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Stuff and Stuff

December 17th, 2008

Focus Text: Proverbs 10: 22 (NLT & Amplified)

 (New Living Translation) 

22 The blessing of the Lord makes a person rich,
      and he adds no sorrow with it.

(Amplified Version)

22The blessing of the Lord–it makes [truly] rich, and He adds no sorrow with it [neither does toiling increase it].


Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

Much of the book of Proverbs focuses on the idea of being rich and being poor.  Ancient cultures often perceived wealth or poverty to be indicators of divine blessing or cursing upon one’s life.  In addition to that, the issue was simply economical and practical.  People needed stuff.  People wanted stuff.  Parents wanted to provide the adequate necessities for their children . . . and for that matter, they wanted to provide more than just adequateness (and yes, that’s a real word . . . go ahead . . . google it), but also abundance.  

Skip ahead several thousand years and little has changed.  We need stuff.  We want stuff.  Some of our desires are practical and necessary; other desires are selfish and excessive.  But stuff is still stuff and people are still people. The desire to acquire stuff . . . in both ways . . . is the pursuit of many in society.  For those of us who claim to know God, the intersection of our faith with our fundamental needs is often a difficult collision.  Why?  Well, we have to marry our faith with the idea that stuff is just stuff because we trust in a God who promises not only to provide the stuff we need, but also to fulfill our innermost desires in ways stuff never can.  

But then, we encounter scriptures such as these and we scratch our collective heads . . . Rich?  Didn’t Jesus say that it was more difficult for a camel to go through the “eye of a needle” than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of heaven.  Yikes!  In that case, shouldn’t we all avoid the pursuit of wealth?  I mean, come on, I would really like to avoid any camel-needle scenarios.

But then, there are those who take the “blessing” scriptures to the extreme and make their entire faith a pursuit of prosperity in the name of God.  You can roll your eyes if you want to, but they have numerous scriptures . . . such as this one . . . to back up their extreme emphases.  

So, we’re either destitute and full of false humility or we’re reclining in our high-backed chairs next to our golden pianos, full of pride and greed.  Whew, can’t we find a middle ground?!

Indeed, we can.  Hence our study of this verse.  If we examine it in both of these versions, we discover that wealth is wealth . . . meaning being “rich” can mean that we have a lot of money or stuff.  That means that God can bless someone with material blessings and there is nothing wrong with this.  If that makes you uncomfortable, you’re going to have to disregard a whole mess of people in the Bible that God bestowed material blessings upon.  For that matter, you’re also going to have to ignore Paul’s epistles that tell rich people not to trust in their riches, but to use them to bless God’s people.  In other words, having stuff is okay.

The truth of the matter is a matter of truth (nice!). . . stuff doesn’t equate to being “truly” rich.  Wow!  Understand that hidden part of the original Hebrew meaning and everything changes.  Sure, God may add material things to bless us . . . to which we should be thankful, but true riches will require something else as well.  That’s the “adds no sorrow with it.”  The opposite of “sorrow” is “joy.”  In other words, you can have all the stuff in the world, but not be truly rich because of the sorrow of life that comes with poverty or with abundance.  Greed.  Shame.  Guilt.  Depression.  Money can’t fix these and often times, it compounds them.

True godly riches are a one-two punch: He will bless us with stuff, then He’ll bless us with the the stuff that stuff can never bring on its own . . . I know, sounds like a riddle wrapped up in a conundrum wrapped up in a quandary wrapped up in a mystery.  

So we should pray for both kinds of riches . . . the “earthly stuff” kind . . . and more importantly, the “godly stuff” kind.  Real riches are found in the correct pursuit, not the crammed purse.  That’s why “neither does toiling increase it” . . . our efforts can’t guarantee true riches; only His can.

Now that’s some kind of stuff!


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