My observations and convictions on “prosperity.”
Ecclesiastes 8:15 “I commend the enjoyment of life because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad.”
Jeremiah 17:7-8 Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
As I reflect upon the realities of where we find ourselves today as a family, I am acutely grateful and would testify to the prosperity of God in our lives, not only Spiritually, but the whole, physically. I am no Joel Osteen, with a “name it and claim” it over-spiritualization, but through God’s Creational mandate and Gospel of grace which affects our entire outlook upon this life (not merely escaping this world), we believe God’s normative way it to prosper his people, through family, children, church, and financial. This negates neither Providentially-orchestrated trials and suffering, nor in any way to deny the necessary hard work, for I would testify, not merely to the fact “that” God has prospered us, but the how.
I am now in my 20th year as a Pastor, and thus, this is where I have always received nearly the entirety of my income. I am thankful for the consistent generosity of our church. I am as “middle class” as they come and I possess the acute knowledge that I will never get paid much more than I do today. Our church is small, yet steady and committed, and therefore, I also don’t have much fear that I will have to take a pay-cut anytime soon. The Lord has provided. He has even blessed and prospered us. I have 9 children and yet we have a large, beautiful, and orderly home, with constant (constant) redecorating and improvements upon it. Some of this has happened as a result of the providence of 3.14% interest when we purchased our home 9 years ago, as well as slowly building up equity and being in this same pastoral position in Crosby MN, for 12 years. Consistency does matter, it does lead to slow prosperity in many areas.
Yet, probably what has provided the bulk of this, the means, of how God has allowed us to prosper is the collective love of both Miriam and myself of Garage sales, thrifting, Facebook marketplace, craigslist, and free boxes. Almost everything in our home has a story of its origin. We built a sauna in the garage (for less than $300 with repurposed wood). We built a cabin with 2 lofts on our property for less than $100 (free wood which we repurposed). We have a boat (a gift) and a camper (a “steal of a deal” from the Facebook marketplace). We have some very nice used furniture. All of my clothes have come from garage sales. We have paid “pennies” on the dollar for almost all of our possessions. And we have made some extra vacation money through repurposing and then reselling.
It is the “how” of how God has provided and even prospered us, that makes me so appreciative of our God’s wisdom and that we are citizens of a nation which have recognized that.
In the OT, God instituted a principle and laws of gleaning, which meant that a wealthy landowner was required to not plow under and to leave the last row of crops for the poor and destitute (non-land-owners) to harvest. This was their social service, their social justice. They, the poor, had access to food and sustenance to barter, trade, and even improve their lot. They might not get rich, but they were self-sufficient. They had to come and get their produce themselves. They were productive and dignified. The wealthy didn’t have to give handouts and maintained private ownership of land. This is the backdrop of the story of Ruth and Boaz.
Leviticus 19:9-10 “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.
Proverbs 14:23 In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.
What makes America Great? Is not one of the realities both a strong middle class and the ability of a person to have “upward mobility” through hard work, ingenuity, saving, investing, etc. Both Private ownership of property as well as the ability to save and be resourceful.
Gleaning in our nation is possible because as someone who is wealthier can afford to purchase new, there are always others who are willing to purchase that same item after a few years of use. One acute evidence of the greatness of America is a glorious and free system of buying, selling, bartering, and re-purposing, and not just formally in stores through credit cards, but through personal transactions and trades, leaving free items in the side of the road, where one “man’s junk” is indeed another “man’s treasure” It has led to many homes being improved, many lives being changed, and for people to be able to use and reuse. It has brought out the best in hard work, ingenuity, and resourcefulness.
Is there not a distinction between blatant “consumerism” and the freedom to enjoy through deliberately purchasing and improving, therein fulfilling the creation mandate and making things beautiful and orderly? I am thankful to live in a nation which has promoted this work ethic and freedom to do so. I am thankful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, through which He alone, by forgiving me and imparting his righteousness, giving me eternal hope and peace with God, I have acute hope, optimism, and purpose for this earlthly life, not merely the life to come.