Pastoral Letter 17 Jul 2022
My dear readers,
Are You Rich or Poor?
Proverbs 10:15: “The rich man's wealth is his strong city: the destruction of the poor is their poverty.”
Every man of the world measures himself by the abundance of what he possesses. This includes money, properties, accomplishments, family, and friends. The more they have of the things that they consider as important to them, the richer they feel. This personal and very subjective evaluation is common throughout the ages. It is true in both third and first world countries. Whether the person lives in the forest or wilderness or first world cities, it does not matter. These “wealth” are temporary. The transient nature of man’s evaluation of his wealth is often denied probably because of the alternative. The alternative is too frightening to contemplate. This frightful alternative is that if man does not define for himself this standard of wealth, he will not be able to find the motivation to wake up every morning to live and struggle for his very existence. If he admits that no matter what he does on earth it will end in meaningless chaff, he will be plunged into an endless state of hopelessness that he cannot get out of. He will most likely be suicidal because of the futility of life and everything in it!
To dig himself out of this hopeless condition, he deludes himself into thinking that a good and successful life is one that is measured by the material abundance that he possesses or doing some good deeds like helping the poor or saving the earth! This motivates him to live and give, and in times of trouble (there will be many of them, from failed economies to sickness and ultimately death) he will solve them if he can. And if he cannot, he will play mind games with himself to ward off the troubles; or drink himself drunk and enter into another world of make-believe until he wakes up sober the next morning and reality hits him in the face again. This is the sad and circular life of the world for most people. Is there no hope? Is there no true wealth to be found on earth?
Proverbs 10:15 teaches that the “rich man’s wealth is his strong city.” A strong city cannot be overrun. It is supposed to be impregnable. The adversities of life will be the rich man’s enemy, but these adversities will not defeat him and cause him to suffer want. For example, a wealthy person does not need to worry about famine. Others might suffer want, but he has the financial strength to feed himself and his loved ones. Others might struggle to afford medical care when they are sick because they do not have the funds. But the rich man can seek the best doctors to treat whatever illnesses that can be treated. He can travel in safety and comfort. He is safe in his secured home. When enemies invade, he can find safety and protection as opposed to those who are in want. He is free from the worries of not having enough food to eat and water to drink.
The wealth of an Israelite in the time of the Book of Proverbs was directly linked to his spiritual well-being. This was the LORD’s covenantal promise with Israel. To be blessed materially by the LORD, the Israelite had to walk right with Him according to Holy Scriptures. Leviticus 26:3-6: “If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely. And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land.”
The Book of Proverbs is more than a book that pertains to physical life on earth. It is a spiritual book. Therefore, when the Bible speaks of the rich man and his wealth, it refers to both his material and spiritual wealth. He is first very spiritually wealthy in Christ because he knows Him as his personal Lord and Saviour. He has a personal walk with God. He obeys all that God has ordained for Israel with faith in his heart. Thus, when he keeps the Passover Feast, he sees his Saviour dying for him in the future. He sees the Passover lamb as the future Lamb of God that will take away his sins. His material wealth is evidence of his inward faith and holy walk with his God.
The poor is destroyed by his poverty as he is bankrupt materially and spiritually. He cannot pray to God for help in times of trouble. He fends for himself in this sin-filled world. The worst part is that he is an Israelite surrounded by all things ordained by God, including the Word of God being taught and lived out by some of God’s children, coupled with the dwelling place of God, i.e. the Holy Temple. There is no reason to be poor except that he chose to be poor by rejecting the LORD Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Saviour. He works hard on his land but it will not produce the fruit that he expects. No matter how much he eats and drinks he is never satisfied. When adversities come, he has no one to turn to for help as he does not know God. He lives like a man dying of thirst even though he is surrounded by the best refreshing water within arm’s length.
All he needs to do is to reach forth and drink the living water and he would never thirst again and can eat the living bread and never hunger again. This he can do by believing in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Saviour and all would be well with his soul. But he chooses poverty. Thus, destruction characterises his life. He has no one to run to for help. He has no money to buy food when drought hits. When he is sick, he has no money to see a physician. He faces the enemy on his own as he has no money to escape and seek protection. His house is defenceless and he is always at the mercy of the elements and evil men. What a tragic life! All he needs to do is to seek the LORD who is so near to him. All he needs to do is to stretch forth his hand of faith and believe and all would be well with his soul and his life!
As church goers, we live like the people of Israel in the Land of promise. The difference is Israel was a nation and much larger, whereas we are a local church that is much smaller. However, in spite of the physical difference, the similarity in spiritual matters far outweighs it. Every church goer in a sound biblical church is surrounded by all things spiritual. The Word of God is taught and preached regularly. He lives among children of God who are bound for heaven. He sees their holy lives. He listens to their holy conversations. He prays and worships with them before God's throne of grace and mercies. He is literally living in the heavenly realm on earth whenever he enters a church during worship, prayer meeting, fellowship meetings where God’s Word is faithfully preached and taught.
This spiritual reality is lost to many church goers today. The church has become a place for community life like the community clubs scattered all over Singapore. People gather for social activities rather than spiritual. The behaviour is one of complaints rather than thanksgiving. Perhaps familiarity has bred contempt in our hearts resulting in blindness of spiritual eyes and deafness of spiritual ears. God’s Word is hardly regarded as God's Word but rather the words of man that can be rejected when it does not scratch their itching ears. They leave and go to other churches regardless of the ecumenical compromises as long as their ears are scratched and carnal desires satisfied! This is the bane of church life today. These churchgoers are poor and know it not, like the Laodicean church in Revelation 3:17: “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”
May we take heed of the Lord’s warning in Revelation 3:18-19 and repent, “I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” Amen.
Yours faithfully in the Saviour’s Service,
Rev Dr Quek Suan Yew