MALACHI 3:13-15: “Your words have been hard against me, says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the Lord of hosts? And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.’” (ESV)
OBSERVATION: Why do the wicked prosper? What is the value in serving the Lord? These are questions that everyone faces in their Christian walk. Some are open in expressing them, while others never will admit that they considered them. Yet, consider these questions we do. The Jews who had returned from exile found themselves in the cross hairs of these doubts and questions. What is the answer?
May I suggest that we first need to understand where this question begins. When we begin to view our walk with Jesus Christ as an investment rather than a relationship we set ourselves up for these questions. Jesus told the parable of the laborers who each received a penny for their days work. He also told the parable about the prodigal son who returned home after squandering all of his inheritance. These two parables had something in common. They both contained people who were asking these questions. They were asking them because they thought they deserved more than others who had done nothing to receive the blessings that were being lavished on them. Some were wicked – and they were prospering. Others did no work – and they were prospering. It just was not fair!
And then there is the wicked of this world who hold Jesus Christ in contempt. Why does God allow the rain to fall on the just and the unjust? Why do the wicked prosper and climb the corporate ladders of success? What about the one who is trying to follow the Lord and ends up persecuted, suffering for their faith. Where is the justice in this? How does it profit when we give all we have in trying to obey God’s commands only to find ourselves at the short end of the stick?
In all of these scenarios we are tempted to misunderstand the Grace and Mercy of God. Our Christian walk is to be a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, not a growing accumulation of the things of this world. There has been an insidious twist to the Gospel that calls gain godliness. It turns relationship into investment, spiritual growth into accumulation and possession of physical goods. The more you have – the stronger your faith. Paul had strong words or warning against such a perversion of the Gospel.
- “Teach and urge these things. If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” (1 Timothy 6:2-10 ESV)
Godliness with contentment rejoices in the goodness and mercy of God that leads men and women to repentance. Godliness with contentment does not store up treasures on earth where moth and rust corrupt. Godliness with contentment looks upon the ungodly who are prospering and prays earnestly for their salvation, because it knows that if in this life they only have hope and reward, they are of all men the most miserable. Godliness with contentment does not look at the immediate reward of serving the Lord, but looks forward to an eternal reward that is being stored up in heaven. Godliness with contentment answers these questions by committing them to God and continuing to walk faithfully with Him, knowing that the fruit of the Spirit is the greatest reward in life that we can receive.
Lord, give me grace to walk in godliness with contentment. Help me to walk in obedience to Your commands, not for what it will give me, but simply because I love You. May I hold the things of this life lightly, and cling to the things that are eternal.
In Jesus Name!