The Dangers of Prosperity

In Deuteronomy 8 Moses warns us that we must be careful that prosperity doesn’t ruin our spiritual life. At first glance that doesn’t make sense. It’s easier to see how hardships and trials might harden our hearts toward God than blessing ever would. But both are equally dangerous. That’s why you find this prayer in Proverbs 30:8-9

…Give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.

Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, ‘Who is the LORD ?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.

Christianity Today’s recent cover story is entitled “Scrooge Lives: Why we’re not putting more in the offering plate. And what we can do about it.” In the article we read that although Evangelical Christians are more charitable than any other religious group, they don’t even come close to observing the Bible’s command to give 10% of their income. 36% give away less than 2% and only 27% tithe.

The lack of giving sure isn’t due to a lack of wealth. A new study called Passing the Plate and published by Oxford University Press says that committed American Christians-those who say their faith is very important to them and those who attend church at least twice a month-earn more than 2.5 trillion dollars every year. On their own, these Christians could be admitted to the G7, the group of the world’s seven largest economies.”

If these committed Christians gave 10% of their after tax income, they would add another $46 billion to ministries around the world. What could that money do? Quite a bit. “$10 billion would sponsor 20 million children for a year, and just $330 million would sponsor 150,000 indigenous missionaries in countries closed to religious workers. $2.2 billion would triple the current funding for Bible translation, printing, and distribution. $600 million would be enough to start eight Christian colleges in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia.”

Now you might think that those who make the most money give the highest percentage of their income away. You might think that but you’d be wrong. Those with lower incomes give away greater portions of their earnings. The study reveals that “Americans who earn less than $10,000 gave 2.3% of their income to religious organizations whereas those who earn $70,000 or more gave only 1.2%.” When Americans made less money following the Great Depression they gave more. When income went up, they began to give less of it away.

The article goes on to give some reasons for the lack of giving:

1. The purchases of homes and cars lock people into debt so that they don’t have as much disposable income.

2. Christians believe that all giving is supposed to be cheerful and spontaneous instead of planned and intentional. “This attitude translates to giving from our wallets instead of our paychecks. When the offering plate comes by, we dig into our purses or pockets and freely, joyfully give of what we find. Meanwhile, nearly all of our income is spoken for.”

3. Churches and pastors avoid the topic of money in their preaching and don’t challenge people to give.

I recently read a C. S. Lewis quote on giving that I thought was both helpful and convicting. I can’t find it right now so you will have to live with my paraphrase. “The only safe rule for giving is that it should make you uncomfortable. By that I mean that it should impinge on your lifestyle. There ought to be things that we would like to do but can’t because you’ve given too much of your money away.”

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