Is it true that only poor people are likely to be "saved"? WHY are some people rich - and some poor?
ABRAHAM LINCOLN is reputed once to have said: "God must love the poor because He made so many of them." Was Lincoln right? It is commonly assumed that — because of certain Biblical passages, and because the poorer classes as a whole seem naturally to be more religious God must prefer the poor to the rich. In fact, many people feel that material wealth itself is "sinful," and a certain feeling of spiritual superiority often displays itself as they discuss the mistakes of their well-to-do neighbor whom they describe as "filthy rich." Are the poor, then, more righteous than those who have material wealth? Is the possession of riches a sin in itself?
God "Calls" the Poor
Regarding the poor, the apostle James was inspired to write: "Hearken, my beloved brethren, hath not God chosen the poor of this world [to be] rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?" (James 2:5) Notice James' statement that the poor are to be "rich in faith." The man with few material possessions naturally finds it easier and in fact almost necessary to develop faith in a higher power to work all things out for good. Without this faith, his brooding anxieties about the future might easily cause him to have a mental or emotional breakdown and possibly commit suicide! On the other hand, the exact opposite is true of the wealthy man. Instead of faith, he is very likely to have what modern religio-psychologists term "self-confidence." When stripped to its basic definition, this word means confidence in SELF instead of in God. This same pitfall of the rich is emphasized in Mark 10:17-31 in the account of the rich young ruler. He was given the tremendous opportunity of becoming one of Jesus' disciples — and later, possibly one of the apostles in the Church of the Living God. But when he refused because of material interests, Jesus made this statement: "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God" (verse 23). When asked if the rich could be saved at all, Jesus replied, "With God all things are possible" (verse 27). Describing the Christian calling, the apostle Paul stated: "For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise... that no flesh should glory in his presence" (I Cor. 1:26-29). God has chosen those — with a few exceptions 'who are NOT the great, the mighty, the wealthy, the important men and women of this world. Rather, He has opened the minds and hearts of those who are less successful in this material life, who realize that they have very little strength or ability, who have very little to glory of in themselves. Because they realize their own inadequacy, these are just about the only kind of people who will now accept God's precious truth when it is offered them, who will be willing to REPENT of their ways and submit to God and His ways. By hard, cruel experience these people have come to know their great NEED of God and His wisdom and love. But is the rich man a great sinner because his abilities in material things keep him from fully understanding this need for God? Is it God's will that all His people be poor?
God Promises Blessings for Obedience
In Psalm 1:1-3, God describes the righteous man who obeys His laws, and gives him this promise: "He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall PROSPER " (verse 3). God promised to ancient Israel material blessings for obedience (Deut. 7:11-15). If Israel would obey His righteous laws, God promised : "And He will love thee, and bless thee, and multiply thee: He will also bless the fruit of thy womb, and the fruit of thy land... Thou shalt be BLESSED ABOVE ALL PEOPLE" (verses 13-14). In reading the lives of such men of God 'as Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph, you will notice that as these men served God they were granted an ABUNDANCE of material possessions and wealth. Later, when God sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world to redeem mankind, He said: "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). Christ came to show us the way to happy, joyful, ABUNDANT living! Recorded as an example to us all, the apostle John was inspired to write Gaius: "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest PROSPER and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth" (III John 2). Prosperity, then, may often be God's express will for a true Christian once he has learned to put the kingdom of God first in his life. But prosperity does not usually come by chance. There are definite reasons why some men prosper and others do not.
How Does Prosperity Come?
