(The following article was first published on Aug 4, 2019, at the Cedar Park Church of Christ. RTS, age 13)
Wealth and power are very useful things to have on this side of eternity, but they can also be huge stumbling blocks. If you are educated enough to be reading this article, you have both wealth and power already. As I explain what I mean, I’ll also encourage you to use them for good.
Although people usually think about money when considering wealth, there are actually several types of wealth. The “money” type includes money and material possessions. Other types include spiritual wealth (like the freedom of religion and the abundance of religious supply stores in America, for example), time wealth (we have more free time and opportunities than developing countries), and lastly, social wealth.
Social wealth includes all the resources available to meet your social and emotional needs, whether it’s friends, family, & co-workers, or phones, mail, & social media. It somewhat equates to power of influence and popularity, and it can be used for both good and bad, just as the other types of power can be (but I’ll get to that in a moment).
In 1st Kings chapter 5, Solomon and Hiram, the king of Phoenicia, make a trade deal. Solomon uses his vast stores of food wealth to buy cedar, stone, labor, and many other resources from the king of Phoenicia. Solomon then uses these resources to build the temple in Jerusalem. This was a massive undertaking, unlike anything that the people had seen, and it is an example of how wealth can be used for God’s glory. Wealth is not inherently evil, although several New Testament scriptures warn about its destructive power (Mk 10:25; 1st Tim 6:10).
As I mentioned earlier, there are various types of power. First, let’s look at coercion power, in which people are forced to submit to a person or group because of a threat to life or property. An example of this is the ten plagues brought upon Egypt, beginning in Exodus 7. God used coercion to attempt to get Pharaoh to release the Israelites from Egypt. Pharaoh thought of himself as a god on an equal plane with Jehovah, so he did not yield until he could no longer resist the destruction brought on by God’s plagues.
Another example of coercive power is seen when the government was against the spread of the Gospel in the first century. The church in Smyrna was told, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Rev 2:10). Even today, Christians around the world are faced with death because of their faith.
We must never give into coercive efforts to derail our faith, but we must also never coerce someone into doing something sinful, and we should never be a stumbling block to a weaker Christian.
Another type of power is reward power, which just means using a type of reward to get someone to do what you want. This could be illustrated by an employer/employee relationship, or by God’s promises to help his people (the walls of Jericho didn’t fall down by themselves!), but it can also be something sinister like a bribe. Judas was rewarded with 30 pieces of silver for his assistance in the arrest of Jesus.
On an interesting note, many of God’s commands are both coercive and reward based. If Noah followed the command of God, his family would be saved by the ark, but if he didn’t, they would die. If we follow God’s commands, we will be saved by the blood of Jesus, but if we don’t, we will also die.
Probably the most commonly thought of type of power is official power. This is power you get when you hold a government office, become an elder, or own a company. Even teachers, parents, and babysitters have this kind of power. This kind of power can be very destructive, because people are often willing to blindly follow official powers. Ephesians 6:1 tells children to “obey your parents in the Lord”. In other words, obey all the time, unless they tell you something that is against God’s will.
Finally, a lesser-recognized type of power is the power of knowledge. Some people have great knowledge in a specific area of study (like a brain surgeon), some have a lifetime of wisdom, and some simply know the WiFi password or the location of your car keys. Having people like this in your life is a blessing, but again, we must be careful who we follow. An older Christian could be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and an older child could influence a younger child to walk down the wrong path. (Mt 7:15; 1st Jn 4:1; 2nd Pet 2:1)
James 1:16-17 says, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
Wealth and power are gifts from God, and we should appreciate them greatly. However, we must be cautious in how we use them. How will YOU use them?