Let’s talk about Asaph and Psalm 73. I feel like if I were to meet Asaph over coffee at Starbucks, we would have so much to rant about together. Here’s the thing: While Asaph is busy keeping his hands clean and his heart pure (without much to show for it), the wicked are prospering and scoffing at guys like him. Their cups are full, his is empty. Naturally the guy is angry.
When I look around, I see a whole lot of Christians (including leaders) who are cheapening and perverting the Gospel and getting away with it. They’re building their names, gaining a faithful following and making a whole lot of money. Why doesn’t God shut them down? He’s certainly powerful enough to do it. Instead, He lets them prosper while His true disciples are in the trenches, often living from paycheck to paycheck, suffering for the Gospel. I scratch my head and sigh.
Clearly, Asaph and I are having the same issues. But he understood something: For a full 15 verses, Asaph complains about how the wicked are prospering and the godly are not, but then a shift happens in verse 16: “When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply, till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Surely you place them on slippery ground.”
Let’s take an enter-the-sanctuary moment and ponder this: What if our definition of living a prosperous, abundant life is misguided? When you look carefully at Scripture, Jesus never actually talks about material wealth and physical comfort as being a blessing. Instead we hear Him say, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God,” his tone more sorrowful than critical.
Jesus never said that money was bad, or even that having an abundance of it was bad. Instead He invited us to consider what money does to us. It corrupts our character, it distracts us, it ties us to places and things; ultimately it makes us less dependent on Him, which is the real sin. Could it be that from God’s perspective, material comfort is not a blessing but rather a burden?
Two of the wealthiest kings in the Old Testament, David and Solomon, lived materially blessed lives. But through their stories, we see that even though they were used by God in tremendous ways, their vast wealth contributed to their making some really poor choices. Their familial relationships were a mess, and Solomon eventually met his end in a state of melancholy and disillusionment.
Christians, especially American Christians, love to talk about how God’s desire is to bless us, which is a totally biblical concept. But very rarely do we separate the idea of “blessing” from material comfort. Let’s allow ourselves to be challenged by this: When Jesus talked about poverty, He talked about it in relational terms: the broken-hearted, the captives, the spiritually oppressed, those without family or safety net (Isaiah 61). It would stand to logic that He also thinks about wealth and blessing in relational terms.
I’m certainly guilty of defining a prosperous, abundant, blessed life in terms of material comfort, which is why it is extremely tempting to get bent out of shape when ungodly people (including many church leaders) prosper. I’ve allowed envy to blind me to the fact that God’s perspective is wholly different from mine. I need to have more enter-the-sanctuary moments and immerse myself in heavenly perspective:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
To live a blessed life is to live in right relationship with God and our fellow man. This may require us to forfeit material wealth and comfort, to experience persecution instead of popularity, to live in total dependence on God instead of our own resourcefulness and gifts. But we gain favor, anointing, relational wholeness and the eternal smile of God.
One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I’ve been delighting myself in the Lord for many years now, but I’ve also been focused on the desires of my heart. What if the true meaning of this verse is “Delight yourself in Me and I will become the desire of your heart”?
I think this is the revelation Asaph had in verse 17 and what he articulates in verses 25-26 when he says, “Whom have I in heaven but You? There is nothing on earth I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Asaph was blessed. I want to be like Asaph.