Who is the most fantastically wealthy person in the universe? Do you know? Why, GOD is of course! "... Whatsoever is under the whole heaven is mine," says God (Job 41:11). "The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts" (Haggai 2:8). But what is the reason for God's right to control all this immense wealth and power? "For all those things hath mine hand made," God might well answer (Isaiah 66:2). God has worked — God has labored — He has produced, CREATED and brought into being everything in this universe. "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work," said Jesus (John 5:17). God is a WORKER — a LABORER! He is busy — on the job 24 hours a day. He does His work with ZEAL. "The zeal of the Lord" is an expression used many times in the Bible. And every real, Spirit-filled Christian is to be LIKE God! "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5). The very MIND of God which we receive through the Holy Spirit is the mind of the Planner, Creator, and Builder of the universe and of the One who sustains the universe and keeps it operating continuously in perfect order and harmony. The product of God's mind reflects diligence, perseverance, ability, knowledge, and wisdom. It reflects the mind of one who has great understanding and SELF-MASTERY. This is the kind of mind which can work for and produce great material wealth and can then wisely use and direct that wealth. As true Christians — overcoming "self" and growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ — WE are to develop that kind of mind. And as we yield to God's Spirit within us, we should grow in knowledge and wisdom to the point where greater material reward will automatically come our way. Prosperity, then, usually comes through the exercise of wisdom, knowledge, zeal, and perseverance in our work or profession. These are not EVIL qualities — to be looked down on by those who are "just poor, humble folks."
False Idea of Humility
We should take time right here to explain the false concept some people have which actually causes them to be proud of their poverty. Many such people notice that very few of the rich are called to spiritual truth — whereas more of the very poor are. They also see and hear of a few examples of men who became wealthy through dishonesty and greed. These poor people automatically ASSUME, then, that all wealth is "tainted" — and is probably the result of sinful acts and thoughts. This idea produces in them a feeling of spiritual superiority, or — in plain language — spiritual pride and VANITY. Being blinded to the real nature of this feeling — as most of us are to our own sins — they fail to see this vanity in themselves. More often than not, they come to regard their lack of material goods as being synonymous with humility. Thus they often speak of themselves as "just poor, humble folks." Such an attitude is not humility, but VANITY — which God condemns. And such people would do well to REPENT and be really humble, and meek, and teachable. Then they might learn through God's Spirit how to exercise the good qualities of diligence, perseverance dependability, and wisdom which those who have material goods have had to employ — even though they have sometimes misdirected their qualities and abilities because they lacked God's Spirit to guide them. The right USE of material wealth — and of the qualities which help produce it — is NOT wrong. Remember, God is no pauper! On the contrary, the right use of wealth is fulfilling part of the very PURPOSE for which we were placed on this earth. It is helping us to grow in right mental direction and character to become like God — like Christ, WORTHY of being born o f the Spirit into the Supreme, Divine, world ruling kingdom and family of God! Jesus Christ said: "Be ye therefore PERFECT, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Mat. 5:48).
Develop Right Qualities
In the book of Proverbs, God warns us against the habits that would tend to produce poverty. He shows that an upright and diligent man will have a reasonable amount of material wealth. Proverbs 6:6-11 gives us the example of saving ahead for a rainy day — and warns us against laziness: "How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard?" (Verse 9) God continues: "He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich" (Prov. 10:4). "The hand of the diligent shall bear rule... The righteous is more abundant [margin] than his neighbor... The substance of a diligent man is precious" (Prov. 12:24, 26-27). Notice how often Solomon was inspired to use the word "diligent" in describing a man who would be successful. This thought is repeated in Proverbs 13:4: "The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat." We are further instructed on how to do our work in Ecclesiastes 9:10: "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy MIGHT." Even the New Testament abounds with instruction on doing our work with zeal. Notice Colossians 3:22-24: "Servants [or laboring men], obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers; but in singleness o f heart, fearing God. And whatsoever ye do, do it HEARTILY, as to the Lord, and not unto men." Then Paul continues to show that we are bound to be rewarded by God for our efforts — and we are to look to Him for our reward: "Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ" (verse 24). In this age of strife and jealousy between labor and capital — when the prevailing attitude is to "get as, much as you can and give as little as you can" — how many men really do their work with zeal, with wisdom, with diligence, and with all their MIGHT? The Eternal God in His Word instructs us to do our work in this manner. If we yield to Him and develop these qualities within ourselves, He promises us material blessings here and now — and spiritual, everlasting blessings as well. For further information on success and accomplishment, write for our vital free booklet: "The Seven Laws of Success." As the apostle John wrote: "I wish above all things that thou mayest PROSPER and be in health." God has shown us the way to achieve that prosperity.
