The Purpose of Our Prosperity
- Larry Burkett Co-CEO of Crown Financial Ministries
- 2000 5 Dec
Why am I here?
This question has long baffled philosophers, but in the words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
Unfortunately, many Christians arent seeking fulfillment in God but in material things. As they overspend and accumulate debt, they hinder their ability to support God's work or pursue any mission/outreach work to which they feel called. They are living in financial bondage.
In contrast, believers who are wholly devoted to God experience peace and contentment that the world cannot understand. As a result of following Gods financial principles, they have the liberty to give and to pursue God's callings in their lives. They are free to serve.
Money: My way
In a society that puts so much emphasis on material things, its easy to get caught up in making money and spending it on ourselves.
But for Christians, fulfillment comes when we surrender everything (including money) to God, acknowledge his ownership, and manage what he's given us according to his word, not our desires.
History is full of people who discovered that money offers no genuine fulfillment.
I said to myself, Come now, I will test you with pleasure. So enjoy yourself. And behold, it too was futility (Ecclesiastes 2:1).
Others found that money can be lost as quickly as it was made, or even quicker. If riches increase, do not set your heart upon them (Psalm 62:10). Lets look at some examples.
Gloria Swanson was a famous actress in the first half of the 20th century. She was known for her extravagance and lavish lifestyle, according to Herbert E. Nass in his book Wills of the Rich and Famous. Swanson reportedly spent most of the $8 million she earned between 1918 and 1929. By the time she died, she was into her sixth marriage.
Nass also tells the story of Marilyn Monroe, one of the most famous actresses of all time. More than 25 years after her death, her estate reportedly earned more than $1 million through film royalties and the licensing of her image on products. However, Monroe died from an overdose of sleeping pills at the age of 36.
Following are two examples from past issues of The Wall Street Journal.
April 29, 1997: The family of Alexander DiLorenzo Jr. was one of the top real estate families in New York, owning 200 buildings at one time. One generation later, the empire built by Mr. DiLorenzo came crashing down. In a single deal, 106 debt-laden properties belonging to the family were sold for a fraction of their value. The last major family-owned property, a Manhattan hotel, was sold in April 1997.
November 1, 1996: High school basketball star Bill Willoughby was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks and given a $1 million contract. By age 30, the Journal says, Willoughby was ruined. Hed earned more than $1.5 million during his pro career, but now it was all gone. In a lawsuit, Willoughby charged one of his agents with squandering his money on faulty tax shelters and high-risk investments.
Money: God's way
By sharing these stories, am I implying that money is sinful?
Quite the contrary, money is a tool that God has supplied us with in order to accomplish his plan for this world.
Any good tool distributor knows that you must distribute the tools where there are specific needs in order to get the work done.
Some tools go to those who build new construction (missionaries); other tools go to those who keep the machinery going (discipleship).
America is blessed with many tools for doing God's work. It ranks among the worlds richest nations. And even though these nations have only 20 percent of the worlds population, they have 86 percent of the worlds income, according to the 1999 Human Development Report of the United Nations.
Even poor people in the U.S. fare better than people living in other nations. The average home owned by a person classified as poor has three bedrooms, one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio, says Robert Rector in a 1998 Heritage Foundation report, The Myth of Widespread American Poverty.
With its many blessings, America is, and should continue to be, the primary source of funding for the Great Commission, which includes the command to make disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:18-20).
Our chief end is to glorify God, and our abundance is to further the Kingdom of God. But it's difficult to achieve either of these goals if you aren't free to serve.
God didn't give us our abundance for being nice, and it's not ours to spend or to sock away however we please. Some of it is, but certainly not the portion we have been led to believe.
As Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21, Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be be also.
From Money Matters Online, December 2000