “To be or not to be wealthy

  1. Very provocative on so many levels, and there are so many points to comment on…I'll have to take the time to do my own personal musings and get back to you.

  2. What can I say Tolu! You've gone and done it again!! This is a masterpiece and I have to applaud you on this one. I will be recommending everyone who reads my post to check out this reply because I believe it will thoroughly bless them as it has blessed me. As I wrote that post, I struggled within myself as I was torn between two opinions. Whilst I felt it was important for the pastors to enjoy their wealth in a Christ-like manner, I also felt that their followers, particularly in Nigeria, are looking for quick-fixes and fail to take responsibility in applying the Word to their lives and so remain in poverty. I agree with you in the sense that riches are not the problem but poverty is. We are limiting the limitless potential in our lives and pointing accusing fingers at men of God who have spent years walking in partnership with God and learning to mine the blessings within His covenant to us. This is a book worthy quote of yours by the way: "God's blessings, in the absence of God, can become a curse very quickly. Good qualities can become evil very quickly, when God is no longer priority. Even humility can become pride. Confidence in God can become self confidence. Appreciation can degenerate into lust and covetousness. Possession of wealth can very easily grow into the love of money, the root of all evil".Thanks for your amazing insight as always. I like that you keep pushing boundaries. You truly are a blessed writer and a fearless one too.

  3. Setwatchman, thank you for inspiring me as usual. You are an inspiration, a light shining in the darkness, a city set on a hill.Thank you for your encouragement.

  4. I totally agree with what you’ve said in this post. My 2 cent however is also that while God wants to bless us and our mindset is often the restriction to this financial blessing, our stewardship says a lot about how high we can get.How many people will be like that former Taliban young man, who gathered money from family and friends, approached an established business (not some get rich quick scheme) and I am sure it was more than sentiments that made them give him the distributorship opportunity. If it were sentiments then the company would not be the giant it is today.The point is, are you a good steward? Do you just do what comes easy and chicken out when the hard work comes, are you humble enough to ask for help and put in the hours.Christ could have commanded the stones to become money but he chose rather to allow some activity that required something of the people, in the case of the tax, they had to go fishing and the first fish caught had the coin, do you know how many hours it took to get that one fish, we were not told what hour of the say it was but it doesn’t sound like morning hours to me. It could have been noon and at that time of the day the fish do not come up to bite, they retreat to the lower parts to remain cool away from the sun, then you must know it was an unusual assignment for a fisherman by trade to just up and go fishing when he knows the dynamics of fishing.There is the turning water to wine too, that required that the drums be first filled with water, if it was a cup if water they put in that is all that would have been changed. Then the bread and fish for the multitude, it all started with what was available, the 5 loaves and 2 fishes, with what you have are you doing all you can with it?Thanks for sharing; my thinking cap is back on. Am I a good steward?

  5. I could not agree with you more, Toluwalopemi. Thank you for bringing stewardship into the mix.Stewardship differentiates people doesn't it?I believe also that good stewardship is borne out of faith, out of a good mindset. You know, as a man or woman thinks in their hearts, so they are. Indolence on the outside is borne out of indolence in the mind. True faith must work otherwise it is not faith. After all, faith without works is dead. If you look at the exploits of faith in Hebrews 11, you will see "through faith they subdued kingdoms, they stopped the mouth of lions, they put alien armies to flight, they left their home countries, etc." Faith moved them to act. The Taliban young man would not have taken a step if he did not believe. (Belief by the way, is not a weak thing, it is one of the strongest words known to man, even though we have watered it down. Being Taliban, he probably understood belief. Belief makes you lay down your life for what you have not seen with your eyes.) His faith moved him. Where faith is absent, there cannot be exploits because faith is what makes you weather the storm and do the impossible when others are sleeping. Where there is no works, most likely, faith is absent. I guess we can say that our stewardship is a test of our faith. Stewardship also has to do with obedience. Obedience is a test of faith. Remember, Mary told the people at the wedding, "whatsoever he says to you, do it." She was saying to them, "believe that man."Thank you for being a good steward by enriching this conversation.

