Rich Man, Poor Man
One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 112.
Praise ye the LORD. Blessed is the man that feareth the LORD, that delighteth greatly in his commandments (Psalm 112:1)
This is the starting condition for the man that is blessed. He has the proper respect for God and delights in the commandments of God. Then, the rest comes.
His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the upright shall be blessed. Wealth and riches shall be in his house: and his righteousness endureth for ever. Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous. (Psalm 112:2-4)
Surely he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance. He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the LORD. His heart is established, he shall not be afraid, until he see his desire upon his enemies. (Psalm 112:6-8)
Here the Psalmist describes the things that most of us would love to have in abundance. A good family, wealth, grace, compassion, no fear of evil, and a terror to the wicked. Now, note that I skipped verse five. It expresses the same idea as verse nine, so I put them together. They tell you the true character of the righteous.
A good man sheweth favour, and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion. … He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor; his righteousness endureth for ever; his horn shall be exalted with honour. (Psalm 112:5, 9)
The wealth and riches in his possession and his righteous nature are not used just to live a good life. He lends, disperses, gives to the poor. Wealth has no hold on such a man but is used to provide for God's kingdom.
We must not think that our Father in heaven desires that we be miserable in poverty. Scripture talks again and again of the blessings that God wants to give to His children. The sad truth is that most of us lack enough faith to handle riches. Suppose you had enough money today to provide all your material needs for as long as you lived. You could buy the best food, live in a nice house, and have access to the best medical care available. Ask yourself honestly, would you wake up each day trusting God for provision? Most people would simply live out their life without a thought at all about the things of God. It takes enormous faith and commitment to God to handle that kind of wealth. Most of us don't have it, and it is better if we have just enough for our current need so that each and every day we wake up trusting God for our daily bread.
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: (Colossians 3:5)
For most people a desire for wealth, or covetousness, is nothing but blatant idolatry and God will not assist us in idolatry. Only when we put Him first and the things of His kingdom first, can He then give to us the things He desires for us without having us corrupted. It is, by analogy, the same way a caring parent will place dangerous items out of the reach of young children. The medicines are kept locked up or on a high shelf and provided to the child as the parent sees a need for them.
This understanding of wealth and God's provision took me many years to understand. Without proper understanding Christians can easily fall prey to a worldly view of wealth. Christians can fall prey to those who pervert God's word by taking God's promises of blessing out of context. They then promote the idea that if you are not getting rich, you are not in God's will. Unfortunately, some go to the opposite extreme and think that to be Christian means having nothing at all. Both of these misunderstandings have to be discarded. When we truly forsake all for the Kingdom of God, wealth or the lack of it, becomes of very little importance. It simply doesn't matter if we are a rich man or a poor man.
If we are still holding onto material things, God will require us to get rid of them. If we are at the point where wealth is of no concern, He may very well pour wealth into our hands knowing that it will be administered according to His will. Those called to a work that requires large material resources will no doubt have control over great resources. Those called to another task, may have very little for no other reason than that they don't require it. The Lord provides to each according to His purposes, not ours. The things of this world are temporary and are used only to accomplish the tasks He has set before us. This is the difference between the view of wealth of those who walk by faith and those who follow the way of the world. We see wealth as a means to an end, and nothing more.
When we gain this understanding there is no longer any fear of not having enough or of having more than we ought. We reach the point where we can freely give and freely receive as the Lord directs. There should be no pity for those saints who walk in poverty and no envy of those who act as stewards of great riches. In the end, it doesn't matter if you are a rich man or a poor man as the world sees it. The only thing that matters is whether or not you love God and walk by faith every single day, gathering and dispersing as the Lord leads.