What's Up With Spiritual Wealth?

The author with a young friend at a remote village in Nepal.
The author with a young friend at a remote village in Nepal.
Team members listening intently to church leaders in Kathmandu.
Team members listening intently to church leaders in Kathmandu.

Homeward Bound

In November 2006, I was sitting at the airport in Delhi, India. It was hot and sticky with lots of flies buzzing around in small swarms. Exhaustion had its grip on me, but was being nipped at by an undercurrent of excitement as I wrote in my journal and engaged in some serious people watching.

I was homeward bound, concluding two weeks in that part of the world. As a member of a six-person team from across the BIC denomination, we’d spent most of the time in Nepal, in and around the industrial city of Biratnagar.

By the way, BIC is shorthand for Brethren in Christ, one of the best kept secrets in North America.

We were visiting church leaders in Nepal and trying to be an encouragement. The reality is that we were the ones who had been thoroughly revitalized by men and women who serve Christ in adverse conditions—they strive against a deeply ingrained caste mindset and strong opposition from authorities.

We met leaders whose understanding of what it means to be motivated by an eternal perspective was so automatic that it humbled us—men and women who routinely face hostility, and respond to it not with whimpering or whining, but with determined grace because they completely understand why Jesus was born.

I arrived home in time to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family and begin the Advent Season with my church family. At that moment I was convinced that my time invested with Nepalese brothers and sisters would color my perspective of Advent in an extremely positive way.

It did then and still does now. After hanging out with people whose material poverty is swallowed whole by their spiritual wealth, the question of why Jesus was born takes on a depth of meaning seldom attainable in the midst of affluence.

Why Was Jesus Born?

Celtic Daily Prayer reads: “Advent is traditionally a time of preparation for Christmas. It is said that the door to the stable where the Christ-child has been born is very low -- and only those who kneel find access. In the run-up to Christmas we remember especially Zacharias and Elizabeth, and the child John who, still in the womb, leapt in anticipation of the coming Lord. Christ has come; Christ has died and is risen; Christ will come again.”

Why was Jesus born? In a word: Hope. Jesus was born to give hope. The human race is stuck inside the curse of sin, with all its destructive ramifications. Christ was born as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Only the hope that Christ provides can lift people up out of the muck and mire of oppressive bondage.

Religion cannot do that—in fact, as seen in Nepal and right here in North America, religion quite often is the ball and chain that is the hardest to shatter. Only relationship with God made possible by the conduit of Jesus Christ grants us hope. And hope always perseveres.

Those of us who have freely received the forgiveness God provides in Christ are to be truly thankful—in our thanksgiving we are to remember that as recipients of grace we have been commissioned with a vital responsibility.

Jesus said that to whom much is given, much is required. The Apostle Paul built upon that foundational theme when he wrote that as believers in Christ our lives are not our own because we have been bought by a great price. In the midst of political turmoil and grinding poverty, our Nepalese brothers and sisters modeled both those Biblical principles in attitude and action.

Celebrating a Maoist victory.
Celebrating a Maoist victory.

Maoists & Cow Dung

While we were in Kathmandu, a ten year long Maoist insurgency achieved a major victory in what was heralded in the local newspapers as a historic agreement. The Maoists had brokered a deal that gave them an influential voice in the government of Nepal.

There were many pro and con demonstrations in the streets. We drove through the middle of a rather boisterous rally, with the army lined up on one side in riot gear and a mob of Maoist supporters chanting and screaming on the other side. Our taxi driver referred to it as just a “little fight”, but it had all the ingredients necessary for a full-fledged eruption of violence.

The Maoists are continually involved in recruiting schoolchildren to indoctrinate them into communism. We eye-witnessed columns of twelve and fourteen year olds with ancient guns marching and spewing communist slogans—we eye-witnessed women in remote villages hunkered down on their haunches, using nothing but their bare hands as they rolled cow dung, sticks and straw into fire-logs for fuel to cook over.

It is against this backdrop of political chaos and economic suffering that vibrant cells in the body of Christ press on and reach out to others for the most elementary reason: Jesus is Lord and he was born to save sinners. Danger lurks all around them, yet their purpose is fixed on the things of God and the stuff of eternity—their faith shines like shimmering stars lighting up the darkest night.

Is material prosperity a benefit of or a hindrance to spiritual wealth?

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  • Hindrance
  • Both
  • Neither
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False Security

By comparison, the church in North America is fat and lazy, feeding at the trough of excess. There is much for us to learn about faith and prayer and action. Our focus needs to be radically altered; far too often catering to our wants and preferences is what animates or excites us, and all that must be flushed down the toilet. We need to take risks to advance the gospel and be mobilized by a singular motivation: Jesus is Lord and he was born to save sinners.

What’s up with spiritual wealth is this: To achieve it in affluent North America is incredibly hard because the consumer culture has wrought its devastating influence on the church—insulated by layers of abundance and luxury we have a false sense of security that is detrimental to spiritual prosperity.

