It wasn’t the venue you would expect for a week-long meeting of 50+ missionaries and their families. The pampering started as we sat and sipped lemonade while checking in. Our hotel room view overlooking one of the many pools and the Mediterranean Sea was breathtaking. The buffet meals were reminiscent of a cruise ship.
I wonder what your emotional response is to that kind of luxury? Arriving in Cyprus, I can tell you I went through a range of responses:
- Envy — Why can’t I live like this all the time!
- Guilt — Here I am consuming all these luxuries while there are people struggling for food and water.
- Judgment — People who live like this are so self-centered!
So what does God think of such luxury? We all know Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell everything he had and give to the poor (Luke 18:22). But that wasn’t his response to every rich person He met. Both Jesus and Paul had wealthy benefactors who supported their ministries (Luke 8:3, Rom 16:2). Not to mention Abraham, David, Solomon, Job, and other godly men who had wealth. Scripture teaches that riches are from God (1 Chr 20:12, Prov 8:18), and He is the one who gives us the ability to earn wealth (Deut 8:18).
There are serious problems with the “prosperity gospel” taught by some, but the problem isn’t wealth itself. The problem is giving wealth (or anything else) a place in our lives where it doesn’t belong. When we seek first our own pleasures or easy life rather than God’s pleasure, or we put our trust in wealth instead of God, we have displaced Jesus from his rightful place.
The Bible provides many warnings against the struggles that come with wealth, but those warnings don’t equate to wealth being bad any more than warnings against inappropriate sex make sex bad. Seeking poverty or self-denial for its own sake can be as much of an idol as wealth.
The backstory on the missionaries spending a week at a luxury resort sheds some light. This gathering was originally scheduled for a more modest facility, but the owners decided to close it for renovation. So they honored the contract by switching to a different, albeit more upscale facility. The cost was less than I’ve paid to stay at a Best Western. So this was a God-orchestrated upgrade.
Which brings me to the point. God delights in bringing pleasure and joy to His people. But He loves us too much to let us get spoiled by such things. When God arranges to bless us — even with material things — the right way to receive it is with joy and gratitude to God. Give Him the pleasure of seeing us enjoy it. Don’t ruin His pleasure with our envy, guilt, and judgmental attitudes.
The team from our church was there to serve these missionaries during their week of rest, renewal, and reconnection. Our greatest blessing was the joy of serving, not the luxury. But we accepted God’s pampering with gratitude.