PROSPERITY OR MATERIALISM? PART 1

One of the greatest challenges my humble life has weathered is poverty. Life started in rural Niger state of Nigeria, in a humble family who didn’t have much but had enough to get by. The simplicity of our family life did not demand much for maintenance. A car at a time for the family, an official 2-bed residence, annual or bi-annual vacation which was mostly a visit to relatives in bigger cities or the village at Christmas, free education in the village primary school and dressing consisted of simple traditional wears with the English ‘Marks and Spencer’ brand occasionally added after one of daddy’s trips to Lagos on official assignments.

Fast forward to another 10-15 years later and dad had retired, forayed into the murky waters of politics and then the military took over in 1983 and suddenly life seemed to come to a standstill. Politics over, building contracts ceased, of course monthly income had stopped several years before and poverty at another level resulted. Harassment by landlord, electricity company cutting off power supply, lack of decent meals, lack of money to go to school, embarrassing visits by creditors etc. became the order of the day. The anxieties, fears, shame, low self esteem, embarrassments resultant were unquantifiable. To this day it remains a complete absurdity to me how a biblical theology will support a life of poverty.

Years later, I met Christ Jesus through Pentecostal influence. One of my greatest joys was the discovery I had not only been redeemed from sin but from the consequences of sin like sicknesses and poverty. The revelation that they are part of the redemptive work of Christ according to Galatians 3:13-14 held such hope, provoked joy and immediately enlisted my allegiance. While it would take many years to fully get out it, the escape began internally by embracing a new belief system based on a different perspective of scripture from the one I knew from my previous religious background.

Poverty is a terrible curse. My taste of it did hurt for many years and the memories remain unpleasant. Every time I drive through the streets of Nigeria, travel through her towns, visit African and Asian countries or pass through neighborhoods and alleys of American inner cities, I wish I could do much and wonder the heart pains God must endure seeing what man has done to himself through the fall in the garden of Eden. The theology that Christ’s redemptive work had absolutely no bearing on the curse of the fall and the curse of the law for me is preposterous. If truly the son of God came to redeem us as a result of Adam’s sin and the consequent descent from the glory of God into a sinful, sick and depraved state of being is true, not only must his redemptive work affect our sins but the consequences also. For me Isaiah 53:5 is a scripture all encompassing as salvation covers sins, sicknesses and even the chastisement of our peace (inclusive of total life prosperity) is included in the great redemptive work of Christ. Similarly, David blessed God and thanked him for his benefits including the forgiveness of sins, healing of iniquities, redemption from destruction and the filling of the mouth with good things so that his youth is renewed like the eagle’s (Psalm 103:1-5). What a great description of redemption! This is contentious but on this truth I stand and cannot shift till eternity.

I must however mention that along my foray into pentecostalism, the above came to be interpreted as implying the will of God for us all to be millionaires (by estimation in US dollars), having lots of material riches, living in opulence and pursuing their acquisition at least for the right reasons. The more I listened to this more appealing brand of christianity, the more the voices of biblical caution was drowned. It captivated my deprived soul and held not only an escape from poverty but hope of permanent blessing for me and my generations. The Lord Jesus admonished us not to lay up treasures upon the earth (Matthew 6:19), He said the life of a man does not consist of the abundance of the things which he possesses (Luke 12:25). Paul also warned that the love of money is the root of all evil and so we should learn to be contented with our basic needs being met (1 Timothy 6:10); he even boasted of not coveting any man’s food nor clothing when he preached the gospel to the corinthians and the Thessalonians. He warned that those who will be rich in this world will fall into many snares and pierce their hearts with many sorrows. As a student of God’s Word, I saw all these scriptures but looked at them from the lenses of one sold out on the gospel of materialism. I encouraged people to seek after money and lavish lifestyles. I must confess that what I preached eluded most of us though and those who exalted material things above measure were not warned. I have come to a few conclusions and I will articulate them but elaborate in my next article.

Poverty was not a part of God’s original plan for man and will never be His Will for us. It originated from Satan and is only perpetuated by him.

Poverty is part of what the redemptive work of Christ addresses although secondarily, as it is primarily about the righteousness of faith replacing the law of Moses and reversing the original sin of man at Eden and it’s consequence of spiritual death.

It is the will of God that our needs are met and we have enough to be a blessing to others and support the work of God.

The giving of our substance is not about multiplying the money although it does multiply, but about reaching out in generosity and in compassion to meet the needs of evangelism and of the poor.

That by the grace of God, some believers are gifted and favored to be exceptionally wealthy that they may be used of God to do much more than the average believer.

To be continued…

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