It is a waste to think small, sit still, do nothing, not invest, and refuse to enjoy life.
By Brian Sauder
Do you have a Christian worldview? At first glance, some Christians might be slightly offended at this question. Don’t be offended. If you are willing to take the risk, perhaps we can help identify one of the handles that the spirit of poverty has used to ensnare us.
The spirit of poverty leaves us feeling like things will never change—that we can never get ahead and that we will always be at that same job, building widgets. “This is our place in life and that is the way it is,” we tell ourselves. “Our finances will always be out of control. The money just keeps coming in and going out. Things will never change.” This is called fatalism: there is no hope for change in the future. This is contrary to the Christian worldview.
If I Were Honest
To be honest, in the past I actually felt more spiritual or thought it was more spiritual to be in financial lack. I saw it as my cross to bear. In my mind, suffering for the sake of the gospel included not having sufficient or immediate financial resources. I was shocked to find that this mindset has more to do with a Hindu worldview than a Christian worldview. Listen to what Darrow L. Miller has to say in his book Discipling Nations:
Hindu society actually values ignorance. Imagine you are a development worker who wants to teach poor people in India how to read and write. After all, you reason, illiterate people have little chance of improving their lives. Yet when you get there and begin to grasp the Hindu culture, it slowly dawns on you that in the Hindu system encouraging the poor to learn is asking them to sin. Hinduism, for its part, has no rationale for why people should be helped. This system asserts that the poor are the poor because of what they did in their past lives, and their quickest way out of poverty in the next life is to suffer in this one.1
By comparison, I realized the Christian worldview is one of advancing and growing. The Lord does not want me to languish in the same place in any area of my life. He desires to provide the necessary resources so there can be growth and increase in every area of our lives.
Picture with me the invalid man beside the pool of Bethesda who had been there for thirty-eight years. Healing was actually within his eyesight, but he was never able to get into the pool to receive it. It is very likely he saw others healed but never had a chance himself until Jesus came along one day. This is a prophetic picture of how the spirit of poverty paralyzes many Christians.
Having served as a youth pastor for a number of years, I found the study of world religions and a biblical worldview helped me to understand and answer the worldview questions of teenagers. If we look at world religions today, we find the idea of things never changing is more closely aligned to the Hindu worldview than the Christian worldview.
Miller goes on to state that Hinduism has at its core the idea that a person is assigned a place in life. It sees perfection as a state of resignation and complacency. This causes people to withdraw from the world and not attack its evils. There is no hope or desire to change their present situation. The caste system in India is an example of a society in the grip of such Hindu fatalism. “Do not interfere with the workings of karma,” we are told. “Leave the destitute in their state.” It is not a coincidence that few advances in science, innovations, and cures for diseases are coming out of Hindu India.
According to Miller this same fatalism—feeling like things will never change—is found in other non-Christian world religions. In Thailand, for example, the peasant is labeled “jaak-con” meaning “destined to poverty.” This attitude enslaves the poor in poverty. In some African languages there is not even a concept of “distant” future. This means there is not a category to define things getting better. In the heart of Buddhism is suffering and death. The goal of the Buddhist is not to combat suffering and death, but to escape from them into a spiritual state.
In contrast, the Christian worldview is one of advancement. Poverty is rooted in the rejection of Christianity. The gospel is good news. It brings self-respect and self-worth and causes people to desire to advance. Can we permanently settle in our minds that God wants us to advance? Although this thought is embedded in Western society, which has its origins in the Christian worldview, this is not an idea of Western society. It is a biblical, Christian idea.
In Alvin Schmidt’s profound book How Christianity Changed the World,2 he documents the amazing advancement of society due to the influence of Christianity. Women were oppressed in cultures prior to the coming of Christianity. Slavery, which was quite common before Christianity, has been almost virtually eliminated from the civilized world. There was little interest in the poor, the sick, and the dying until early Christians ministered to these needs. The first hospitals were started by Christians. Education came into maturity under the influence of Christianity. The commandment against stealing redefined the concept of private property and property rights. The rise of modern science has been directly linked with the biblical understanding of the world. Schmidt documents and gives hundreds of examples of how Christianity has caused society to advance.
Understand that God Wants You to Advance
We only have to look at the beginning of the Bible to find out God’s heart on this. We discover that soon after Adam and Eve were put on the earth, they were commissioned to advance and bear fruit.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1:28).
Be fruitful! In contrast, the spirit of poverty makes us feel trapped where we are. God does want us to advance. Take the promotion at your job. Start taking classes to get a better job. If we have an advancing mindset, our current financial situation does not matter. Think of Joseph’s prosperous soul regardless of his circumstances. We cannot just wish we had a better job; we need to take steps to get one. We observe that Adam and Eve were quickly assigned the task of naming the animals. They were not to let things the way they were but to bring advancement.
Consider this: God is a loving Father who creates unfinished things so those He loves may have a meaningful existence, purpose, and a sense of accomplishment in life. For example, God created corn, but He leaves it up to us to plant corn in rows and feed the world with it as stated in Psalm 104:14. He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate—bringing forth food from the earth.
He created everything to grow and reproduce. Again in Genesis, we find that God created plants that produced after their own kind—plants with seeds in them and fruit with seeds. This is a part of His divine nature that He wants us to take part in. It is His will for us to advance. People without an advancing mindset will not innovate and improve their life. In certain parts of the world that lack a Christian worldview, villagers will carry buckets of water for miles each day. They will do this for many years without ever attempting to dig a well in the place where they live.
What was it that caused Wilbur and Orville Wright to want to fly and discover the laws of flight and the airplane? Were they just bored with the train, or was there something in the hearts of these two Christian men that caused them to want to advance? Look at what has happened since then. The entire first flight of the Kitty Hawk was a shorter distance than the wingspan of a modern 747 jet. Amazing.
Oil is an energy form that is limited, but we find we can develop new sources like the wind and the sun that are not limited. We are no longer limited to the use of telephone wires for communication because we found something better—fiber optics—and later wireless technology, which is an even greater improvement. Dennis Peacocke has made these profound observations.3
Poverty is rooted in the rejection of Christianity, its view of reality, and its discipline. Without the foundations of the biblical worldview, society’s attempts to alleviate poverty are doomed. Poverty is a spiritual problem more than an economic one. Paganism produces poverty; obedience to God’s covenant produces wealth.
People who do not live in a covenant with their Creator will not invest in the future, because it is too unpredictable. Instead, they will live in constant fear of the future. That is why free enterprise systems flourish only where the biblical worldview flourishes. Prosperity comes to societies where people invest current resources in the future, and this best happens when people trust the faithfulness (predictability) of a covenant-keeping God who promises to reward your investment if you invest, work hard, and obey Him.3
It is a waste to think small, sit still, do nothing, not invest, go nowhere, and refuse to enjoy life. A prosperous soul acts, gives, blesses, goes, enjoys life, and receives it all from God! To live life just to pay your bills is to live a life of selfish underachieving.
God wants to change our thinking about what to expect. Remember the apostle John’s words to Gauis: “As your soul prospers, you will prosper.” If we perceive and embrace this truth in our hearts, nothing can stop it from flowing out.
1 Darrow L. Miller, Discipling Nations (Washington: YWAM Publishing, 1998), 68.
2 Alvin J. Schmidt, How Christianity Changed the World (Michigan: Zondervan, 2004).
3 Dennis Peacocke, (California: Strategic Christian Services, 1995). Used by permission.
Taken from the book A Practical Path to a Prosperous Life by Brian Sauder. Check it out here!