As we continue to live under varying degrees of sheltered in place in CA, and we witness the impact this virus is having on our cities, we believers struggle at times to know how to pray and how to respond, even how to feel or think.
Lots of questions are being asked by sincere believers. I want to address a handful of them in the pursuit of having the mind of Christ in these days, and in being His hands, feet, mouth, etc.
1. Should we care and even pray about problems like unemployment, domestic violence, homelessness, the stress level of medical workers, pressure on government leaders, increased alcoholism and drug use due to added financial and family pressures from the pandemic etc.? Or should we just focus on proclaiming the good news about Jesus Christ, praying for the lost, and try to see them get saved?
Should we care….? Better question: Does God care? We know that God sees the seriousness of the eternal state of people who have yet to bow their knee to Jesus as Savior and Lord far more clearly and objectively than we do. Jesus is the one who said, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” We are told repeatedly in scripture that “God does not desire that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance.” (see II Peter 3:9). We know He hates sin far more than we, and must punish it/us justly unless Christ saves us and justifies us by His precious blood.
But despite this, does He care about the societal problems I mentioned above? Well I believe He does indeed care deeply about these problems because of the way they affect the people of this earth whom He loves so deeply.
When Moses prayed that God would show Him His glory, it is interesting that the first thing God mentioned of Himself was His goodness, “…I Myself will make all My goodness pass before you.” Exodus 33:18,19. The Psalmist declares His goodness is extended to everyone, “The Lord is good to all, And His mercies are over all His works.” Psalm 145:9 No one is left out in this all inclusive statement.
Not only is He good, but the Psalmist says of God, “The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and kind in all His deeds.” Psalm 145:17 The “all” in these two phrases leaves no room for exceptions.
Not only is He good, righteous and kind, but He is also compassionate. This attribute of God was again revealed to Moses, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth.” Exodus 34:6
These wonderful attributes of God are seen throughout scripture towards all kinds of people. For instance:
- God clothing Adam and Eve, and giving them more children even though they brought sin and untold misery into the world by their disobedience.
- God reasoning with Cain before Cain killed his brother Abel – Gen. 4:6f
- God having mercy on Abimilech and nation when he took Sarah from Abraham – Gen. 20
- God’s command to the Israelites to pray for the welfare of the city they were forced to live in Jeremiah 29:7 “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.”
- God’s concern and compassion for the evil and wicked Ninevites and their animals - Jonah 4:11 “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?”
- Jesus in the sermon on the mount gave a clear mandate for how we are to feel towards those around us – even our enemies based on God’s character or how He feels towards all people, even those who scorn or diss Him - - Matthew 5:44-48 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you what reward to you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Luke 6:35 “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” Luke 6:36 “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.”
- Jesus Himself often healed all the people who came to Him regardless of how they felt about Him and whether they would end up following Him. Luke 6:17-19 “….and there was a large crowd of His disciples, and a great throng of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and …… who had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were being cured. And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all.” He healed everyone - no questions asked.
OK, second question: How does God feel about the wealthy, rich and prosperous in our cities, many of whom do not fear Him or seek Him? And thus how should we feel about them? There is a growing refrain in America that many of our problems are because of the corrupt and greedy rich folk, especially those that own and run big corporations. Beneath that I believe is a root of greed and envy (see Matt. 20:15, James 4: 2) and entitlement, which is all evil in the sight of the Lord.
It is important first to remember that God owns it all, and thus all wealth comes from Him. He reminded the Hebrews of this through Moses in Deut. 8:17, 18 – “Otherwise, you may say in your heart, ‘My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.’ “But you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”
David praised God for this in the sight of all the people of Israel in I Chronicles 29:11, 12 – “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O Lord, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone.”
King Solomon stated in Proverbs 10:22 “It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich. And He adds no sorrow to it.”
I Timothy 6:17-19 “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.
So ultimately it is God who gave Bill Gates and George Soros and everyone else in our nation the riches they have and the ability to acquire the riches they have.
In scripture, it seems to me we would be hard pressed to ever find a rebuke by God for someone being rich or wealthy in and of itself.
Now in stating this, God has certain expectations for all those He has given wealth to. Some of those are: that they steward it in the fear of Him (Luke 16:10-12), that they not hoard it/not be greedy (Luke 12:13-21), and that they care for the poor (Matt. 25:34-46), etc. God’s rebukes are usually of not fulfilling these responsibilities and for attitudes like pride, greed, etc.
We all need more of Daniel’s heart for even the most hardened and proud rich folk: Daniel 4:27 “Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you; break away now from your sins by doing righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.”
Up until Covid-19 hit, we had record employment, our unemployment rate was at a record low, and that was primarily because business owners were investing in their businesses (often along with other investors) and these business owners were hiring employees. Very easy to take these owners for granted, until something like Covid hits and now we have record unemployment, and increased domestic violence partially due to men being at home when they should be at work.
A third related question is Does God care about the prosperity of His sons and daughters? Should we pray for such for one another?
While we do not fully embrace the “prosperity gospel” or “Word of faith movement”, we all need to recognize that it was God who put words like “abundance”, “prosperity” and “wealth” in the Bible. The promises for such for those who fear and trust Him and walk with Him are many. Here are a few to ponder:
- Psalm 25:12, 13 “Who is the man who fears the Lord? He will instruct him in the way he should choose. His soul will abide in prosperity, And his descendants will inherit the land.”
- Psalm 35:27 “…And let them say continually, “The Lord be magnified, Who delights in the prosperity of His servant.”
- Psalm 37:11 “But the humble will inherit the land And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.”
- Proverbs 13:21 “Adversity pursues sinners, But the righteous will be rewarded with prosperity.”
- II Corinthians 9:8f “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;”
- Philippians 4:12 “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.
- III John 2 “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.”
May we all remember that work is not sinful or evil; God created it before the fall.
May we all remember that money, riches, wealth, abundance, and prosperity are gifts from God and are to be stewarded as from His hand and belonging to and originating from and being sustained by Him.
May we all remember that the spirit of this age is increasingly envious and entitled – believing that they deserve what everyone else has; and that the role of government is to provide that for them.
A final question, would people be more likely to repent and get saved if God took their jobs and money away and scared them to death with an out of control never ending pandemic? And thus should we pray for that, and not pray for a cure and an end to Covid-19?
Biblically, reflecting on the conversions reported in the gospels and in the book of Acts, is there one that is a response to terrible calamities and a nation wide or world wide crisis? In the gospels, whether it be the Samaritan woman and then her whole city (John 4), or Zaccheus (Luke 19), or the blind man in John ch. 9, or the 12 disciples, all of them turned to Christ and began to follow Christ in response to hearing His words, seeing His life, and seeing His works. Pretty much the same in the book of Acts. Added to that was the powerful conviction of the Holy Spirit of sin, judgment and righteousness, which was poured out through the ministries of John the Baptist, Jesus and the apostles and disciples in the book of Acts – largely in response to their prayers.
I Tim. 2:1 “First of all then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”