  6. Tolu'- When you wrote: "You cannot set captives free per se, you have to share the good news with them and that imposes the responsibility of faith on them to be free," I believe this is the key to what the Lord is trying to teach us all. This is after all what "free will" is, is it not? If it were purely up to the Lord to manipulate us as His puppets, none of us would have disease or be poor (spiritually, emotionally, physically, etc). But instead, we must exercise faith, which is a life journey unto itself. Jesus said, "You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.” -John 12:8 Jesus obviously knows that poverty is part of many people's state and will always be. We are all at different levels of spiritual maturity and also purpose. Not everyone's purpose (even if spiritually mature) is to live as a multi-millionaire. Perhaps there are people who must be non-wealthy (monetetarily speaking) so they will be more in tune with compassion. So they will fight the hardest battles and persist with might. As much as money can be philanthropically donated to assist and right a lot of wrongs, in and of itself it creates layers of separation from what it truly is like to be disadvantaged. And how about the countless who are born with debilitating diseases, mental retardation, etc They may not be able to achieve "richness" in the money sense, but they act as beacons to the rest of us to ground us, to give us cause to stand up and protect them (exercising our love and compassion). I also believe that "Poverty" is not just speaking from a pure monetary standpoint. I would argue that in this world we experience spiritual and emotional poverty more than monetary poverty. Regarding Pastors who are wealthy…..that's a touchy subject (in my opinion), as one has to evaluate how they became rich. Not trying to propose judgement here. But I have been to plenty of churches where the emphasis of the sermon is to guilt the congregation to supply more money, and I have to question the motivation of these sermons. More and more mega churches are popping up, which require loads of money to upkeep. The pastors have huge homes, abundant amenities and plenty of physical riches, yet the visitor sitting beside me looks like he may not have a place to live. He walks out the doors feeling empty. Jesus did not call His disciples to be builders of wealth, but builders of souls. There has to be a balance. Wonderfully thought provoking discourse, Tolu'!!! As usual :)God Bless you Brother!-Ella

  7. Ella, I love the way you engage with the posts on this blog. Thank you for your rich comment. I think the climax of your comment is "Jesus did not call his disciples to be builders of wealth but builders of souls." I believe strongly that whether we are "wealthy" or not, one thing we must have as disciples of Jesus Christ is love. I agree that some will be rich and many will be poor. As a "rich" brother, I ought not to be high- minded, but serve God and fellow humans with their wealth. As a "poor" brother, I ought not to look down on the rich and paint them in a bad light. Let's just love each other, rich or poor, to the point where it really does not matter what we have or don't have as in the early church. After all, it all belongs to God anyway and we will leave everything here when we depart. One thing that lasts forever is love, rich or poor and that speaks to your building souls statement.

  8. That means a lot, coming from someone whose writings deeply inspire me. Thank you."God is not prodigal with his blessings." I love that. I think one of the reasons God does not want us to focus on "blessings" is because in His kingdom, abundance is like air – abundant. It is not a thing to focus on, even if it is a thing to celebrate and be grateful for.Thank you for adding to this conversation, MOH.

  9. From a believer’s perspective this article says so much of how spiritual development should correspond to material advancement and wealth. I am a believer of that simple fact that a believer who truly understands the gospel and taps into the spiritual truth it bares has a choice to be rich or poor. In fact one prayer i pray for myself is that God should give me a billion dollar idea and the will cum strength to drive it to fruition. However one can decide to raise the moral questions too that has nothing to do with spiritual believes. It is here that the people feed their criticisms from. When a man of God becomes wealthy, what he does with his wealth is important. Ift MUST carry the same humanitarian aura which the preaching of Men of God have always preached. It is when this is missing that criticisms become negative.

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