Lay our circumstances alongside the harsh financial realities for much of the world and it is obvious that we are so immersed in wealth we do not even recognize our blind-spots or the dangers.

One can deny that, but vehement protestations will not change the fact that we are programmed to expect economic ease as a birthright—we get our shorts all bunched up into knots and wring our hands in worry when the Dow Jones takes a nose-dive or fluctuations in the stock market raid our retirement storehouses.

To be shining stars...
To be shining stars...
...we must endlessly learn the profound lessons of what it means to be dependent on God for our daily bread.
...we must endlessly learn the profound lessons of what it means to be dependent on God for our daily bread.

Daily Bread

All that does not mean we should surrender or capitulate to the cultural norm. We ought to keep an intense hunger stirred up within by seeing temporal illusions as obstacles that can actually harm us—we must strive to do whatever is necessary to make eternity our top priority.

Is that ever easy? No, just the opposite; it is always an arduous process of letting go—nothing about gaining spiritual wealth while blanketed by the myriad deceptions of material opulence is easy.

It would be best for us to heed what Jesus said in response to the degree of difficulty involved for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God: “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Jesus put the onus on the supernatural work of God—we need to continually be available and open to the mysterious and powerful work of God in our lives.

What does it mean to pray give us this day our daily bread? Those who follow Christ in Nepal would answer that question much differently than we do in the land of plenty because for them a day by day dependence upon God for basic necessities is a constant theme of their lives. Call me crazy, but as disciples, isn’t that the kind of tight connection to God we claim we desire?

We can take huge strides toward that goal when we seriously apply the truth of Scripture: To whom much is given, much is required. When we do so, like our brothers and sisters in Nepal, we can be shining stars in our circles of influence.

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Comments 35 comments

auntiesam19 6 years ago

Well said. I think along with this affluence has come a "me" mentality. It's all about "my" kingdom or "my church" instead of where the focus should truly be placed-the Kingdom of God.


JimLow 6 years ago

Beautiful Hub Ken! A true blessing to read and your background in Christian ministry is awesome as well. Missionary work especially is a truly bessed thing.

I also read the BIC statements of belief via your link and are all the same ones I hold dear to my heart.

Thanks for the inspiration!


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thanks, Sam. Your are exactly right about the me-church mentality. Sad but true.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thanks, Jim. Your kind words of encouragement are a great blessing to me.


50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 6 years ago from Arizona

Well done, an inspiration for one to reflect upon. I have reflection periods where I get my self to look hard at me. Do a self inventory, I guess. I have come to the realization that in comparison to much of the world I'm quite rich. In comparison to the states I live at the governments perception of the poverty level or less. All is relevant. What is of great value to me is kicked to the curb by another, and flip the coin as my values are different as well. I do know stuff is just stuff and it means little to anyone who is dead or dying spiritually or actually.

If I buy a lottery ticket (I wouldn't waste the dollar) the odds of me winning and living in style are the same as anyone else.

If I put all my faith in Jesus Christ the odds of me living in style are much better than many or even most.

Even though I have to work at being good everyday, I have peace and when it seems I do not, all that is required is me going outside and sitting in the beautiful world and listening, then I will feel the need to pray and be thankful.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

50 Caliber - Thank you for your fine words. Much encouragement to you. You have carved out a lifestyle & perspective that is inspirational to those who have eyes to see & ears to hear.


allpurposeguru profile image

allpurposeguru 6 years ago from North Carolina

Hmm. Women in Nepal gather cow dung for fuel. In this country we take this potentially valuable resource and shove it into vast lagoons, where it fouls the air and pollutes the groundwater. Then we import petroleum for fuel and howl about the cost, all the while even Christians remain blithely oblivious to the women in Nepal who risk their own health to get any fuel at all. Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

allpurposeguru - Thanks for your comments. Very interesting ideas & perspective. Be encouraged despite all our inconsistencies.


Tamarii2 profile image

Tamarii2 6 years ago from NEW YORK

I enjoyed reading about you through your Hubs.You have a very interesting mission.The mission fields.We are the body of Christ.One body different parts.We are "members in particular"..I Corinthians Chapter 12.."diversities of gifts"..."differences of administrations".If you read that chapter it gives more insight into what you experienced or experiencing during your travels.There's something in your writings that makes me want to read more.I will check back from time to time.Welcome aboard ! Enjoy your journey with great peace. Thank you for being a fan.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Tamarii2 - Thank you for stopping by & leaving some good words. Peace & blessings to you.


RevLady profile image

RevLady 6 years ago from Lantana, Florida

Ken, thanks for bringing us a glimpse of the life of a people in another country. It was educative and enlightening.

It seems almost ridiculous in this day and age to talk about not conforming to the things of our country. The vociferous and enticing call of America is strong and captivating and strenuous to resist. One of the most persistent threats to the dedicated life is the pull of the environment in which we live. The pressure on believers to fit in, be a team player, conform to the rules governing the game, is tremendous. All around us, men organize their common life in ways which presuppose God is irrelevant.

Thank you for sharing and for reminding us of a great truth: Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2.

