Pastoral Perspectives

Prosperous In Christ

You know that Chinese New Year (CNY) is around the corner when you are greeted with a cacophony of “Gong Xi, Gong Xi”, the aisles of supermarkets are stockpiled with festive goodies and the queue at your neighbourhood Singapore Pools outlet is longer than usual. To a large extent, when it comes to the celebrations during Chinese New Year, it almost appears that abundance and prosperity is unabashedly promoted.

For starters, most of us would admit that we often have more than enough food during this season of reunion dinners and get-togethers with friends and colleagues. After all, we want to ensure our guests are provided with the best and we usually prepare an abundance of food so that we are not seen as poor hosts. While there is nothing wrong with treating ourselves to abalones and enjoying our bak kwas, I believe Christians need to exercise wisdom and stewardship in reducing food wastage.

Besides sharing recipes for dishes made from our leftovers, we should be more intentional in blessing others with our abundance rather than doing so only as an afterthought. For example, we could offer beforehand to prepare a simple lunch for our colleagues on the first work day after the CNY break. This would certainly be a more meaningful gesture than simply bringing our leftover snacks to the office pantry.

Secondly, we should cultivate a Kingdom-mindset when it comes to managing the “ang pow” money that we or our children have received. The Bible teaches us that everything we have rightfully belongs to God and that our wealth comes as a gift from him (Deut 8:18, 1 Chron 29:11-12). As much as some may be looking forward to spending the money to buy something for ourselves, we need to guard our hearts against greed and materialism.

Likewise, while we may be teaching our children to save the money and to resist instant gratification, they should also be encouraged to prayerfully consider giving or tithing part of what they have collected to a charity or mission organisation. When a family comes together in doing so, we are expressing our commitment to seek God’s Kingdom first. Indeed, as much as saving is a virtue, it should not be secondary to giving, especially if at the end of the day, our saving is motivated primarily by self-interest.

As disciples of Christ, we are to understand that prosperity is not a right, but a privilege and a responsibility. It is most tragic that in some Christian circles, the “prosperity gospel” has hijacked biblical perspective on prosperity and twisted it to become a license for covetousness and worldliness. Although words like abundance and prosperity need not be necessarily eschewed by Christians, we need to learn to see God’s blessings in the context of redemptive history within the Bible and how God relates with Israel under the covenant. As much as God’s favour was upon God-fearing individuals such as Abraham and Joseph, Christians must never assume that we are entitled to similar riches and that we simply need faith to “claim it” lest we are missing out.

In addition, we must take heed of the strong warnings against the love of money (1 Tim 6:8-10) and serving money instead of God (Matt 6:24). With that in mind, one can understand why it may not be appropriate for Christians to wish others “Gong Xi Fa Cai” since it literally refers to wishing one luck in striking it rich. Besides, I doubt most people need further encouragement to strive for wealth. Instead, we can greet people simply with 新年快乐 or 新年蒙恩 as well as extending well-wishes of peace and good health (3 John 2).

As one writer pointed out, “abundance is not God’s provision for me to live in luxury. It is his provision for me to help others live”. In this season of Chinese New Year, there are opportunities for us to live out the Gospel and demonstrate God’s love to others. We do not need to wait until we have more than enough before we can bless others.

In the Bible, we are reminded of the wonderful example of the Macedonian church who “out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity” (2 Cor 8:2). Here, Apostle Paul explains that the reason behind their sacrificial and generous giving is the grace of God which was given to them (2 Cor 8:1). Indeed, God’s grace is more than sufficient (2 Cor 9:8-9, 2 Cor 12:9). And with Christ in our lives, we know better than to look to earthly wealth as an indication of God’s blessings upon us today.

Rev Edwin Wong

February 1, 2015