The real issue, then, for those following a ‘name it, claim it’ kind of faith isn’t that they are asking for too much, but rather that they are asking for too little. They’ve decided that prosperity can only look a certain way, and because of that, they’ve missed out on a much more abundant, complete offering. As C.S. Lewis so eloquently describes it, they have been “far too easily pleased:”
“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea .”
This sad state that Lewis describes is precisely where we can all end up, when we pursue a shallow version of prosperity. To use the words of Jesus, when we treasure things of this world, our hearts end up there as well. So, if you run after worldly prosperity, then it’s a safe bet that your heart may feel right home counting your money and making your mud pies. Again, it’s not that money and possessions are inherently bad; it’s when our heart becomes wrapped around and consumed by the mud pies of material gain, selfish ambition and personal privilege that we get in trouble.
It’s our motives that knock us off course.
Paul says: “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10) This verse asks the right question. Who am I trying to please? With regard to our discussion here, we could ask, “Why am I striving so fiercely after worldly prosperity?”
With perhaps even greater force, James likewise brutally confronts us with questions of motivation, demanding we take a long, honest look at ourselves. This verse from the book of James is probably the toughest one to stomach:
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us.”
Ouch! I don’t know about you, but the term ‘adulterous,’ is one I never like to be saddled with. James doesn’t beat around the bush. He cuts right to the heart of the issue. Our desires aren’t fulfilled and prosperity remains elusive because we love the world more than we love God. I, for one, don’t want to be an enemy of God. I want my motives to be driven by his ambitions for my life and this world, not my own.
When left to myself a selfish ambition can take over and control my life. No one is born a narcissist…they are created. But when I’m submitted to God, my heart becomes like his and my ambitions become like his.
Who knows why your friend Sarah received the blessing of a new home on the golf course? Who knows why your friend John received a promotion and you haven’t received one in years? We’re responsible for our own motives, our own ambitions.