In Prosperity Beware!

In the modern age Americans and many others around the world are enjoying unprecedented wealth. Luxuries previous generations could not even dream of are taken for granted by today’s generation. But how are we faring morally and spiritually in the midst of such abundance?

It was less than a hundred years ago (as of January 2020) that automobiles became commonplace in the United States. Before that, people walked, or rode horses or horse drawn carriages. Sometimes they took trains, but even trains had not been around very long a hundred years ago.

Commercial radio broadcasting in the United States began in 1920. Commercial television became popular in the United States in the 1950s. The technology has improved dramatically since that time, and radios and high definition televisions are less expensive than ever before, making them affordable to the point that nearly every household in the United States has at least one radio and one television.

Refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, are conveniences that have become widely available only in the past century in the United States, the wealthiest large nation in the world in terms of per capita income.

In the early 1800s most people, about three out of four, in the United States were employed in agriculture, mostly subsistence and local market farming (“History of agriculture in the United States,“, retrieved 1-3-2020; “Output, Employment, and Productivity in the United States after 1800,” National Bureau of Economic Research, 1966). In 1920 more than 25% of the U.S. population was employed in farming. Today it’s less than 2 percent, and technological improvements have enabled more food to be produced with less human labor than ever before.

Only about 40 percent of land in the United States is used for agricultural production, including livestock grazing and forest production. Even with its small farm labor workforce, the United States produces about half the world’s corn, about a third of its soybeans, ten percent of its wheat, and about twenty percent of its beef, pork and lamb. The United States is the world’s leading exporter of agricultural products. (China produces more, but has a much larger population). In proportion to their income, Americans spend less on food than any other nation in the world (“Encyclopedia of the Nations, United States of America, Agriculture,”, retrieved January 3, 2020).

The United States leads the world in lumber and petroleum production, has abundant mineral resources, and what some say is the most technologically advanced and diverse economy in the world (“United States of America – Overview of economy,”, retrieved 1-5-2020).

Due to technological advances, it takes less money today in real terms for Americans to buy many common items than it did fifty years ago. A recent article in the Washington Times compares the time required to earn money based on an average wage to buy various items today as opposed to 1970. It takes about a quarter of the time today as opposed to 1970 to earn enough money to buy a dozen eggs, about a third of the time to buy a half gallon of milk, 57 percent to buy a pound of rice, a little over half to buy a man’s undershirt, eighty-five percent for a gallon of gas, and less than a fourth to purchase a transatlantic airline ticket.

Using a low cost phone service plan, making a long distance phone call in the United States can cost only a tiny fraction of what it would have cost fifty years ago. The Internet barely existed back then. On the Internet today one can access books, publications, and other media virtually free of charge that would have been largely inaccessible to most people fifty years ago. Of course, in most cases, you have to pay for your access to the Internet, so there is some cost. But computerization and the Internet have made many things less costly, and more widely and easily available.

The computer in a cellphone is more powerful than computers that would fill a room a generation ago. Cars are more efficient, and a gallon of gas, cheaper in real terms, will take you on average significantly farther than a generation ago. For several years in the last decade the United States was mired in a recession and slow economic growth. Many people had difficulty finding jobs. But now, the Washington Times article states, “The real wealth and well-being of the vast majority of Americans have risen faster for the past three years than almost any time in history.”

The article also states, “In the United States, there are more jobs than workers. Wages for all groups are rising faster than prices. What is particularly remarkable — and a very good sign — is that wages for the lowest income and least skilled are rising faster than other groups” (“U.S. economy better than ever,” Richard W. Rahn,, 12-31-2019).

The living standard, in material terms, for the average person in the United States and in much of the rest of the world is higher than at any time in history. At the same time, many of the world’s people are still trapped in impoverished conditions, but even many poor areas of the world are becoming less poor.

So the world, and especially the United States and other developed countries, are enjoying prosperity on a scale unlike any in history. But does this kind of prosperity translate into a better and more secure life in the long term? How should we react to the material riches made available to us?

