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The Vicious Cycle of Prosperity

by Tom Stewart

November 9, 1999

Never did the Almighty intend His prospering of the Righteous to be a curse. "The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich, and He addeth no sorrow with it" (Proverbs 10:22). Prosperity and success have always been attached to the performance of the will of God. "This Book of the Law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success" (Joshua 1:8). The Psalmist described the Blessed Man as a man whose "delight is in the Law of the LORD; and in His Law doth he meditate day and night" (Psalm 1:2), with the result that "whatsoever he doeth shall prosper" (1:3).

Prosperity only becomes a vicious cycle when we forget God.
"Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient [literally, appointed as my portion] for me" (Proverbs 30:8). Sadly, we often respond to the extremes of poverty or riches adversely. "Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the Name of my God in vain" (30:9). Only by a continual fear of the LORD can we be delivered from the sin of these wrong responses to riches or poverty. "Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith" (Proverbs 15:16). Come what may, we must reverentially fear and trust God. "Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long" (23:17).

BlessingsMoses placed before the Israelites both the conditions for success or failure, prosperity or destitution, blessing or cursing.
"26 Behold, I set before you this day a blessing and a curse; 27 A blessing, if ye obey the Commandments of the LORD your God, which I command you this day: 28 And a curse, if ye will not obey the Commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside out of the way which I command you this day, to go after other gods, which ye have not known" (Deuteronomy 11:26-28). Trusting the LORD and obedience are impossible to separate. "Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed" (Psalm 37:3). Further, Moses warned: "18 Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the LORD our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood; 19 And it come to pass, when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst: 20 The LORD will not spare him, but then the anger of the LORD and His jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this Book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall blot out his name from under Heaven" (Deuteronomy 29:18-20).

Simply read the Old Testament Book of Judges, and you will find the phrase
"the children of Israel did evil" (Judges 2:11; 3:7,12; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1) often followed closely by the phrase "the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel" (2:14, 20; 3:8; 10:7). Jehovah's judgment of wayward Israel was invariably coupled with His deliverance of Israel from the very chastisements that their sin constrained Him to devise. "14 And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and He delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and He sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies... 16 Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them... 18 And when the LORD raised them up judges, then the LORD was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the LORD because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them" (Judges 2:14,16,18). Thus, the LORD used the Spoiler Nations to test Prospering Israel's faithfulness that He "may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not" (2:22).

The LORD's testing of the Saints is essential, because:

May this season of Thanksgiving find you truly grateful to God, from Whom comes "every good gift and every perfect gift" (James 1:17). "Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us Thanksgiving to God" (2Corinthians 9:11).


Tom Stewart

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