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995. Riches without Righteousness

Gods of pagan religions offer lofty promises without requiring moral living. This represents most of the world’s population.

IT’S WORTH CONSIDERING

I love those who love me;
And those who diligently seek me will find me.
Riches and honor are with me,
Enduring wealth and righteousness (Proverbs 8:17-18).

While this proverb is all about wisdom, it could have represented God’s call to His people throughout Israel’s history. This message was especially appropriated during the days of Elijah. This great prophet is most known for his encounter with the prophets of Baal on the top of Mount Carmel as described in 1 Kings 18. He was pleading with the people to make up their minds about which God they would follow. They were embracing both God and Baal. It was time to decide between the two. One was the real God. The other was an impostor.

He asked the people how long they would hesitate between two opinions. If the Lord was God, they should follow him. If Baal was the true God, they should follow him. They couldn’t have it both ways. They responded with silence. No comments. No questions. Only pathetic silence. While most messages from this account focus on the fiery conclusion of the great test Elijah proposed, I want to look briefly at the probable reason for the silence.

Baal was the god of the harvest. He is often pictured holding a lightning bolt in his hand since he supposedly controlled the thunderstorms, and thus, the rain needed for a bountiful harvest. His name is derived from a word meaning “lord, owner, or possessor.” The Lord, Jehovah God, on the other hand, claimed to be not only their father, but their owner, their deliverer, and their provider. He had promised to give them a land flowing with milk and honey.

AS I SEE IT

To me, the greatest difference between the two claimants is that the One True God was a holy God who expected holiness from His people. Baal, however, promised riches without requiring righteousness. With him there were no lofty goals, and no high standards. All he required was that his followers worship him. The result was a sickening array of rituals, including child sacrifice, to appease the god who promised prosperity through a bountiful harvest as a result of the rain he would send.

Human nature being what it is, living holy and righteous lives was not at the top of their “To Do” list. With Baal, they could reap the benefits and still live as they pleased. Holy living would really cramp their style. Yet they had a long history with the God of Israel. Tradition was important. What to do? Perhaps this was the reason for the silence. Let’s take another look at the verse from Proverbs:

I love those who love me;
And those who diligently seek me will find me.
Riches and honor are with me,
Enduring wealth and righteousness (Proverbs 8:17-18).

¬†What God wants most from his followers is their love, and the test of genuine love is their obedience to His commands. He promises to reciprocate by loving them back. He wants His children to seek¬†Him, not¬†what He can do for them. In return, He offers both riches and honor, enduring wealth…and righteousness. This is true wisdom, and what an offer! Who wouldn’t want that?

Apparently, everyone gathered at the top of Mount Carmel and most of the world’s population. Most people prefer riches without righteousness. They opt to bypass all those pesky requirements of righteous living. They prefer unearned entitlements that provide what they want with no strings attached. It’s easy to point fingers at all those pagans out there who live like that. It’s more difficult to be honest about our own obedience and righteous living.

How are we doing with showing mercy and offering forgiveness? Have we really given up our judgmental attitude? Do we really think of others as more important than ourselves? I’ll stop there rather than inflict more pain on all of us. Let’s take a little time praying these verses from Proverbs back to God with a realistic appraisal of our love for God and our claims to be seeking Him.

Fortunately for us. He always responds with mercy when we come to Him with a contrite heart, being genuinely sorry for our actions and with an honest desire to be more Christ like. May we never again be guilty of desiring riches without righteousness.

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