Love and hugs.


sweetie1 profile image

sweetie1 6 years ago from India

I did read this blog but i think i need to read it couple of times more to understand a little bit. Since i know nothing about church or Christianity.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

RevLady - Thank you for your powerful words. Yes, it does seem "almost ridiculous". Romans 12:2 is exactly right.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

sweetie - Thanks for stopping by. May the grace of the One who hung the stars in place grant you enlightenment & understanding. Peace & blessings to you.


E. Nicolson profile image

E. Nicolson 6 years ago

Wonderfully said. We have to set our priorities and walk out onto that limb of faith. If we are fortunate, sometimes choices are made for us and we can learn what is real and true. It's a lesson I keep learning....


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

E. Nicolson - Thanks for your words. So true. And yes, they're lessons we all must keep learning.


T.D. Mitchell profile image

T.D. Mitchell 6 years ago from Northern KY

You wrote: What does it mean to pray give us this day our daily bread? Those who follow Christ in Nepal would answer that question much differently than we do in the land of plenty because for them a day by day dependence upon God for basic necessities is a constant theme of their lives. Call me crazy, but as disciples, isn’t that the kind of tight connection to God we claim we desire?

* * *

Wonderful testament to God's love and faithfulness. Great hub. Thanks for your friendship!


timc 6 years ago

Great words Ken! This is something that has been lurking around our home for a while now. Our daughter Leah, has ever desire to live in povery for the sole prupose of ministering to those in poverty. Not an easy task and she knows it. But we support her and are convicted by her at the same time.

I don't ask for my daily bread, I ask for my 401k to grow so that I can retire and get fatter than I already am :-( God help me. Lord Jesus I believe, hlep me in my un belief!


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thanks, timc. It's definitely tough. We are drowning in affluence, so we have to be intentional about our choices. Not easy.


pgrundy 6 years ago

It was so good to see a Christian write from this perspective. There is so much of this 'prosperity gospel' out there now. Most midwestern cities now have at least one of these mega-churches that preach that all you need to do to get your new house and your Lincoln is pray the right way because God wants you to have them. I think it's such a perversion of the Gospels.

If more Christians focused on the main message of the Gospels and less on the Apocalypse and getting rich through piety, the world would change. Or at least some of us would change.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

pgrundy - Thank you for stopping in & sharing. Appreciate your words & perspective.

"If more Christians focused on the main message of the Gospels and less on the Apocalypse and getting rich through piety, the world would change."

Great words.


Gerg profile image

Gerg 6 years ago from California

I love the concept of spiritual wealth as you've described it, Ken, and I also love pgrundy's words ~

G


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thank you, Gerg. Glad you stopped by & shared.


Pachuca213 6 years ago

I am happy with a "simple" life never getting caught up in the materialistic views of modern day society. Just as the birds do not worry about what the day brings (food, shelter) for they instinctively know that GOD our creator takes care of them, even more so I lean on that understanding that as long as GOD is put first in our lives he will always take care of us. I also know that GOD expects us to work for a living and never to be lazy, but we are supposed to maintain a balance in what we WANT and what we NEED. Also, our responsibility to help others as well. I think that this hub is a wonderful show of what you believe and I think you are a good person.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Pachuca213 - Thank you for sharing very insightful words. Blessings & encouragement to you.


itakins profile image

itakins 6 years ago from Irl

Christ centred Christianity-Brilliant article.

God Bless.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thank you, itakins.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

Great hub and pics, Ken. This must have been an amazing experience for you. We Americans are so spoiled...


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thanks, habee. It was an amazing experience. Blessings to you & Merry Christmas.


Heavensgates, aka, Toni Tucker 6 years ago

Interesting article! I appreciate the pictures while you were in India. Hedonism, self-centeredness is rampant in our Western society and even in a lot of our churches. The 'me' factor is part of our foundation. Although, I wouldn't want to live anywhere else, unless God called me too. I will be in intercessory prayer for Napal and their political structure and spiritual growth (in Christ). Thank you for your article.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Toni Tucker - Thank you for stopping in & leaving good comments. And for your prayers for Nepal. Blessings to you.


Timely profile image

Timely 6 years ago from United States

Great hub, glad you stopped by and introduced yourself. The Book of Haggai 1:6-7 is what comes to mind when reading this hub. "Is there never enough?" that question is overlooked by those of ruled by materialism. Your right if we truly looked to the Father for our daily bread, excess would be eliminated. He knows our needs better than we!

Glad to be your fan and look forward to reading more:)


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Thank you for your good comments. And yes, your reference to Haggai is exactly on target. Blessings to you.


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States

Wonderful hub. I loved the way you explained the purpose of Jesus. The Lord has answered prayers for me so often. I feel blessed. My oldest son and his wife have lived on the mission field and have traveled to India, along with many other countries.


Ken R. Abell profile image

Ken R. Abell 6 years ago from ON THE ROAD Author

Pamela99 - Thank you for stopping in & sharing. Be blessed & encouraged this Christmas Season.

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