Someone recently posted an article on my Facebook that was so… I had many responses, I needed to respond with more than a Facebook post. This subject required a blog, which became a series of blogs. I will preface these blogs by saying that I take what I post here very seriously. I will someday stand before God and give an account for everything I say, so I say none of this lightly. As always, I pray that everything I write would bring glory to God, the Creator and Possessor of all things, the King of Heaven and Earth.
The article in question, called The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying, asserts that Christians should not consider material blessing a blessing at all because 1) “God is not a behavioral psychologist” who uses positive reinforcement to reward his followers, 2) calling ourselves “blessed” is wrong and offensive because there are many Christians who live in poverty around the world, and 3) the beatitudes defines who is blessed and the rich did not make the list. The author closes by saying that material blessing creates a “burden” in that those who are materially blessed are faced with questions about how to use their blessings. He ends with the statement that the true blessing is found in our knowledge of God and that we should ask God to use us as we are blessed.
Let’s start with what material blessing is and where it is first mentioned in the Bible. The first man who the Bible pointedly talks about being materially blessed was Abraham, but let’s start at the beginning.
When Adam sinned, death and sin entered the world (Romans 5:12). The specific curse that came as a result of Adam’s actions is that the ground would be cursed, thus he would toil and sweat to get food (Genesis 3:17). Poverty, hunger and lack are direct results of sin. They are NOT from God.
Abram’s is the first case in which material blessing is talked about in the Bible. This blessing begins when God calls Abram out of his home and says, “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.”” (Genesis 12). God says He will give him an entire land as an inheritance (Genesis 12:7, Hebrews 11:8). “Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold” (Genesis 13:2). He and his nephew were so prosperous that the land could not contain them, so they parted ways (Genesis 13:5-7). He has 318 fighting-able men in his household (Genesis 14:14). God gives Abram the promise of an heir and tells Abram that his descendants will be enslaved, but that after “they shall come out with great possessions” (Genesis 15). When Abram goes to offer his son, Isaac, God repeats that he will be blessed (Genesis 22:15-18). Genesis 24 begins, “Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years. And the LORD had blessed Abraham in all things.”
In Genesis 24:34-36 this blessing is passed onto Isaac. In famine, God tells Isaac where to go and says that He will bless him there (Genesis 26:3). Isaac sowed the land and got back a hundredfold, “The LORD blessed him, and the man became rich, and gained more and more until he became very wealthy” (Genesis 26:12-16). When Isaac blesses Jacob, he says he will have “the fatness of the earth” and “plenty of grain and wine” (Genesis 27:27-29). When Jacob flees his house, he works a total of 20 years (Genesis 31:38, 41), God blesses Laban because of Jacob (Genesis 30:27), and Jacob eventually leaves Laban a very wealthy man (Genesis 30:43, Genesis 32:10).
Joseph experiences hardship as a young man, but eventually rises to a position second only to Pharaoh (Genesis 41:40). When he brings his family to the land – still during a famine – Jacob comes down with “livestock and their goods, which they had gained in the land of Canaan” and Joseph gives them the land of Goshen, providing for them so they do not experience poverty (Genesis 46:5-7, Genesis 45:10-11).
Moses grew up in Pharoah’s courts (Exodus 2:10), after becoming a murderer and a fugitive, he married the daughter of the Priest of Midian and tended his flocks until God calls him to Egypt (Exodus 2:21, Exodus 3:1). Faithful to His Word, when Moses leads the people of Israel out of Egypt, they leave with the wealth of Egypt (Exodus 3:21-22, Exodus 12:35-36). Even after forty years in the desert, their clothes and sandals did not wear out (Deuteronomy 29:5). Before the people of Israel enter the promised land, God lays out the blessings and curses for Israel if they follow the law of God, which speak of material blessing as well as others (Deuteronomy 28:1-14).
God gives us the ability to gain wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18). Proverbs says that wisdom grants inheritance to those that love her and fills their treasuries (Proverbs 8:20-21). I could go on, but I think I have more than made my point.
Material blessing is a blessing and it’s from God. Period. It’s Biblical.
That having been said, there are certain parts of the world that have greater abundance than others. Why that is, only God knows. However, to say that Christians in America experience more material blessings than Christians in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Iran, etc., is not an false statement. It might offend Americans who don’t know what to do with their blessings, but it is a fact. Blessings they are.
A short story to demonstrate my point: A few months ago, I was talking with a close friend about our children. Her son is six months older than my son, who was almost 2 years old at the time. She started the following sentence, “Yeah, I’m so blessed to have a healthy son, I mean… ” She trailed off because she thought she had offended me. Are you wondering how this statement might be offensive?
My son has an immune disorder that affects his blood. In Yeshua’s name, it will be healed, but right now it remains. It started when he was 17 months old, I will discuss it more in my book, and it has continued until now. The nature of it is indefinite and the doctors cannot give any indication of when it might change or stop because they don’t know. My friend knew all this and in saying her son was healthy, she suddenly realized that she had reminded me that my son was not.
“You can say it’s a blessing to have a healthy child. It is a blessing.” I assured her. Any parent will tell you the same. We live in a broken world. Sin and death pervade this darkness, leaving their filthy stain on all of us. Things happen in this life as a result of the fall that are the work of devil. Just because something happens on earth does not mean it’s of God. But it is still not wrong to call a blessing a blessing. I wish my son was completely healthy, but not allowing other people to say that having a healthy child is a blessing will not make my son well anymore than saying I am not blessed to have material wealth will make anyone who is hungry get fed.
The fact that we, in this country, are entrusted with a greater measure of blessing goes without saying. We cannot complain about this blessing by calling it a “burden” or shirk our responsibility to use it as God would like us to because that implies some cognitive discomfort on our parts. To carry on the health vs. wealth comparison, this mindset is the equivalent of complaining about being able-bodied because now people might depend on you for physical help. If you think that’s a stupid comparison, tell that to my husband who gets calls once a month to help someone move.
Sorry to wax Spiderman here, people, but with great power comes great responsibility. It’s not just Marvel, it’s Biblical:
Peter said, “Lord, are you telling this parable for us or for all?” And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions. But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. And that servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more. – Luke 12:41-48
What does Jesus say the wise manager does? Gives them their portion of food at the proper time. James tells us that you can’t just wish your brother to be warm and fed when he’s cold and hungry. We are called to action. We are called to be unstained by the world.
We use the world’s wealth to further the Good News of Yeshua’s death, resurrection and ascension to the right hand of God where He awaits the time when He will return and call His faithful servants into glory. Until that day comes, we are to be in tune with the Holy Spirit, with whose direction, our paths are made clear in every way. We cannot live apart from Him. The Holy Spirit is not a ghost or an apparition. He’s a person, not a holy idea or a holy inclination, He is real and speaking right now to all of us – conviction to those who do not yet serve Jesus and instruction to those who do. He will tell you what to do with your blessings if you are faithful to listen.
Think I’ve exhausted this subject? Oh, I am just getting started… Unrepentantly Blessed – Part 2: Sowing and Reaping