Thursday, December 26, 2013

Riches and Wealth: The Heart of the Matter

In that night God appeared to Solomon, and said to him, “Ask what I shall give you.” And Solomon said to God, “You have shown great and steadfast love to David my father, and have made me king in his place. O Lord God, let your word to David my father be now fulfilled, for you have made me king over a people as numerous as the dust of the earth. Give me now wisdom and knowledge to go out and come in before this people, for who can govern this people of yours, which is so great?” God answered Solomon, “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked for possessions, wealth, honor, or the life of those who hate you, and have not even asked for long life, but have asked for wisdom and knowledge for yourself that you may govern my people over whom I have made you king, wisdom and knowledge are granted to you. I will also give you riches, possessions, and honor, such as none of the kings had who were before you, and none after you shall have the like.”
2 Chronicles 1:7-12
Three observations and two implications.

Observation #1:  Solomon does not ask God to give him possessions, wealth, honor, revenge, or long life for himself (verse 11).

Obersvation #2:  God is pleased not only that Solomon asks for wisdom ("Because ... [you] have asked for wisdom..."), but also that Solomon does not ask for riches, possessions, and honor ("Because ... you have not asked for possessions, wealth, honor...").

Observation #3:  God grants Solomon immeasurably abundant riches, possessions, and honor (verse 12).

Implication #1:  Riches, possessions, and honor are not inherently bad.  If they were, God would never give them to Solomon.  The Father only gives good gifts to His children (Matthew 7:9-11).

Implication #2:  That doesn't give us the green light to ask God for riches, possessions, and honor--or even to want these things.  We must be very careful here.  Just because a thing isn't inherently evil doesn't mean we should want or pursue that thing.  The issue at stake is the heart.  What was Solomon's heart in asking for wisdom?  God reveals this in His response to Solomon: "Because this was in your heart... you have asked for wisdom and knowledge for yourself that you may govern my people."  Wisdom not just for himself.  But for himself in order that he might serve others and establish God's kingdom.  That's a healthy heart.  And when the heart is right--which God alone (and not even us) can see--God very often will give us riches, possessions, and honor.  But that does not mean we should pursue these things.  Ours is only to be faithful in seeking His kingdom and to let God distribute the increase as He sees fit (Matthew 6:33).  In other words, we let the chips fall where they will.  We have no right or claim to anything.

The heart by nature is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9).  Even after God regenerates an individual and gives him or her a new heart, there are still remnants of corruption that allow our hearts to deceive us (Galatians 5:17).  And one of the ways the heart deceives is by inciting us to pursue things that are good for the wrong reasons--namely, self-centered reasons rather than God-centered and others-centered reasons (James 4:3-4).  And the heart is more deceitful than we think.  It will even go so far as to suggest that the riches we desire can be used to bless others in order to justify our pursuit of them since we could never justify it for our own ends alone.  "See," it tells us, "this really is about others."  No, it's self using others as a means to my own selfish ends.  Which is even more sinful than my selfishness in the first place.

So, could one argue that since riches aren't inherently evil, there's nothing wrong with desiring to be wealthy and asking God to bless that endeavor?  Well, based on logic alone, sure.  But we have a higher authority than logic--namely, Scripture.  And the predominant testimony of Scripture--specifically with regard to money--seems to be that a heart that desires riches and wealth is where the defect lies (1 Timothy 6:9-10, Proverbs 23:4-5, Proverbs 30:8-9), not in the riches and wealth itself.

So be very careful.  Passages like this and many others in Scripture--if the Holy Spirit gives us eyes to see--provide for us penetrating insight into the heart of God for the purpose that we might really know Him--the only true and living God--and, in knowing Him, know what pleases Him.

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