“One man pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth” (Proverbs13: 7).
What a difficult thing it is not to measure our lives by worldly standards! The Living Bible’s paraphrase of the above verse reads, “Some rich people are poor, and some poor people have great wealth!” The Bible does not condemn wealth and possessions per se; but it says volumes about the attitude toward wealth and the responsibility of wealth. Paul told Timothy that God “gives us richly all things to enjoy” (I Tim.6:17). He also warns Timothy in this same chapter that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil” (V.10). It is a temptation for any man who handles money to fall in love with it. But a man’s life must be measured by something more than “the abundance of things which he possesses” (Luke 12:15). The psalmist warned, “If riches increase, set not your heart upon them.”
To the Corinthians Paul wrote, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor.8:9). Rich in money and possessions? No! Rich spiritually! In Ephesians, chapter one, Paul speaks of “the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding”(Vs.7-8). Is Paul talking about houses? Barns? Gold? Silver? Material possessions? No! The “riches of God’s grace” includes forgiveness, redemption, hope, power and the Holy Spirit. The riches of eternal, spiritual blessings! Henry Ward Beecher once wrote, “No man can tell whether he is rich or poor by turning to his ledger. It is the heart that makes a man rich. He is rich according to what he is, not according to what he has.” The spiritual verities insure and develop a man into what he needs to be and was meant to be.
The suffering and persecution of the Christians at Smyrna reduced them to poverty. Jesus said to them, “I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich” (Rev.2:9). Their faith and dedication had made them rich spiritually. What a contrast between the church in Smyrna and the church in Laodicea! Smyrna was poverty-stricken when it came to material things, but rich before God. Laodicea was very rich in material things, but spiritually bankrupt before God. Jesus said to these Christians at Laodicea, “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Rev.3:17). Trench, the noted Greek lexicographer, commented, “There are both poor rich-men, and rich poor-men in God’s sight.” Again, the spiritual must always have the priority over material things. Rudyard Kipling, while giving advice in a commencement address to graduates against an over-concern for wealth, position, and glory, said, “Someday you will meet a man who cares for none of these things – and then you will know how poor you are!”
Paul asks us, “What do you have that you did not receive?” (I Corinthians 4:7) Every blessing, even material, comes from God. We don’t really own a thing; it all belongs to God. We are just stewards of it all for a short time. So, enjoy what material things God has placed in your keeping. Use it properly! But realize it is only temporary; it will pass away. Spiritual riches abide forever; they are eternal. Be rich before God!
“Man cannot live by bread alone,
This has been proven o’er and o’er—
Yet still men try to satisfy
The inner life with earthly store.”