Perspective on Prosperity

David Phillips

“If I have made gold my hope, Or said to fine gold, 'You are my confidence'; If I have rejoiced because my wealth was great, And because my hand had gained much… this also would be an iniquity deserving of judgment, For I would have denied God who is above” (Job 31:24-25, 28)

The above passage is one that should cause us to examine our focus in life, what we value, and where we put our trust. In the text Job is defending his character before his three “friends”. At the beginning of the book we find that Job was a very wealthy man. “Also, his possessions were seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys, and a very large household, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the East” (Job 1:3). Nevertheless, when Satan was allowed to ruin all that Job had, Job’’s response to his loss was simply, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” This is the response of a man who did not place his confidence in his riches, nor were riches the source of his joy. We admire Job for his patience, but let us look at how his faith affected his attitude toward wealth and abundance so that we can learn to trust in the Lord as he did.

Look To The Source, Not To The Blessing

In Job 31:24 Job confesses that had he said to gold “You are my confidence” it would have been “an iniquity deserving of judgment.” Why? To trust in riches more than God would have “denied God who is above.” He shows us what it looks like to fully trust in the Lord. He exemplifies the principles taught in proverbs such as Proverbs 18:10-11. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; The righteous run to it and are safe. The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, And like a high wall in his own esteem.” This proverb is better understood next to Proverbs 11:4: “Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, But righteousness delivers from death.” (see also Proverbs 11:28).

Through Job’s example we understand that the purpose of God’s existence is not to make us rich, but that our purpose is to glorify God. We see that while we do need physical things to live in this life, our focus must be on the spiritual. God knows we need physical things. Therefore we ought to leave such things in His capable hands, while we direct our efforts toward seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).

Boast In the Lord

“If I have rejoiced because my wealth was great, And because my hand had gained much… is also would be an iniquity deserving of judgment” (Job 31:25, 28). To boast in something is to “glory, joy, rejoice.” Paul teaches us that the only thing worth boasting in is the Lord, Galatians 6:14-15: “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Therefore, when Job’s prosperity was taken from him, he declared, “Blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:21).

Develop A Spiritual Perspective

In Philippians 4:10-12, 17 Paul helps Christians to develop a spiritual perspective on prosperity: “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; ...but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.” Paul received something, but like Job he did not rejoicing in the receiving of the thing, but in the Lord. He was glad for the spiritual benefit toward those who gave the gift. Jesus likewise reminds us that it is not the physical things that we need to be most concerned about in this life. “And He said to them, ’Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.’” (Luke 12:15). Finally, Proverbs 23:4-5 teaches the vanity of giving our lives to gain riches. “Do not overwork to be rich; Because of your own understanding, cease! Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; They fly away like an eagle toward heaven.”

From these passages we learn the true purpose of abundance, which is illustrated in Paul’s description of the seed and the sower in 2 Corinthians 9:6-12. The seed is for sowing, not hording. Imagine if a farmer kept all of his seed for himself and ate it all. In the end he would have nothing. Likewise, we receive our abundance from the Lord, and though we may enjoy it, the righteous man understands that his abundance is his stewardship for serving the Lord (1 Peter 4:10). It is not receiving abundance that we are to be concerned with, but using what we have, whether great or small, to honor God.

Whether we have much or little is irrelevant. What we do with what we have is where our concern must be. Matthew 25:29: Our aim must be to look to God, to serve Him, to use what He gives us to do His will, and trust Him to bless us as He sees fit. As we remember that our emphasis is spiritual, not physical, we also recognize that our concern is not in increasing our wealth, but doing God’s will. We are allowed to enjoy what God has given us in abundance, and it is good to be productive. But abundance is not our goal, heaven is. Therefore, our primary concern must be to “do good, that we may be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up0 for ourselves a good foundation for the time to come…” (1 Timothy 6:17).

Whether we have much or little is irrelevant, it is what we do with what we have that matters. If we do not do God’s will with little, how will we do His will with much?