Spirituality and Riches
Even though he’s stupid, preacher Z did make one correct observation; Z said he noticed that Christians who prosper tend to become spiritually cold. Really? What a surprise! Guess what, this is exactly what the Bible teaches and warns us about, starting as far back as Deuteronomy:
“Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, 12 lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, 13 and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God . . . (Deut. 8:11, 13-14) (ESV)
And that is exactly what happened to them. Their wealth increased until they forgot God and were destroyed because of it. And the get-rich preachers want us to have wealth like them so we can become spiritually cold also. No, we should learn from them and not become wealthy. In fact, God actually told the Israelites to not become wealthy! He said even the king should not accumulate wealth:
17 He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold. (Deut. 17:17) (NIV)
The more money and material goods you have the more you come to rely on the money rather than on God. It is just a fact of human nature. It is not a coincidence that the Laodiceans were materially wealthy but spiritually poor, while the Christians in Smyrna were materially poor but spiritually rich:
14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm–neither hot nor cold–I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 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. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. 19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. (Revelation 3:14-19) (NIV)
About the Laodiceans, the Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary says:
The spirit of the surrounding culture had crept into the congregation and had paralyzed their spiritual life. But did they claim to be materially rich or spiritually rich? Most likely both were involved; the Laodiceans probably interpreted their material wealth as a blessing from God and thus were self-deceived as to their true spiritual state. Christ’s revelation of the Laodiceans’ actual situation shatters their illusions and calls them to repentance. (Vol. 2, p. 1153)
Their spiritual poverty was shameful. It was true of the Laodiceans, and it is most likely prophetic; this could very well point directly to America today. Christians have more than enough money to preach the Gospel to all ethnic groups of the world, and help the poor, but the money is being diverted to build temples for the spiritually dead. The reason this country is on a downward slide is because of the church; the church is weak and sickly, but it is not poor. It is certainly the Laodicean church. The Greek for “poor” is ptochos, and means:
Poor and helpless… abject poverty, utter helplessness, complete destitution… The adjective ptochos, indicates complete helplessness (in contrast to penes, which means poor but capable of providing for oneself). Therefore, ptochos is sometimes translated “beggar” because of the helplessness of the individual . . . (Complete Word Study Dictionary, p. 1252-1253)
The Greek for “blind” is tuphlos,
…to envelop with smoke, be unable to see clearly… Figuratively in respect to the mind, ignorant, stupid, slow of understanding. (CWD)
These rich people are in the worst possible spiritual condition because they were blind to their spiritual poverty, like the present-day prosperity preachers, and most Christianity in North America today. Since the rich teachers are Laodiceans, it means they are spiritual beggars, yet they think they have great understanding!
How could the rich Laodiceans become spiritually rich? Only by acquiring gold refined in the fire. When gold ore is subjected to great heat, it melts and the impurities float to the top where they are scooped off, leaving pure gold. Because they have been deceived by wealth, the only way these Christians will ever be able to see and understand the truth is to suffer the fire of various hardships. Could this be the reason so many Christians in America suffer so many problems? Is God refining prosperous Christians who have become lukewarm? For example, divorce is just as high among Christians as nonChristians. It is officially higher among Christians, but that is only because so many nonChristians live together without marrying. Christians are also more overweight than the secular population, which means they are, or will soon be, suffering many health problems.
There has also been economic problems in recent years that have caused some rich Christians to loose a lot of money. There have also been many natural disasters which appear to be the judgment of God. April and May of 2011 saw a record number of tornadoes, while many eastern states were having flooding and western states were having a drought along with many drought related fires. The list of trouble is very long (see the last chapter), but you get the idea.
To the church at Smyrna, Jesus said, “I know your afflictions and your poverty–yet you are rich!” (Rev. 2:9) (NIV). The poor are spiritually rich because they go through much more hardship than prosperous Christians, and are therefore more likely to be strong in faith.
