I spoke to you in your prosperity; but you said, I will not hear. This has been your manner from your youth…
The voice of God to the prosperous, which they are in danger of not hearing, concerns —
1. This humility will be shown towards God. There is a natural tendency in wealth to foster a spirit of sinful self-sufficience and independence of God. Many things conspire to this. Wealth is power. Not only the labour of the hands, but the thoughts, the will, and consciences of men may be bought. Wealth not only gives a sort of independence, but a sort of sovereignty. And, thus, it is an object of esteem and reverence. Now, whatever natural religion may teach us, it is certain that the Bible teaches, that "God giveth power to get wealth," and that we have nothing "which we have not received." Now, how comprehensive is the claim for humility involved in all this! It makes every difference, whether we be the authors of our wealth, or whether it be the gift of God. If we receive all, the more we have, the more we have received. The prosperous Christian should realise this; and, realising this, he will be grateful. The bounty of Providence will endear the thought of God. In proportion to his joy will be his thankfulness.
2. This feeling of dependence will respect the future, will influence the mode of regarding the continuance of good things. He who feels deeply that we are in the hands of God; that we are in a state of probation; that the great purpose of God is to try us, to reveal us, to exercise us, and especially to sanctify us; that we deserve nothing, while we receive everything; and that crosses and afflictions are often among the most gracious methods of Divine discipline; will regard the fluctuations of life as Divine dispensations. He will not say only, "It is the course of things," "It is the lot of man," "It must be expected," "It can't be helped," but he will say also, "It is the will of God."
3. Another aspect of this humility will be towards men. In pleading for humility in the rich Christian, I do not advocate an impossible equality, or a forgetfulness of outward distinctions. But I mean, that the feeling of human brotherhood and of Christian respect and affection should be displayed towards all; and that the favours of Providence should only bind us to a more careful regard to the will of our common Father, and a more delicate respect to the feelings of our brethren.
1. Spirituality is opposed to extravagance. He who prizes the manliness and integrity of his soul; he who would not render himself unfit for the possible reverses of life; he who would maintain a taste for the most exalted pleasures; he who is duly alive to the perilous corruption within him, ever ready, like a magazine of powder, to ignite from the smallest spark, or, like a river, on the removal of a little portion of embankment, to burst forth with desolating violence; he will err on the side rather of defect than of excess, and "deny himself" too much rather than smooth the way and strengthen the temptations of "the lust of the eye, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life."
2. Spirituality is opposed to worldliness. He is worldly who "walks" not "with God; whose conversation is not in heaven; whose affections are not "set on things above"; who has no keen eye for the mysteries of the kingdom, no quick ear for its voices, no delicate sensibility to its impressions. Have you not many before your minds who have become worldly through prosperity
3. Spirituality is opposed to indolence. Prosperity says, "Take thine ease"! and men are but too ready to comply with the suggestion. The man well-to-do contributes to societies that perform the works in which he was engaged. He now works by proxy. He assigns his sphere to others. He is not idle; he supports all good things. But, my brother, the power to do this is additional to the powers you used to have, not instead of them. You did good then by personal service. That obligation remains. The ability to give does not destroy the ability to labour, and the purse cannot answer the demand for activity and effort.
III. BENEVOLENCE. The very means of riches, the common way and method of getting rich, should teach this lesson. Why has God appointed commerce? Why given to men different faculties and spheres? Is it not all designed to impress the doctrine of brotherhood, and to draw out affections and promote deeds in keeping with it? The prosperous Christian should be a liberal Christian. It is not enough that he continue his gifts; he must increase them Proportion is God's rule. He estimates what we part with according to what we keep. A healthy saint will delight in being able to relieve his brethren, and one of the chief charms of prosperity, will be the power it gives him to be a minister for good. His first care will be his own, the needy kindred whose trials he may soothe by generous gifts, or whom he may more worthily and wisely serve by enabling them to serve themselves. His next will be the welfare of those by whose assistance he has succeeded. He will not think his duty done by a mere payment of wages; but will seek to promote their physical and mental and moral well-being.
(A. J. Morris.)
Parallel VersesKJV: I spake unto thee in thy prosperity; but thou saidst, I will not hear. This hath been thy manner from thy youth, that thou obeyedst not my voice.