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The dangers of prosperity

The dangers of prosperity
Posted on November 8, 2019  - By Lisa Mattackal

In Sunday school, my favourite stories were the ones from Judges, Kings and Chronicles. The battles, palace intrigues, and prophet vs. king showdowns — you couldn’t ask for more! Of course, I learned all about the “good” and “bad” kings of Israel and Judah. As I’ve revisited these Scriptures, I’ve noticed that most of these men defy neat categorisation. Many so-called “good” kings begin their reigns with a burst of godly fervour but end tragically. Saul, Joash, Hezekiah — the list goes on. I wondered: why did these men, of all people, fall away?

After reading through the life of Solomon, one possible answer stood out: turning from the Lord doesn’t happen overnight, and we might be most spiritually vulnerable in times of prosperity.

Solomon’s change of heart 

After Solomon is crowned king, he pleads with God for wisdom. It’s a well-known story, but I was struck by Solomon’s desperation. “I am a little child,” he prays. Let’s take a moment to appreciate Solomon’s situation. A young man, trying to fill the shoes of a beloved King David, responsible for an entire nation. Is it any wonder that Solomon is overwhelmed? Keenly aware of his need, he humbly begs for divine wisdom.

God honours Solomon’s prayer and all is well. Solomon’s wisdom is legendary, Israel is blessed with peace and prosperity, and the temple is finally built. In 1 Kings 8, Solomon offers up a beautiful prayer of dedication. He prays that the temple will be a place where all nations — not just Israel — will come to know and fear God. And yet, just a few pages later, the story takes a tragic turn: Solomon is building temples for pagan gods! Why? Because “his heart turned away from the Lord”. In a clear act of disobedience, he marries pagan wives and they lead him into idolatry (1 Kings 11:2).

So what happened? Without much speculation, let us look at 1 Kings 9-11 and it reveals, verse after verse, the details of Solomon’s prosperity. Yet, Solomon forgot the source of his blessing. The esteemed emperor was just not the same man who begged the Omniscient Lord for wisdom. As his success lulled him into a false sense of security, he took his focus off the Lord and was now vulnerable to sin.

This problem isn’t just Solomon’s. The Israelites often experienced God’s blessings, then promptly forgot Him (Hosea 2:8). Difficulties spurred the Israelities to seek God, but success made them feel invincible. David’s penitential psalm accurately diagnoses the problem: “When I felt secure, I said, ‘I will never be shaken’ (Psalm 30:6).

Difficulties spurred the Israelities to seek God, but success made them feel invincible

When success leads to apathy 

Solomon’s story is a powerful warning for Christians to be spiritually vigilant, even during seasons of peace. Trials can shake our faith, but they often force us to rely on Christ. Comfort tends to quieten us into false security and apathy. I find that I often take the Lord for granted, particularly during good circumstances. Sure, I’m grateful when God answers my prayers, but it’s easy to forget how much I need Christ when I don’t feel a constant need.

Few Christians make a conscious decision to turn away from Christ. Instead, we typically drift into periods of spiritual stagnation or serious sin. This change is rarely dramatic. Instead, like a swimmer who’s gradually carried away from shore by the current, it’s often subtle and we don’t notice until we’re quite far gone.

It’s easy to blame outside influences for turning us away from God, but the real problem lies in our hearts. When we forget that our blessings come from God, when we don’t realise how desperately we need His grace, and when our intimacy with Him is not a priority, we become spiritually vulnerable. It’s why Jesus called believers to “abide” in Him as fruit does on a vine. It’s a permanent and active state, not one that ebbs and flows depending on our mood or circumstance.

So, what do we do? If prosperity makes us forgetful, then remembrance is a powerful cure. We need to remind ourselves of the Gospel and our dire need for Christ Jesus. Prioritise the reading of His Word, develop a sincere desire to spend more time in prayer, and deliberately seek fellowship when we’re comfortable, not just when we’re desperate. We must seek Him with the same humility and urgency in both joy and sorrow.

May prosperity never make us lose sight of the greatest treasure of all. This prayer from The Valley of Vision is one I’ve found deeply convicting:

“Grant me never to lose sight of
the exceeding sinfulness of sin,
the exceeding righteousness of salvation,
the exceeding glory of Christ,
the exceeding beauty of holiness,
And the exceeding wonder of grace.”

Lisa Mattackal

About Lisa Mattackal

Lisa is a 20-something millennial discovering how to glorify God in all aspects of life. Despite being a "recovering introvert," she's always up for coffee and good conversation. She works as a journalist in Bangalore, India.



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