Jesus and the apostles all lived by faith. To live by faith does not mean to have enough faith to believe God for lots of money. It means to be in a position where you must trust God week-to-week or day-to-day to supply your needs. This means only the poor can truly live by faith. This is why James said, “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith . . . ?” (James 2:5) (NIV). Being poor forces you to trust God day to day, but the get-rich preachers teach that a person rich in faith will drive a Rolls Royce or BMW. No, it is the rich who are greatly lacking in faith because they trust in their riches, while the poor must trust God. James also said:
9 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business. (James 1:9-11) (NIV)
This passage clearly states that rich people hold a low position with God. This proves that wealth is not a blessing from God! Satan is the god of this world and goes to great effort to promote materialism, but the spiritual cost is high. It is truly astonishing that people can read verses like this one and still believe that Christians should be extremely wealthy. The reason I say extremely wealthy, is because all Americans are wealthy when compared to the rest of the world. The web site, Global Rich List, http://www.globalrichlist.com, reveals the truth about American wealth. A family earning $40,000 has an average income in the U.S., but is among the top 3.17% of the world’s richest people.
The uninsightful person may want to argue that the Communists were all poor, so why didn’t Satan make them wealthy too? Satan uses different tactics, depending on the circumstances. Satan tried to slaughter all the Christians in the U.S.S.R. and other places, but in the U.S. Satan is using materialism to destroy Christians, and is having great success.
“Wherever riches have increased, the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion. . . . as riches increase, so will pride, anger, and love of the world in all its branches.” –John Wesley
Because America sends a lot money, Bibles, and literature to China, a Chinese Church leader came here expecting to find super-spiritual Christians on fire for God, but that is not what he found:
Before I traveled to the West I had absolutely no idea that so many churches were spiritually asleep. I presumed the Western church was strong and vibrant because it had brought the gospel to my country with such incredible faith and tenacity.
Many missionaries had shown a powerful example to us by laying down their lives for the sake of Jesus. On some occasions I’ve struggled while speaking in Western churches. There seems to be something missing that leaves me feeling terrible inside. Many meetings are cold and lack the fire and presence of God that we have in China.
In the West many Christians have an abundance of material possessions, yet they live in a backslidden state. They have silver and gold, but they don’t rise up and walk in Jesus’ name. In China, we have no possessions to hold us down, so there’s nothing preventing us from moving out for the Lord. The Chinese church is like Peter at the Beautiful Gate. When he saw the crippled beggar he said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!” In a similar way, I pray that God might use the Chinese church to help the Western church rise up and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. . . .
Multitudes of church members are satisfied with giving their minimum to God, not their maximum. I’ve watched men and women during offering time in church. They open their fat wallets and search for the smallest amount they can give. This type of attitude will never do! Jesus gave his whole life for us, and we give as little of our lives, time, and money as we can give back to God. What a disgrace! Repent! This may sound strange, but I even miss the offerings we used to give in China.
On numerous occasions, the leader of a meeting would announce, “We have a new worker who is leaving tomorrow to serve the Lord.” Immediately every single person would completely empty their pockets of everything they had. With that money, the worker would buy a train or bus ticket and leave the next day. Often this money was not just everything we had in our pockets at that time, but everything we owned in the whole world. Just because you have a church building doesn’t necessarily mean Jesus is with you. He is not welcome in many churches today. In Revelation 3:20 Jesus said, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with me.” Often this verse is used as an invitation for salvation, but actually the context Jesus was speaking in was very different. He was standing outside the door of the church of Laodicea, knocking to get in! (Brother Yun, The Heavenly Man, pages 295-298)
Did you notice anything? He said he expected the American Church to be alive, but he found it dead. Jesus said the same thing: “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead” (Rev. 3:1) (ESV). The reason the Western Church has backslidden is because it has been deceived by false doctrine and prosperity.
Another Chinese Church leader, Samuel Lamb, suffered imprisonment for twenty years! He stated:
“Our churches in China are undergoing persecution; your churches in the West are undergoing delusion.” (Voice of The Martyrs, May 2000, page 1)
The Western Church believes it has been given wealth as a reward from God, but the wealth should be given to Christians in other nations who do not have enough to meet their needs, and to preach the Gospel in Asia and Africa.
Western missionaries are no longer allowed into most Asian nations, but they are actually not needed. There are enough Christians in most nations today who are able to train and send out their own missionaries, the problem is they are poor, so they do not have the funds to support the native missionaries. Gospel for Asia has thousands of missionaries who have planted thousands of churches, but there are still 500,000 villages in India without a church. There are many native missionaries waiting to go, but they are waiting for the funds to come from American Christians. Far too many of the churches in America only want to support missionaries who are part of their denomination, so they will not support Gospel for Asia.