A potential peril associated with prosperity is that all too often it can result in people forgetting about God. Instead of trusting in God, it’s all too easy to trust in one’s wealth and be consumed with material pursuits. In this article I’ll discuss some pitfalls of prosperity we need to be mindful of.

“Two things I request of You (Deprive me not before I die): Remove falsehood and lies far from me; Give me neither poverty nor riches– Feed me with the food allotted to me; Lest I be full and deny You, And say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or lest I be poor and steal, And profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:7-9).

Notice that part of the request is not to be given riches, “Lest I be full and deny You [God], And say, ‘Who is the Lord?’”

Jesus remarked about how riches may have a spiritual impact. “’Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said to them, ‘With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’ Then Peter answered and said to Him, ‘See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?’” Jesus replied, “… everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:23-27, 29).

Being a Christian requires sacrifice. It means being willing to give, and if necessary to give up everything to serve God. That doesn’t mean you can’t be prosperous and also be a real Christian, but it’s not necessarily easy. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Job and others were rich, and yet faithful to God. But they put God ahead of riches and wealth. Not often typical of people who are wealthy.

There are only a few countries on earth that have a higher standard of living than the United States. And all of them are small countries with limited area and small populations. As we have become more prosperous in today’s world, we have become less virtuous as a people. Interest in religion, especially Christianity, is declining in the United States.

“Never before in American history has religion — and in the U.S., that inherently means Christianity — been so tested. Cultural distractions abound and church attendance is dropping, and faith leaders mired in scandal are struggling to figure out how to connect with the next generations of potential churchgoers.


“People of faith are still a majority, with more than 75% of the country ascribing to some religion. All combined, Christianity counts for nearly 63% of the population.

“Yet all the growth is on the other side of the spectrum, the so-called “Nones,” or do not have a religious affiliation. That includes atheists and agnostics, but the real stunning rise within the Nones has been those who don’t so much actively question or reject God, as much as they don’t see a reason to bother with religion.

“Call them the apathetics.

“The apathetics don’t attend services, don’t ascribe to any one creed, and often don’t even have much familiarity with the faith world. They account for a bigger share of the population than the agnostics and atheists combined, and their numbers are growing by millions each year.


“For the first time ever this year, the Nones are the largest demographic in the U.S., with 23.1% of the population, overtaking the Catholics and the evangelicals, Mr. Burge [Ryan, a political scientist at an Illinois university] calculates. Among those ages 18 to 22 — the vanguard of Generation Z — more than 40% belong to the Nones, according [to] his numbers, which are based on the General Social Survey, a massive trove of sociological data.

“The increasingly chaotic religious landscape is causing friction, particularly where the beliefs of the faithful clash with the culture.

“In Hollywood, Christianity is portrayed somewhere between a comedy and a disease, though some other faiths fare better.


“In the nation’s courtrooms, centuries of doctrinal Christian belief, which underpinned the nation’s laws, are being challenged by a smaller but politically powerful LGBTQ community.


“The Public Religion Research Institute said the Nones in the U.S. are growing at a stunning rate. In 2010, they accounted for 18%. By 2012 they were 20% and have grown 1% each year since. As of 2018, 26% of Americans had no affiliation.


“There are a host of theories about what has happened to faith in the U.S. — and to Christianity, in particular.

“One is that the U.S. is following the path trod by Europe, with economic prosperity correlating with less religion.


“In 1976, mainline Protestants made up 30% of the country. Now they’re 10%.


“Mr. McConnell at LifeWay [Research] says church leaders say that even in the last decade they’ve seen a startling drop in engagement. People are spending less time reading the Bible on their own or even praying.

“’Kids’ sports and just the myriad of activities that schools are offering for kids, and media choices and things like that, that’s a lot of competition for a church and just vying for people’s time and attention. It begins to start a spiral of less time, less relationships, less knowledge,’ he said.” (“Losing our Religion: America becoming ‘pagan’ as Christianity cedes to culture,” Stephen Dinan,, 12-30-2019).

