So, my cousin is pretty much one of my favorite people on this planet, along with being arguably the most AMAZING wife, mother, friend and all-around-person on this planet. They live in this tiny little two bedroom house/condo situation with three small kids while they give GENEROUSLY to the church and various ministries and missionaries, constantly making sacrifices on things the rest of us often consider “necessities” because they would rather give their limited funds to others than spend it on themselves.
Not too long ago, somehow the subject of moving came up, and the kids mentioned a few of the things on their new house wish list. Now she was faced with a few choices of how to respond. She could have told them they couldn’t afford a new house, or told them to be grateful for what they had—because, after all, some kids don’t even have houses…. Both of those responses may be true, but they can communicate a poverty mindset. God’s neither broke, nor limited in His ability to provide a different house for them. He’s not a stooge and life in His Kingdom isn’t meant to be mean and meager. We are sons and daughters of the King of Kings, after all.
On the other hand, that kind of thinking (especially when mixed with our American mindset) can quickly turn to prosperity gospel, in which case she could have responded that if they would just pray about it, God would give them the house of their dreams. Maybe He will! Stranger things have happened. But if He doesn’t, the kids would likely feel that God had failed them. There is great danger in promising something God Himself didn’t promise.
So, to avoid the poverty gospel, and the prosperity gospel, the temptation might be to ignore the conversation. But God never ignores us, so that too communicates a wrong message to the kids.
My cousin instead took the time to listen to their wants. She stopped what she was doing, took the time to make a list with her kids of all the things they might want to have in a house. They wrote it down and then prayed about it—not just asking God for the list, but humbling presenting it to His better judgment. First, they thanked God for the house they had. Next they told him about their hearts’ desires. And finally, they told him they trusted in His decision to provide however HE saw fit, whether or not He gave them what they asked for.
It was brilliant. It was just as we are commanded to do in Philippians 4:4-7:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
It’s made me think about my own heart’s desires, and about the ways I vacillate between doom and fatalism, always expecting the bleak, hard road (poverty gospel), and entitled expectations that God simply must make my dreams come true—and I’m not talking about good, holy aspirations, but rather the ones that are worldly and selfish, about an easier life, etc. (prosperity gospel). Rather than denying or demanding the things I want, I need to follow my cousin. I need to take the time to write things out, fully confessing my wants to God (not denying them), and then ask for them in humility (not demanding them), asking above all that God make my heart like His and give me what is good and best.
How about you? Do you tend toward the poverty or prosperity side? How do you strive to find a Godly balance—expecting good things and accepting what He gives? What is the picture of God that others come away with because of the way you handle your desires (and theirs)?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.