Economic Uncertainty: The Paradox of Prosperity
Yesterday, I ate a deli sandwich from a local restaurant, which came with chips and a drink. Probably many of you have done the same thing recently. Let’s review for a moment the “paradox of prosperity” as it plays out in the deli, just for fun.
First, I need to choose my meat (or two, or three). Next, I decide what type of cheese I would like. Then, I pick the bread type and decide whether I want it toasted or not. After that, I choose my condiments, which could include three types of mustard along with other possibilities. Once I have chosen my sandwich, I move down the line and fill my drink cup while I am waiting. Of course, there is the standard “Sprite, Coke, Diet Coke, etc.” option, but I also get to pick how much ice I put into the cup and I need to decide if I want to blend any beverages (say sweet and un-sweet tea, Coke and Diet Coke, etc.) As I wait for my sandwich, I stand before a rack of chip options that contains no less than 25 choices (I am not exaggerating.) There are literally four kinds of “barbeque” chips and three kinds of “salt and vinegar” chips. Finally, I must decide “here or to go” and then decide on my form of payment – cash, debit, credit, or check.
I’m exhausted, and it’s just a turkey sandwich.
No wonder prosperity (having too much) leads to anxiety, “analysis paralysis,” greed, comparisons, gluttony, and a host of other issues that are not healthy – either financially or spiritually. Just as I can end a deli meal feeling too full, wishing I’d picked the cheese/meat combo that my friend picked, frustrated that I chose the chips with MSG, or wishing I had just one more pickle to go with the last quarter of my sandwich, I can end my “day in the life” as a typical American with many of those same issues, simply because I have so much.
What is God’s answer? In the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 6:19-22 (NIV), Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where month and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.”
Once, I heard a sermon on this passage. The pastor pointed out that there is a dual interpretation of the word “good” in the last sentence. It can either mean “simple, single” or it can mean “generous.” I appreciate the richness of Scripture! God wants us to view the world from a “single” lens – His. He wants us to follow His wisdom in order to combat the deceitfulness of riches. Additionally, He knows that when we have a generous spirit (or “eye”), we will be less affected by and attached to our prosperity, so that it does not twist us into worshippers of mammon rather than worshippers of God.
So, today, even if you feel like you are not wealthy, recognize the age of prosperity that we live in. In doing so, ask the Lord to clearly show you His wisdom in the midst of complex choices and consider how you might be generous with those around you in order to loosen the grip of prosperity on your life.
May God’s peace encourage you as you pursue financial wisdom and depend on His Truth.