“Woe to you who are rich for you are receiving your comfort in full” (Luke 6:24, NASB).
Recently, my wife and I were celebrating our anniversary in Mexico, staying at the Mayan Palace Resort at Rocky Point Mexico. We had been blessed by receiving a surprising upgrade to the Grand Mayan section of this luxurious resort.
Standing on the fourth floor balcony of our suite, looking out on the valley the resort owns, I had a view of its several miles of beachfront. The beach is more pristine than any other I’ve been privileged to see, and I was very thankful. However, to be honest, I had some disturbing thoughts come to my mind as I thought of what I’d had read in my red-letter edition Bible the night before. Jesus said it's possible for the comforts that a person receives during this life to be the only share of comforts they ever will receive. I had to learn more about all of this, because I didn’t want to be a comfort-zone Christian. I wanted to lay up treasures in heaven and not be materialistic. Yet, how was that possible? Did it mean that we needed to jump in our car and head for home as we ran from luxury?
I thought of the axiom that I had learned that any verse taken out of context is a pretext. So, I knew I needed to calm down and see what the context of Luke 6:24 was and study the other verses Scripture offered on the same subject so I could get the big picture.
Jesus said, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). He also reminded us of the rich man and Lazarus when He told us that Abraham had told the rich man, “Child, remember that during your life you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus bad things, but now he is being comforted here (in heaven), and you are in agony (in hell)” (Luke 16:24). Of course, John 3:16 tells us how we gain eternal life and avoid hell, but Luke 16 reveals that those who have suffered (such as Christians who are being starved to death in North Korean prisons, at least 35,000, simply because they are Christians) are going to be comforted in heaven. Personally, I want their comfort to exceed mine on that day because they deserve to be comforted.
Needing further help with this issue, I began praying and asking the Spirit of God to give me balance in understanding. Verses began coming to my heart that helped me and made me feel better. For example, Jesus said the Father won’t give a snake to His child who asks for a fish (Matt. 7:10). Also, He said He knows how to give good gifts to His children (Matt. 7:11). He also stressed the fact that how we use the gifts He gives us has consequences. He stressed that if Christians are “faithful in the little things, He will make them rulers over much” (Matt.25:21). At this verse, I thought about big-ticket purchases and how they determine how we live to a marked degree by limiting our choices once they are purchased.
Inspiration in James tells God’s children that “all good gifts come from God” (James 1:17). Matthew tells us the Lord loves to answer the prayers of His children and to shower them with their hearts' desires. Matt. 21:22: “All things you ask in prayer believing, you shall receive.” Gifts from the Father are a natural thing as He is love, and love naturally gives.
A Heart’s Attitude:
The question about spoiled rich Christians seemed answered by a heart’s attitudes and wisdom: “Make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding” (Prov. 2:2). I found that wisdom reveals the following powerful points that are true even while experiencing the ultimate in vacations and feeling a bit overwhelmed by luxury.
Wisdom about Riches:
Self-control (i.e., Enjoy, but don’t be controlled by the pleasures of this life; see Gal. 5:23). Never experience the best this world has to offer without remembering to thank Jesus and fellowship with Him in your heart. (Eph. 5:20: “Always give thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”) Give generously to those with less even while you are living a good life. (1 John 3:17: “Whosoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?) Consistently pray for your dinners. (1 Tim. 4:4-5: “Nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.”) Smile at the people serving you and abandon your proud attitudes. (Acts 10:34: “God is not one to show partiality.”) Tell people about Jesus every way you can. (Matt. 28:19-20: “Go and make disciples of all the nations.”) Use phrases such as “praise the Lord,” “Thank You, Lord.” (Ps. 33:1: “Praise is becoming to the righteous.”) Gratitude enables us to enjoy with peaceful, thankful hearts. (Col.3:15: “Let the peace of Christ richly dwell in your hearts…be thankful.”)
Feeling much better, as I experienced balance coming to my heart and mind, I told my wife about all this. We prayed together and thanked the Lord and found a freedom in the Lord and gratitude that made the beautiful, long beach at the palace seem a blessed gift from our Lord. Rejoicing, we walked hand in hand with joy in our hearts and picked up such gorgeous shells that normally are found only in gift shops. We expressed in agreement: “Since the creation of the world, His attributes, His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made” (Rom. 1:20) as we looked in wonder at what was around us. We felt gratitude and joy and decided He can bless us anytime He chooses, including with upgrades when we are on vacation.
The Key Word:
Perhaps the key word in understanding the issue of prosperity, or the lack of prosperity, is the word content. Paul learned to be content whether he abounded or was in need. He had learned to be content in whatever condition he found himself (Phil. 4:11-12). Being thankful for and content in our relationship with Jesus, and knowing that our Father knows best in His role as the Giver of all good gifts, we find the answer to either riches or poverty. We can find contentment in either condition if we really believe He knows best.
When we realize humble thankfulness cancels pride, jealousy and being fooled by materialism; we learn that riches vs. poverty isn’t really the issue. What our hearts rest in is the spiritual vs. the materialistic. Thinking of one last passage, the Spirit of God ministered to me when He said, “Thou dost not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it…The sacrifices of God are a broken heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 51:16-17).
“Dear Father, thank You for all your love, provision and grace. Help us not to insult You by rejecting Your blessings when You give us surprisingly good gifts. What we need help with is in finding a thankful balance as we love You with all our hearts, souls and minds. We pray in prosperity or poverty Your will be done. Help us understand the difference between the devil’s schemes and Your abundant blessings. Please help us, Father. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.”