Thursday, October 4, 2012

Are Prosperity and the Favor of God the Same?

"Many, Lord, are asking, 'Who will bring us prosperity?' Let the light of your face shine on us. Fill my heart with joy when their grain and new wine abound." ~Psalm 4:6-7 (NIV)

It seems that one of the most asked question Americans have these days is "Who will bring us prosperity?" Now, before you get nervous about where this post is going let me be very clear: there is nothing wrong with being prosperous. Nothing at all.** The danger is when our first question becomes, "Who will bring us prosperity?"

The writer of this Psalm understood that to be a dangerous and misleading pursuit. He responds to the prevailing question by saying, in effect, "God may we understand that real wealth and true riches are not matters of financial prosperity." He points out that true prosperity is when we have God's affirmation, grace, and compassion being poured out upon us. The phrase "your face shine on us" was one that reminded Jewish people that God's favor, not his anger, rested upon them. His pleasure was with them. In other words, he took pleasure in them as a father and mother does their children. As he looked upon his people, his face beamed with pride. His favor was upon them. They had his approval.

I don't know about you, but given the choice between prosperity and God's approval ... well the decision isn't even close. The point is that those who have God's approval - his face shining on them - already have something of immeasurable value - indeed it is true prosperity and wealth! It is this "wealth" and favor that the Psalmist here is seeking and valuing.

He says that when everyone else is rejoicing in prosperity - the abundance of things (i.e. "grain and new wine") - that he would rather have a heart filled with joy that comes from God's favor and approval. As most are very aware, things don't bring the heart joy and contentment. Only God does that - and that is what the Psalmist is seeking. Prosperity and the favor of God are not the same. You can have one without the other.

And for those of you wondering ... yes, David wrote this Psalm. And, yes, David was wealthy - very wealthy. How encouraging it is to us that someone with great wealth knew it's fleeting benefits and instead sought the favor of God.

Wise words for us all.

**Many followers of God in the Bible were very prosperous (Abraham, Job, Solomon, Joseph of Arimathea, Cornelius, and Matthew, just to name a few). What the Scriptures do say about wealth is that it can be something that causes our hearts to stop trusting in God. The danger of wealth is in loving it and seeking it. As you read the Scriptures, you begin to understand that God is not against wealth; in fact, he blesses his people with wealth so that they can be generous to a needy world.

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