Institute in Basic Life Principles

Giving the World a "New" Approach to Life!

What is a key to being content in riches or poverty?

Understanding Cycles of Riches and Poverty
learning to be content at all times

Riches and poverty are not permanent conditions in the life of an individual, family, or nation. They are variable factors that are related to the higher purposes that God achieves through them.

Cycles of Riches and Poverty

Through our experiences, we face cycles of riches, financial tests, poverty, and growth in faith that can help us learn to be content in all things. In whatever season you find yourself, seek to honor God and welcome His work in your life.

  • Riches: God “. . . giveth thee power to get wealth . . .” (Deuteronomy 8:18). Through the wise use of abilities, an open door of opportunity, or a gift of inheritance, wealth increases. In times of prosperity, heed God’s warning to the rich: “Be not high-minded; nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy . . . do good . . . be rich in good works . . .” (I Timothy 6:17–18).
  • Financial Tests: “. . . If riches increase, set not your heart upon them” (Psalm 62:10). When you have wealth, do not resist the opportunities you have to see and meet the needs of others. Be careful to discern the motives of those who may seek your aid, and resist temptations to do evil. Dedicate your riches to God, and purpose to use them in ways that honor Him.
  • Poverty: “. . . The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Many things can occur to cause a season of poverty in your life. Sacrificial giving, investments gone bad, or acts of God can deplete your resources.
  • Growth in Faith: “. . . Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?” (James 2:5). When you face financial needs, you have great potential to grow in faith. Trust in God, claim His promises to provide for you, and pray.

Examples in Scripture

In the Bible there are many examples of the fluctuation of wealth. In these stories, we can see the purposes that God accomplished through the cycles of wealth and poverty.

Job—See Job 1:1–2:10 and 42:1-17.

  • Job was an honorable, wealthy man.
  • He provided well for his family and gave to the poor.
  • When God tested him, all of Job’s riches were taken away.
  • Job’s faith in God did not crumble, even though he did not understand his change of fortune.
  • After Job’s testing, God blessed Job with greater abundance than he had before.

Joseph—See Genesis 37–50.

  • Joseph was a favored son and he received great honor and costly gifts.
  • His father sent him to find out how his brothers were doing.
  • When Joseph arrived, his brothers abused him and sold him as a slave.
  • Joseph became a trustworthy slave in Egypt, but he was imprisoned as a result of a false accusation.
  • During these years of misfortune, Joseph trusted God and developed a servant’s spirit.
  • In time Joseph offered wise counsel to Pharaoh. He became a revered leader in Egypt and helped the nation prepare for and endure seven years of famine.
  • When Joseph’s family came to Egypt to buy food during the famine, they became reunited with Joseph.

Nebuchadnezzar—See Daniel 4:30–37.

  • God gave the Assyrian king Nebuchadnezzar riches and power and strength and glory.
  • However, the king said in his heart that his own mighty hand had gained the kingdom.
  • God humbled Nebuchadnezzar, took away his reasoning mind, and the king consequently was unable to enjoy all of his wealth and honor.
  • When God restored Nebuchadnezzar’s mind, Nebuchadnezzar worshiped and blessed God. After this, Nebuchadnezzar resumed the responsibilities of ruling his kingdom.

Learning to Be Content With Basics

The Apostle Paul experienced a wide range of financial situations. In the midst of each of them, he found that God was faithful to provide for his needs and he learned to be content in whatever state he found himself.

Paul knew how to abound:

  • To be grateful for provisions that were given him by fellow Christians
  • To enjoy an abundance of food
  • To appreciate honor and recognition when it came
  • To appreciate physical comforts if they were available
  • To accept the help that came from others
  • To be pleased when outward circumstances worked out according to his plans
  • To feel at home in friendly surroundings

Paul knew how to suffer need:

  • To be silent about his needs when there was no provision for them
  • To endure hunger when there was insufficient food
  • To accept rejection and neglect when it came
  • To get along without material things when they were not there
  • To do without physical comforts if they were not available
  • To draw upon the inner resources of Christ’s strength
  • To be cheerful when outward circumstances did not work out according to his plans
  • To be homeless and to face death

Paul wrote: “. . . I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:11–13).

This material is adapted from pages 96–100 of the Man’s Manual, Volume II.

For Further Study

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