By Rev. O.L. Johnson
I am a skeptic. Yes I admit it.
But, my skepticism does not mean unbelief. It simply means I’m not sure of the validity of some of the Bible teachings I have heard over the years.
When something rubs me the wrong way, my natural inclination is to go to the scriptures in an effort to discover the basis for the teaching in question. Here’s a case in point.
At some point in the past, someone coined the phrase “the blessings of Abraham” which was said to include his personal wealth, described to us in Genesis 13:2 where we learn that he “was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold.” The argument goes that since we Christians are Abraham’s seed, as per Galatians 3:29, we are heirs to all the blessings he received from God.
At this point, two things are important: the phrase “the blessings of Abraham” appears nowhere in the Bible. And secondly, the argument presumes that Abraham’s wealth was a gift that God was obligated to give according to his covenant with Abraham. In my mind, the first point made me suspect and my curiosity was peaked. So I set out to shed some light on this assumption.
The obvious place to start was the Abrahamic Covenant which contains five promises God made to Abraham, and which is found in several passages in Genesis: 12:2, 3, and 7; 15:1-3; 17:6-8; 22:16-18; 26:3, 4; and, 28:13, 14. You can check it out for yourself but when I studied these passages, I found no promises of personal wealth made to Abraham by God.
So if God made no such promise to Abraham, we are not justified in believing that God is obligated to shower us with material wealth in spite of the fact that we are Abraham’s seed. We cannot hold God accountable for promises he never made. That’s what some of us have done and continue to do. And when it doesn’t happen for us, we are disappointed and angry with God.
The results of that mindset are potentially varied. We may begin to distrust him, to doubt the truth of his word, to question his very existence or to reject the gospel of Christ; any one of which will create a severely broken relationship between him and us. This we need to avoid at all cost, and a proper understanding of scripture is the way to do so.
Here’s what we need to understand: God did not promise to make Abraham rich; he became rich through deceiving Pharoah, and later in life, through deceiving Abimelech in the same manner, by deliberately failing to acknowledge that Sarah was his wife. The accounts of these incidents are found in Genesis 12:16, and in Genesis 20:14, 16.
These accounts further verify that Abraham’s wealth did not come from God. He would never be a part of a deceptive plan to make anyone rich. That’s outside of his nature.
But, this is not to say that he is against our becoming wealthy. In fact, he delights in our prosperity (Psalm 35:27), as long as we don’t make money our idols (Exodus 20:3).
He has given us the proper way to accumulate wealth, through rightly using the ability he has given each of us (Deuteronomy 8:17, 18). If we fail to use our God-given abilities in the wealth arena, we are to blame, not him.
Rev. O.L. Johnson, a retired LAPD lieutenant, is an associate pastor in his home church. Greater New Zion Baptist, 501 W. 80th St. in Los Angeles. Pastor’s Corner is a religious column that looks at the relevancy of scripture in life today. The column will appear monthly in The Wave and on its website, www.wavepublication.com.