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Yesterday morning I read the following statement from John Piper in a recent sermon:

…contrary to what the Prosperity Gospel teaches, wealth is not usually a blessing. It is usually a curse. Jesus said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:25). Wealth is a mortal danger for those who have it. It does not make us generous and humble. It makes us buy more stuff, and it numbs our conscience because we have to blind ourselves to our inconsistencies with the Calvary road…

No, it isn’t for lack of money that there are 1,568 peoples with no missionaries. It’s because we have so much. The comforts of the West have made us soft and cautious and fearful and indulgent and self-protecting, instead of tough and risk-taking and bold and self-controlled and self-sacrificing.

This morning I read this in Hosea:

Israel is a luxuriant vine;
He produces fruit for himself.
The more his fruit,
The more altars he made;
The richer his land,
The better he made the sacred pillars.…
Surely now they will say, “We have no king,
For we do not revere the LORD.
As for the king, what can he do for us?” (10:1, 3)

In other words, the more prosperous the Israelites were, the more tempted they were to attribute that prosperity to the provision of a pagan deity.  More wealth?  More (ungodly) altars.  Still more wealth?  Still greater and more secure they made the “sacred” (ungodly) places of worship.  And ultimately this increased wealth led to rebellion against the God-ordained king of Israel, and then against God Himself.

Wealth for the Israelites did not stimulate gratitude for or worship to or dependence on God.  It produced idolatry and ungodly worship.

Now in Granbury, Texas, it’s beyond unlikely that anyone might erect an altar to Baal or any other pagan deity in his back yard when prosperity arrives.  Yet he may still be tempted to idolatry.  He may be tempted to trust in the security of the bank account or possession more than in the security of Christ.  He may be tempted to value the acquisition of material prosperity more than the dispensing of those goods to serve others.  He may be tempted to apportion his time to pursuing wealth instead of pursuing worship.

And while those temptations don’t come packaged with concrete, wood, bronzed, or even gold figurines, they are no less idols than the false altars erected by the Israelites in Hosea’s day.

Is prosperity a gift of God?  It very well may be (read Job 42).  But it also may not be (read Luke 18:25-27).  Wealth makes an acceptable servant, but it will always be a terrible master.  Don’t mistake the acquisition of wealth as something that must always be pursued or that its possession is always a blessing.  The possession of wealth may be more a test of our allegiance than a gift intended to bless us.