Many times, the wicked appear to prosper much, especially in material and financial wealth. They lavish in their wealth—living a luxurious life. The children of God, on the other hand, appear to be in constant lack or have intermittent supply of their daily basic needs. Today’s popular religions (the charismatics, and especially the Pentecostal movements) have taught that financial success is the perceived primary sign that one is a true follower of Christ. Everyone’s desire (of their believers) is tilted towards that end! Strange as it is, a person in good spiritual standing, but not materially rich, is seen with remorse and considered as “not having been answered” by God; or taken to have followed a wrong path altogether. At certain times, the righteous suffer persecution, while the wicked exult or taunt them for their suffering.
Many a time, God’s people are tempted to ask: “Why is this so? Are there any better days to come?” In the book of Psalms, there is a record of this situation. “For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. . . . Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches.” Psalm 73:3, 12
Commandment Keepers vs. the Disobedient
Today, those abiding by the law of God (especially the faithful Sabbath keepers) and are by grace living a holy life are a sometimes a subject of ridicule by idolaters and the new prevalent religions. The faithfulness of the righteous is said to be the reason for their poverty, suffering, and disdain. “You are following an old religion of the Jews [because of the Sabbath]” they claim. “You are following a wrong God; unless you change, your prayers will remain unanswered, and you will die poor,” they conclude. Unlike the claim that obedience is a stumbling block to prosperity [riches], the Lord in the following [and many other verses] has put obedience as the foundation of success. He delights in those who honor His law and bountifully fill their lives with blessings.
“If ye walk in My statutes, and keep My commandments, and do them; Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely. And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none will make you afraid; and I will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land. And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies
shall fall before you by the sword.” Leviticus 26:3–8
“But if ye shall at all turn from following Me, ye or your children, and will not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them: Then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and this house, which I have hallowed for My name, will I cast out of my sight; and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people.” 1 Kings 9:6–7
God’s people are prosperous in this life, and much more abundantly will they be in the life to come. Prosperity must be seen also in a broader view (Deuteronomy 28:3–13). Inner peace, joy, health, security, children, and hope of eternal life, just to mention a few, are the important things that are bestowed upon the righteous which the rich wicked rarely have. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.” Isaiah 26:3. Many of the rich are destitute of inner peace and security. They surround themselves with many bodyguards, wear bullet proof attire, etc.; they are worried about what may happen. They often have high hospital bills for chronic illnesses due to intemperance, etc. . . .
Coming back to Psalm 73, we see how these rich wicked people are and act like. “They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men.” (verse 5). Because of this, “pride compasseth them about as a chain,” and are violent, have “more than the heart could wish.” “They are corrupt, and speak wickedly,” or exalt themselves, or they scoff at God. (verses 6–9, 11) None of these traits are pleasing to God.
Finally, the writer found that his “steps had well nigh slipped” (verse 2) when he saw the prosperity of the wicked. It was painful though to understand the situation how the child of God, the clean in heart (verse 13) is “plagued” all the day long, “and chastened every morning” (verse 14), while those not in the fear of God are left to lavish. Until the writer went to God’s Sanctuary did he understand their end [of the wicked]. (verse 17). Here it is clear. The difference between the righteous and these apparently prospering lies in their end.
God allows His children to suffer out of love, with the object of purifying them. “That we might be partakers of His holiness.” Hebrews 12:10, last part. If left without chastisement, then they are not sons, but bastards. (verse 8) “It is good for me [the Psalmist writes] that I have been afflicted; that I might learn Thy statutes.” “Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now I have kept Thy word.” Psalm 119:71, 67
The Perplexity of God’s People
The people of God are led to be tempted to look for some immediate temporal reward for their well doing—their godly living—as they see the disobedient surrounded with earthly honour. In the time of Malachi the prophet, the people spoke stout words against God. Yet they asked: “What have we spoken so much against Thee?” Malachi 3:13. They were told: “Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: and what profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.” Malachi 3: 14–15. Is not this the same complaint as in Psalms 73:13–14? “Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. . . .” Yes, it is the same.
Often times, those who admire the riches and luxurious life of worldly people are ignorant of how this wealth is gathered and accumulated. In the first place, they often violate God’s law by breaking the Sabbath. Some also use crookedness, bribery, corruption etc. to accumulate their wealth. Many dark stories have been told (by witnesses) of the dark forces found within the residences of some of these people. There is a whole range of rituals, evil spirits being entertained, human sacrifice, personal surety to remain loyal to the secret societies’ affiliation or die a terrible death, and so on. The terrible thing is that these people are the ones in the forefront, professing to believe in Jesus, and that it is Him who has given them these riches. Yet such riches are all vanity and “vexation of spirit” (Ecclesiastes 1:17) to them that hold them. Many of the riches are obtained in a filthy way. If their eyes were opened to see these things (the dark powers behind the riches), the heart would be filled with terror, and a full appreciation of God’s love (why He has kept us from such things) is aroused.
As already mentioned above, it took the Psalmist [Psalms 73] to go to the sanctuary to understand the whole thing, the reward of the wicked, seemingly prosperous. While in the Sanctuary, he saw them “set in slippery places,” and cast “down into destruction,” hurriedly “into desolation”, and “utterly consumed with terrors. Their image before the Lord, was despised as in a dream. (verses 18–20)
Malachi says that the conversation of those that fear the Lord are immortalized by being safely kept in a book of remembrance (Malachi 3:16); they are promised deliverance (verse 17)—eternal life. God will bring them to a time when these two groups will be clearly separated and their character revealed. (verse 18). In the day “that shall burn as an oven,” the wicked will be totally destroyed, notwithstanding their affluent state, being left among “them neither root nor branch.” Malachi 4:1. This is how God will settle the matter. So, like the Psalmist, we are foolish and ignorant if we envy the prosperity of the wicked (Psalms 73:22).
Occupy Till I Come
Is it a sin to be rich? No! The Bible does not say so. Some have used the verse in 1 Timothy 6:10, to state that “money is the root of all evil.” Any efforts and skill used to make money is a questionable undertaking. Any advancement financially is looked upon with abhorrence. Thus the blessings which God would have bestowed upon His faithful working servant according to his talents are forfeited. Laziness of body and mind has been eclipsed in a pretense of following God’s will. Poverty, which was not supposed to be, stalks! While it is true that there is one who gives earthy glory to his followers as in the temptation of Jesus: “Again, the devil taketh Him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth Him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto Him, All these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me.” (Matthew 4:8–9) It is “the LORD that maketh poor, and maketh rich: He bringeth low, and lifteth up.” 1 Samuel 2:7. The command of the Lord remains: “Occupy till I come.” Luke 19:13. We are to utilize all our talents and knowledge for all useful education and employment to which the Lord leads us. Businesses done following the “principles of diligence, honesty, thrift, temperance and purity” (Education, p. 135) are not offensive to God and often prove a great blessing to the work of saving souls. Having narrated a parable of a rich foolish man, warning His hearers to beware of covetousness, Christ stated what was the actual danger in wealth accumulation: “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:21 (emphasis mine)
Now is the time to set our “affection on things above, not on things on the earth;” we must “seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.” Colossians 3:2, 1. “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 3:20.
That is the goal that should be foremost in our life efforts, is my wish and prayer. Amen.