Sunday, August 10, 2008

Prosperity Tension

I just finished reading Psalm 37 as part of my morning reading. Verses 25 and 26 struck me:

Psalms 37:25-26 ESV
(25) I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread.
(26) He is ever lending generously, and his children become a blessing.

Does this mean that the prosperity preachers are right? Does this mean that if we are righteous we should never have any physical need? Is it impossible to be righteous and find yourself poor and hungry?

If so, this would be a great tension with the rest of Scripture. It would mean that Paul was doing something unrighteous at some point:

Philippians 4:10-13 ESV
(10) I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.
(11) Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
(12) I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
(13) I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

While he would certainly admit to sin, I don't think he would say that the hunger and need came from living that way. This is especially true if he was looking to Christ for his strength to get through those times.

So what do we do with this little passage? Fortunately, the Psalm itself helps us out:

Psalms 37:35-40 ESV
(35) I have seen a wicked, ruthless man, spreading himself like a green laurel tree.
(36) But he passed away, and behold, he was no more; though I sought him, he could not be found.
(37) Mark the blameless and behold the upright, for there is a future for the man of peace.
(38) But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed; the future of the wicked shall be cut off.
(39) The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
(40) The LORD helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.

Ultimately, this Psalm is about salvation. It is about true deliverance and true provision in our lives. So while David did see the righteous able to loan out money and provide for his family, I don't think it means that we should have an expectation of that. Instead, I think that our guarantee is in salvation. After all, the only way we can meet the standards of true righteousness is through the atoning work of Christ, right?

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