THE PROSPERITY OF FOOLS
T. PIERCE BROWN
While meditating on how I could get more people excited about the program of “One Nation Under God” which is simply a fantastic cooperative effort to get the gospel eventually to every home in the world, Proverbs 1:32 came to my mind. It says, “The prosperity of fools shall destroy them.” Although a specific application of that scripture to the present glorious opportunity is not being made, several pertinent thoughts came to mind.
UntilJapanimproved on our technology and beat us at our own game, we were probably the most prosperous nation in the world. We still have more millionaires who claim membership in the Lord’s church than all the rest of the world combined. But the term, “prosperity” includes all the things which the world desires to make life pleasant — riches, honor, pleasures, health, strength and peace. The basic meaning of the root word, “euodoo” is “to have a good way” — to be successful and fortunate in whatever activity one pursues. But since money is the means by which we usually try to achieve these other ends, we usually think of prosperity in terms of money.
Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” Those of us who have relatively little of this world’s goods may think that applies primarily to those we call rich. But it is possible for a person who has no bank account at all to love money as much as a person who has millions of dollars of assets. It surprised me when I eventually got to know a few who had money to realize that some of them did not seem to love money, but rather enjoyed the thrill and challenge of earning it. It is not the amount of money one has, but his attitude toward it that will help to determine his destiny.
But there are at least three reasons that the prosperity of fools will destroy them. First, the foolish person does not know or care about the ends or purposes for which God designed our prosperity. There may be many ends, but there are at least two outstanding ones.
God wants to encourage us to a constant humble expression of gratitude for the blessings with which He has so richly granted us. He wants us to minister to the needs of others under His direction. When fools prosper, they often disregard both of these ends.
A second reason why the prosperity of fools destroys them is that it often ministers to pride and vainglory. It is so easy to assume that we have our possessions because of our own brilliance, effort, wisdom or power instead of giving God the glory and praise.
Third, it affords them the opportunity to tempt and corrupt others and be corrupted by them. There are many other reasons, but the primary purpose of this article is not to point out how and why the prosperity of fools can destroy them, but to point out the cure for that condition and to urge the use of our prosperity in the present thrilling opportunity to implement the Great Commission of our Lord by carrying the gospel message to every home in the world. There seems to have been those who were thrilled in the first phase to help get it to this nation, but do not feel as much thrill to get it toCanada, theCaribbeanandEastern Europein the second phase. It is thrilling not only because of the greatness of the vision, but because of the probability of the results in winning millions to the Lord and unifying a great brotherhood as nothing else has in the last century. Is it not a tragedy beyond comprehension that we can pray for God to open doors of opportunity, then our church leaders are not willing to make any sacrificial effort to go through those doors when they open?
Since covetousness is idolatry (Colossians 3:5), and since the prosperity of fools is normally associated with covetousness, if we can overcome that, we can largely cure the problem. First, there must be a keen awareness of the danger. Most of us who preach regularly have had persons confess all sorts of sins, such as lying, cursing, drinking, adultery, etc. In a half century of preaching, I have never heard one confess to covetousness, nor have I ever heard of a preacher or priest who heard such a confession. It is one of the most deceitful of all sins. Jesus emphasized that when He said in the parable of the soils in Matthew 13:22, “The deceitfulness of riches choke out the word.”
A woman once told me that God only made a certain amount of real estate, and was not going to make any more, so she was going to keep what she had. She did not want much, but only what joined her property. When I suggested that she might keep it now, but she would not take it with her, she indicated that she was not planning to leave. But the next week she did. The $1000 dress in which she was buried did not even belong to her, for she then had title to nothing on this earth.
I am not saying that she was covetous. She was sure she was not. She probably gave away far more money than I made, but how much treasure she had laid up in heaven I do not know.
But I do know that Jesus said in Matthew 19:24, “It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into thekingdomofGod.” But He also taught that it can be done, even though covetousness is so easy to have and so hard to recognize.
How can it be done? Just make sure that your prosperity is not that of a fool. There are at least two ways to do that. When you find a thrilling challenge of a specific way to do what you already know Christ wants done, such as the goal of the “One Nation Under God” campaign, try to make at least one specific sacrifice to help accomplish it. You will probably find it almost impossible to do. That is, you will find yourself like Abraham, who faithfully tried to sacrifice his son (and did insofar as his own purpose and plan was concerned). But God gave him back. Try it and see if 1 Corinthians 9:8,10,11 does not apply to you. “God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound unto every good work. Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness, being enriched in everything to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.”
The second way to make sure your prosperity is not that of a fool is to follow the example of David Lipscomb. He said that when he was tempted to make a smaller contribution than he first planned, he resisted the tempter and doubled what he had originally planned. He indicated that two things were thus accomplished. The cause was successful and the Devil ceased to tempt him in that way any more!
Why do you not try that with the “One Nation Under God” program? If you will try to make some real sacrifice, and send it immediately to the Sycamore Church of Christ inCookeville,Tennessee, do it before the Devil tempts you to do only half as much as you first considered.