In our so often confused world what does it mean to be rich? Perhaps more pertinently what does the “Christian” world consider riches to be?
I’ll let you in to one of my dark secrets. I don’t watch “Christian” TV – in fact much of it troubles me greatly – mainly for this reason, in my opinion, it misrepresents what it means to be rich. It takes the glory of true riches and reduces it to dust and ashes.
I have always had a personal problem with what some refer to as a “Prosperity Gospel”. In my earlier life [and still today] I was influenced by my brothers and sisters in the persecuted church. I could never quite work out how “name it and claim it” worked for a man like Wang Ming Dao, the Chinese pastor and evangelist, who spent 25 years of his life in a communist prison [sixteen and a half of them in solitary confinement], and who was tortured and beaten relentlessly. Why did what worked for the millionaire TV evangelist not work for him?
I have heard verse such as 2 Corinthians 8:9 – used as “proof” that it is God’s will for us all to be materially rich –
“You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.”
And yet the question remains “What does it mean to be rich?”. Interestingly on this occasion the Apostle Paul has already given the answer –
“Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything.”
2 Corinthians 6:10
Of course the Bible – especially in the Old Testament – speaks clearly of riches at a material level – but even then the truest of riches are found on another plane.
I have recently returned from Romania. During my time there I met a young man who works with Roma families who scavenge on a city dump – in fact they live there. No TV evangelist has ever visited [I suspect the offering would be very poor] – and yet our God is there revealing himself to children through visions and with the tender embrace of his love. The same is true in many other places of extreme poverty and deprivation in Eastern Europe. In fact I often come away envying their riches!
Wang Ming Dao, almost blind and very deaf, was 79 years old when he was released from prison. He returned to his small home in Shanghai where he continued to preach. Yet this poor persecuted man is still considered by many to have been the greatest Chinese Christian leader of the twentieth century.
Again we need to ask – “What does it mean to be rich?”