Are you rich, or are you poor? Does your answer change depending on the person asking the question? What kind of criteria do you use to measure your level of wealth? Do you count the sum of the value of your possessions? Do you count the number of cars you own, or the square footage of your home? Or do you count something else?
No matter what the criteria, when we answer the question of whether we are rich or poor, we base it on some evaluation of what we have or what we do not have. The United States of America, by measure of gross domestic product, is the richest country in the world. One might think that such a country would not have problems paying its bills. However, in the Current Events today, we read about the grim reality that without drastic measures, this country will fail to make payments on its loans in the coming weeks.
How can such a prosperous and powerful country fall so dramatically into a state of massive financial delinquency? Stated differently, how can a country so rich be so poor? While the passage does not strictly apply to the debt crisis of the United States, Revelation 3:17-18 explains a similar paradox. Speaking of the Laodiceans, Christ says: “‘Because you say, “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing” — and do not know that you are wretched, poor, blind and naked — I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich…’”
In this example, placed in the Bible for us, we learn that carnal pride in material success is a direct cause of true poverty. The only way to become truly rich is by working towards perfection, following the righteous instructions of God. Quite simply, we become poor when we turn from God. When we place our hearts and confidence in the material wealth we might accumulate, rather than what is spiritually important, we are investing in worthless assets. God instructs us to lay up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21), and not to invest in things which perish (John 6:27), placing value in the things of this world, which have no real and lasting value.
If turning away from God causes us to be poor, what happens when we do the opposite? How do we change when we turn our ways towards God? The answer is just as simple. When we fear the LORD, we prosper (compare Psalm 25:12-13). The eternal life and rewards written about in the Bible are the goals we should be working for. This is only attainable through faith and obedience, and bearing fruit with the talents that we have been provided (compare Matthew 25:14-30).
The Bible clearly states that material goods and worldly possessions are of no ultimate value, and that a heart working to overcome the world through God’s faith, righteousness and Godly obedience produces true profit. With the Holy Spirit of God, the greatest investment known to man has been placed in our possession. With this in mind, I’ll ask you one last question: How does it feel to be rich?