The problem of prosperity…

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1 Peter 1:Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…

In these opening verses of 1 Peter, the apostle reminds the believers how fortunate they are to now have “new birth into a living hope”. Truth is, most of the people comprising the early church did not have much hope before Christ. Even more so than today, there were a few people in the community with wealth and the rest living in deep poverty – trying to scratch out a living and avoid starvation. For the poor majority, becoming part of the church meant they could depend on the community of believers to help them survive.

What about today? Most of us reading this blog post are not poor – at least not by historical standards. We may not have many luxuries, but we at least have a place to live, clothes on our back, and food for our bellies. Truth?

The desperation that drew many people to the church in ages past is largely gone – at least in the Western world.

I was visiting with a Chinese pastor, Pastor Yun, some years ago who was on an extended visit to the U.S. He was telling us about the desperation of people living in rural China and how powerfully Jesus met them in their desperation. With a tenuous food supply and little medical care, death was always close by for the overwhelming majority. Remarking on the comparative prosperity of much of the U.S. he said to me via an interpreter, “Ernie, no wonder people around here tend to ignore the church. They have health care programs, and hospitals, and food programs, and government aid to see them through hard times. No wonder people don’t think they need Jesus.”

It’s been years since that visit with Pastor Yun, but his observation has stayed with me. Is it true? Has our comparative prosperity drawn us away from the Lord? I fear he was correct. And, if I’m honest, I fall into the same trap as many others. I have so many kinds of resources available to me, I often turn to Jesus as a last resort than a first priority. It should not be so.

Lord Jesus, I humbly admit that I have allowed the blessings you’ve given to me and my family to be an obstacle in my relationship with you – rather than a vehicle to draw us closer. Give me grace to embrace you first, Lord Jesus, not last. I ask this in your holy name. Amen.

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