There are 42,000 children enrolled in schools through Gospel for Asia. The children are also taught about Jesus, which often leads to the conversion of entire families. But there are 11,000 children waiting for sponsors! American Christians have enough money to enroll all of those children. Let us hope that at least some of the American Church is able to repent of its greed and start sharing.
You can even buy a cow or a couple of chickens for the poorest of the poor in India, in order to show God’s love for them, which opens them up to receive the Gospel. You can also give to poor Christians who need such items for their livelihood. The parable of the sower is also found in Luke:
“And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.” (Luke 8:14) (ESV)
Here again it is clear that life’s riches can choke out the truth of God’s Word! If the riches of this world can choke out the Word of God, then Christians should be very careful about not having a lot of those riches. As it stands now, the gold-loving preachers do not believe the above statement, and preach that Christians should be millionaires.
We have seen through several Bible passages that having wealth is very dangerous to us spiritually, yet the gold-loving preachers want us to become wealthy. Satan is the one who wants Christians to become wealthy because he knows the harm it will do us.
Many rich people actually live cursed lives, such as J. Paul Getty who had one child die of a brain tumor, another committed suicide at age 48, another became a drug addict. His granddaughter Irene said, “I hate money… I don’t want to be a Getty” (Interview on Dateline NBC, 1996). Irene was a drug addict with Aids. Her brother suffered a drug overdose and became nearly a vegetable. Many rich people have lived the same kind of nightmare.
Today, there are more wealthy people in the United States than ever before. There are more than 1,000 billionaires, 49,000 with a net worth of 50-500 million, 125,000 with a net worth of 25-50 million, and 9 million worth one million. According to The Millionaire Next Door, 3.5% of all American households have a net worth of over one million dollars (p. 3).
Many of the super rich do not plan to leave all their wealth to their children because they know the harm that it does, so they are giving away billions of dollars to hospitals, universities, and other charities. Oscar Shaffer, a rich hedge fund manager, is one of those who believes the rich should leave their wealth to charities. He said, “I know a lot of people, sons and daughters of wealthy people, who’s wealth has basically crippled them” (Untold Wealth: The Rise of the Super Rich, CNBC, 2008).
Even people who win the lottery suffer greatly in so many ways that most of them wish they had never won. This is so frequent that it is referred to as “the curse of the lottery.” Several TV documentaries have been produced and articles written detailing the trouble that follows lottery winners.
One Southeastern family won $4.2 million in the early ’90s. They bought a huge house and succumbed to repeated family requests for help in paying off debts. The house, cars and relatives ate the whole pot. Eleven years later, the couple is divorcing, the house is sold and they have to split what is left of the lottery proceeds. The wife got a very small house. The husband has moved in with the kids. Even the life insurance they bought ended up getting cashed in. “It was not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” says their financial advisor. (8 Lottery Winners Who Lost Their Millions, by bankrate.com)
Typical results from winning the lottery are: divorce, lawsuits, family problems, drug addiction, bankruptcy, debt, and sometimes even death. Most winnings do not last more than a few years. You would think that only the nonChristian would be affected in this way, but you would be wrong. Winning the lottery destroys Christians as well:
In 2002, Jack Whittaker won the largest individual payout in U.S. lottery history. “I can take the money,” Whittaker said at the time. “I can take this much money and do a lot of good with this much money right now.”
But it didn’t work out like that. Whittaker’s life was consumed by hardship, including the death of his beloved granddaughter Brandi, who was a victim of a drug overdose, and the breakup of his marriage. “If I knew what was going to transpire, honestly, I would have torn the ticket up,” said Jewell Whittaker, Jack Whittaker’s ex-wife. (Curse of the Lottery Winners: Winning Millions Often Results in Hardship, ABC News, 3-11, 07)
Even though this family was confirmed Christians, the money destroyed them. Another Christian was Billie Bob Harrell Jr. who won 37 million dollars in the Texas Lottery. He had so many problems he ended up committing suicide.
“He was a good Christian man. But this money created a fantasy world for him. And unfortunately this was something that he lived out in real life. He gave into temptation and that’s not an unusual thing to happen, when you have a large sum of money.” (Darly LePage, certified financial planner. Lotterypost.com)
Daryl LePage said, “When you win a large sum of money, you would think that your problems go away. In reality, a new set of problems come in.” Yet, people are gullible enough to believe that God wants them rich! Stop listening to those lying servants of Satan! Those lying snakes, wolves in sheep’s clothing!