Why Desire Material Gain?
But many will ask, "Why should Christians want material wealth? As long as we have food, shelter, and clothing, we should desire nothing more except the spiritual gifts of God, shouldn't we?" The answer to this question is both "yes" and "no." Certainly Paul was inspired to write Timothy: "And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare" (I Tim. 6:8-9). Then he continued: "For the love of money is a root of all evils" (verse 10, as correctly translated by Panin and others). So money itself is NOT "the root of all evil"! It is the perverted LOVE of money which is a root — one of many — "of all kinds of evils." The excessive love of money is often the cause of nearly every conceivable evil — of war, murder, robbery, kidnapping, adultery, lying and so on. But Paul also wrote: "I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4:12-13). In other words, there are times when a true child of God may have to give up his job, or flee persecution, or for some reason have to forsake his worldly possessions and rely on God for His promise of food and raiment — and perhaps not have much else for a time. But there are many other times — under more normal circumstances — when a real Christian may best serve God by having a modest amount of material wealth, and by using it to be a good neighbor, to help those in need, and to give generously to the work of God. Money is power. It can be a power for good — or for evil. In the hands of God — or in His Work — it is a tremendous power for good, resulting in thousands of people being really converted as begotten children of God. But when use, for a selfish or greedy purpose, it can be a great power for evil — often resulting in the spiritual wreckage of its owner.
What Our Goal Should Be
As real Christians — with the true understanding of God's great purpose in our lives — our objective in this matter should be twofold. First, we should develop and exercise the qualities of diligence, dependability, and wisdom in our work because this is in itself a part of our Christian growth and character development — because these qualities will make us more like God, and more worthy of a position of great responsibility in His kingdom. Second, we should apply these qualities in our jobs because we want to rightly employ the material wealth which they will bring us in compensation. We should want to serve and help others. And realizing the tremendous mission of God's Church is to preach His true message as a witness to every nation under heaven — we should earnestly desire the opportunity and ability to pay God larger amounts in tithes, and to give more generously in freewill offerings. Jesus said: "Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven... For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Mat. 6:20-21). In II Cor. 9:7-8, the apostle Paul exhorted the Corinthians to give bountifully. He wrote: "For God loveth a CHEERFUL giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you: that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work." In other words, if your motive in getting material wealth is to GIVE, then God will cause you to ABOUND so that you might better serve in this manner. Of course, you have your part in this by working hard, and by asking God for wisdom and guidance. Asking God for guidance, serving Him in all things with our MIGHT, we shall then be blessed in material as well as spiritual things — and thus be able to play an even bigger part in His work through paying tithes and giving generous offerings. For vital information along this line, be sure to read immediately for our free, informative booklet entitled: "Ending Your Financial Worries." Even our faithfulness in obeying God's tithing law brings a promise of further blessings and prosperity! For God has said: "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a BLESSING, that there shall not be room enough to receive it" (Mal. 3:10). Never forget. Even a justly earned prosperity may be stripped away from us if this prosperity causes us to forsake God — or if in His perfect wisdom He chooses to punish us in this way for any reason. So whether in times of prosperity, or in times of persecution and want through which all righteous Christians must go, remember Jesus' command: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things [our material needs] shall be added unto you" (Mat. 6:33). But in this life, work hard. Accomplish, PRODUCE! Develop and USE your talents and your time wisely. Learn and practice the laws of success. For — rightly used — God is not against success and accomplishment! Rather, He is their great Author!