The precipitous decline of interest in professing Christianity, especially, is illustrated by another statistic. In 1948 ninety-one percent of the population of the United States identified as Christian. In 2019 it was only sixty-five percent. Those claiming preference for Protestantism has declined in the same period from sixty-nine percent to thirty-five percent (cf. “What is your religious preference: Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish, another religion, or no religion?“, retrieved January 23, 2020).

What is happening in our nation and other professedly Christian nations in the Western world should not surprise anyone familiar with the Bible. God through Moses prophesied and warned us of what would become of us in the latter days, as we became rich.

“When I have brought them to the land flowing with milk and honey, of which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and filled themselves and grown fat, then they will turn to other gods and serve them; and they will provoke Me and break My covenant. Then it shall be, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify against them as a witness; for it will not be forgotten in the mouths of their descendants, for I know the inclination of their behavior today, even before I have brought them to the land of which I swore to give them” (Deuteronomy 31: 20-21).

Moses prophesied, “For I know that after my death you will become utterly corrupt, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days, because you will do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger through the work of your hands. Then Moses spoke in the hearing of all the assembly of Israel the words of this song until they were ended” (Deuteronomy 31:29-30).

“He [God] made him [the nations descended from Israel, which include British descended people and most of the early white settlers in the United States] ride in the heights of the earth, That he might eat the produce of the fields; He made him draw honey from the rock, And oil from the flinty rock; Curds from the cattle, and milk of the flock, With fat of lambs; And rams of the breed of Bashan, and goats, With the choicest wheat; And you drank wine, the blood of the grapes. But Jeshurun [Hebrew (yeshûrûn) pronounced yesh-oo-roon, a symbolical name for Israel, which is from yashar, meaning upright] grew fat and kicked [or despised]; You grew fat, you grew thick, You are obese! Then he forsook God who made him, And scornfully esteemed the Rock of his salvation. They provoked Him to jealousy with foreign gods; With abominations they provoked Him to anger” (Deuteronomy 32:13-16).

The chapter goes on to list other sins and the punishment God will send as a result.

It’s been recently reported that the United Methodist Church, the nation’s third largest religious denomination, is preparing to split over same sex marriage and ordination of homosexuals. The majority of Methodist Churches in the United States favor endorsing homosexual clergy and same sex marriage. However many of the denomination’s churches in the South and the majority internationally are not in favor of having homosexual ministers and participating in same sex marriage, thus the split (“Methodist Church proposes breaking up over gay marriage,”, January 3, 2020).

This is just an indication of what is happening in many Church denominations in this country and many other countries, especially in prosperous western nations. It’s become rather common to see LGBTQ flags flying on church flagpoles in many places in the country.

God warned through the prophet Isaiah, “The look on their countenance witnesses against them, And they declare their sin as Sodom; They do not hide it. Woe to their soul! For they have brought evil upon themselves. Say to the righteous that it shall be well with them, For they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him, For the reward of his hands shall be given him. As for My people, children are their oppressors, And women rule over them. O My people! Those who lead you cause you to err, And destroy the way of your paths.” (Isaiah 3:9-12).

From God’s standpoint, it’s not the role of ministers or Churches claiming to be Christian to foster, facilitate, and participate in promoting and encouraging sin. To do so invites God’s judgment.

Here’s an interesting comment from an editorial writer for the Washington Times in response to the news about the Methodist Church split. “There’s actually a larger matter to mull here and it’s one that concerns the entire Christian community, the whole grouping of declared followers of Jesus Christ, and it’s one that goes like this: The Bible doesn’t lie. Ministers might; pastors can; churches as bodies and staffed entities certainly could and would, if pragmatics and politics trumped enough traditional teachings. But the Bible as a book?

“Its words are infallible. And it should be the priority go-to for individuals — even for those individuals who think their church leaders do just fine telling them the word of God. The Bible, in the end, will light the right way” (“United Methodist Church split sets sin on display,” Cheryl K. Chumley,, January 3, 2020).

What does the Bible say about listening to unfaithful Churches, or unfaithful ministers? “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; They speak a vision of their own heart, Not from the mouth of the Lord. They continually say to those who despise Me, “The Lord has said, ‘You shall have peace’”; And to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, “No evil shall come upon you.” For who has stood in the counsel of the Lord, And has perceived and heard His word? Who has marked His word and heard it? Behold, a whirlwind of the Lord has gone forth in fury– A violent whirlwind! It will fall violently on the head of the wicked. The anger of the Lord will not turn back Until He has executed and performed the thoughts of His heart. In the latter days you will understand it perfectly. I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in My counsel, And had caused My people to hear My words, Then they would have turned them from their evil way And from the evil of their doings.’” (Jeremiah 23:16-22).

Sodom is used several times in the Bible as an example of God’s judgment on wickedness. What were the circumstances of Sodom’s sinful state? One circumstance was their wealth, the abundance of their material goods. It led to pride, and a disdainful, arrogant, lawless spirit. God prophesies of the peoples descended from Israel today: “’As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘neither your sister Sodom nor her daughters have done as you and your daughters have done. Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit’” (Ezekiel 16:48-50).

God warns of turning from him in the pursuit of wealth, or when one has acquired wealth. And remember, while you may not consider yourself wealthy, most of us in the United States, and many in much of the rest of the world, are wealthy by historical standards. Jesus said in a parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, `What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, `I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”‘ But God said to him, `Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. Then He said to His disciples, ‘Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you” (Luke 12:16-31).

And in another parable Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to us.’ Then he said, ‘I beg you therefore, father, that you would send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, that he may testify to them, lest they also come to this place of torment.’ Abraham said to him, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ But he said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’” (Luke 16:19-31).

The rich man’s problem was not that he was rich, but that he trusted in his riches, and refused to hear God.

God has a message for the church of the Laodiceans. It indicates that not only the world in general, but the Church of God itself would exhibit apathy and a degree of spiritual indifference as the end of this evil age approaches.

“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’ –and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”'” (Revelation 3:14-22).

Lethargy, apathy, especially in spiritual matters, in studying the Bible, for example, in praying, in seeking God, characterizes our nation, and to a large extent our world, and, unfortunately, to a large extent, the Church of God. If and when we conclude we’re spiritually rich, when we get to thinking we’ve learned everything we need to know, and thinking we’ve made all the progress we need to make, when we become comfortable with the condition of Satan’s world, when we fail to earnestly pray and study the Bible daily, we stand in mortal danger!

It appears, given the condition of the world we live in, that Jesus Christ’s second coming is not far off. He will establish a new world government of peace, justice, and universal joy (Isaiah 9:6-7; 35:10; 51:3).

But before that, the Bible warns of a “great tribulation” to befall nations as the end of this age approaches. It is called “Jacob’s trouble,” and will affect primarily the nations descended from Jacob, or Israel. It will affect not only the Jewish state of Israel, but also the United States, Great Britain, and some of the nations in northwest and west central Europe. It will also affect many, possibly the majority, in the Church of God (cf. Matthew 24:21; Jeremiah 30:7; Revelation 6:9-11; 7:14). Other calamities will follow, affecting all the nations of the world, according to the Bible’s prophecies, as human beings the world over will reap what they have sown (Proverbs 1:29-31; Hosea 8:7; Romans 2:5-11; Galatians 6:7-8; Revelation 9:20-21).

So we must take warning, stir ourselves out of our lethargic and apathetic state, and be zealous for God.

The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy: “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (1 Timothy 6:17-18).

Don’t let prosperity be your undoing!

Copyright © 2020 by Rod Reynolds

Unless otherwise noted Scripture taken from the New King James VersionTM

Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Messenger Church of God
PO Box 619
Wentzville, MO 63385

Please follow us: