A World View of FaithPlease look at the map of the world shown on this page. It is color keyed to show the distribution offaith in the world. The darkest-colored countries have the lowest faith, the lighter hues more.Ponder for a moment where the least faith might be found in the world today. Which country doyou live in?
Clearly, there are shown low areas of faith and higher ones. What is the source of this map? TheWorld Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland? No, though perhaps it could be. Actually, it isan authentic map from the World Bank — that transnational organization headquartered inWashington, USA, whose motto is “Our wish is a world free of poverty.”At this point, you may be puzzled, wondering what does the World Bank have to do with the topicof faith? As an opposite, it points towards an important scriptural principle. The title of the charthas been tampered with. It actually portrays the distribution of wealth in the world — morespecifically, the average level of income in each country. The color key has been flipped upsidedown. The areas with the highest income are shown as those with the lowest faith.Is this a reasonable way to show the distribution of faith in the world? While it may not be exact,our technique for substituting low faith for high income is defensible. Why? Because the Biblesubstantiates this inverse relationship numerous times. Jesus said, “Blessed are you the poor, foryours is the kingdom of God. But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received yourcomfort.” (Luke 6: 20, 24, Sermon on the Plain)The half-brother of Jesus, James, re-emphasized this perspective in a different way, saying: “Hasnot God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit thekingdom he promised to those who love him? (James 2:5) Certainly, the World Bank’s survey ofworld income qualifies as a perspective from “the eyes of the world.”Most assuredly, there are many exceptions to this general equation of faith versus riches.Remember, we are dealing here with general correlation and population averages, not specificpersons or households. And, when viewing the map, it should also be noted that it is symbolizingall types of faith, not just the type of faith that the Bible requires of true Christians. Many falsereligions that display deep faith in their beliefs happen to be most prevalent in poor regions of theworld.
There clearly is an inverse relationship with faith, and wealth and comfort. We can further expandwealth to the concept of mammon. It is that spiritual realm that seeks its confidence and affectionswith materialism and the boastful pretensions of mankind.
Working Out Our Faith Against OppositionWhy is it that there is this opposition between faith and money?
In the pleasure of God’s creation, it is a condition of the world. Jesus said: “You cannot serve bothGod and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24) This statement struck right to the heart of the cosmology ofopposites — good and evil, sin and righteousness, the Kingdom of Light versus the forces ofdarkness. Were it any different, it would not be possible for us to choose to bring a meaningfulsacrifice of faith and love to our Lord. Otherwise, to do so, would simply be an automatic,programmed response of no value.
Christ made this comment to His disciples right after he told the rich young ruler to “sell hispossession and give to the poor.” (Matthew 6:21) It threw the disciples into an immediate debate.They were daunted by the challenges of property and the requirements of the Kingdom of God.While on the one hand to be wealthy was to be considered a blessing of the godly — after all,Abraham was — on the other hand, Christ admonished that “it is easier for a camel to go throughthe eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Matthew 19:24) “Who canthen be saved?” they asked. (Matthew 19:25) Christ replied, "With man this is impossible, but withGod all things are possible.” (verse 26)
Here we see two completely different systems that contradict each other — the Kingdom of Godversus the domain of mammon. These two realms have completely different wealth systems.They have two different currencies, respectively, faith and money.
Though we are ever so thankful that it is by the grace of God that we are saved, whether we arebeset by the deceitfulness of riches or not, the sad reality is that most people in high-incomecountries are seriously blinded to the true nature and wealth potential of faith.The Most Precious Commodity in the World
The contrast between earthly riches and true riches — or wealth, prosperity, material satisfaction,or worldly confidence – is a theme repeatedly presented throughout the entire Bible. True faithitself is considered the most valuable and real of all possessions.Consider just a few of the Bible’s perspectives on what really should be “hotly” valued — real faith:Jesus stated: “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust youwith true riches?” (Luke 16:11). Just what are these “true riches”? Scriptures repeatedly portrayour faith and salvation as real riches and that the price of their procurement in the first place isinestimable.
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you wereredeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers […].” (1Peter 1:18)
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for yoursakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians8:9)
Apostle Peter reflects these evaluations of faith in this passage:“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief inall kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, whichperishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise,glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you lovehim; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with aninexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation ofyour souls.” (1 Peter 1:6-9)
Without a question, according to scripture, real faith is much more valuable than property andworldly wealth. They are “true riches.” Peter assesses it as more valuable than gold. Why?Because without it we cannot please God … nor receive the “goal of our faith”, the salvation of oursouls.
While the world strains for the attainment of material wealth, the most precious acquisition of all,faith, today lies cold in many countries – especially wealthy countries of Christian heritage. Yet,there is nothing, absolutely more worthy than faith.
At this point, we must take a brief respite from our inquiry and ask this age-old question: What isfaith? After all, the word “faith” must surely be the most misused and misunderstood word in theEnglish language. Many people think it is just a noun. We can only focus on the simplest ofanswers. According to the Bible, more often faith it is a verb. Faith is the act of believing. Butwhat? The word of God, the evidence of which is faith if we do it. It is for that reason, “that faithcometh by hearing, and hearing by the world of God.” (Romans 10:17)Current Conditions in the Church
Let’s again examine the relationship between faith and wealth. The words of Christ and theapostles that we reviewed say that these two are generally oppositional in nature. Something,however, rings false. It argues with a growing church constituency that portrays itself as Christian,which presents the exact opposite perspective.
Some in this community even go so far as to say that if you have much faith that you can “getwealth.” Or, just send in your seed faith offering and you may get a “divine wealth transfer.”Perhaps a large cheque from some mysterious source may arrive in the mail as a result. Suchthings may well happen to some people. But as a formula, this has nothing to do with real faith norreal wealth.
Apparently, without laying one’s life down for Christ and taking up a personal cross, one can justuse the principles in the Bible to become prosperous and lead a well-adjusted life in every way.This is one of the biggest and sorriest lies ever perpetrated. It is a major contributing reason whyreal faith is running cold today.
Yet, this fleshly notion of faith that is gaining popularity so easily appeals to our nature … hearingand interpreting things as we would like them to be. Who has not ever made this type of complaintto the Lord when meeting trials or difficulties? “Lord, I am serving You. Don’t I deserve to berewarded here on earth for the good things that I do?” To say this is to fall prey to a form of“prosperity teaching.” But, why on earth should I have this human flaw to so easily always fall forthis idea?
Even more consternating is that this view of cheap faith is perpetrated so strongly in the richest ofareas on the world map in the first place — particularly in North America. There is no caution, nofear of the dangers of wealth which the Bible so clearly lays out. Why is the vulnerability toBalaam’s error greatest there? “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one whocalled you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel -- which is really no gospel atall,” said Paul to the Galatians. (Galatians (1:6-7)
Inverting the relationship expressed in James 2:5, we can say: “Has not God chosen the rich of thisworld, to be poor in faith?” Looked at from this perspective, we realize just which Christians in theworld will have the most trying conditions to produce fruit and true faith. The “true faith” ofChristians in Canada, United States and other rich nations will be most under siege. Thesecountries may indeed be blessed, but not with the conditions that naturally foster an abundance ofreal faith.
There are two larges forces (both related) reverberating through this last-day world — bothglobalization and oppression of various types. Living in North America or Europe, you will befacing both cross-currents — living in a seductive richer region of the world and your Biblical beliefsand trust in
God being ridiculed and suppressed.
Achan and the Last Day Church of LaodiceaIf one is poor in faith, then what does that actually mean? It is a very important question for thosewho are part of the Church in richer parts of the world. The last-day church as mirrored by the lastof the seven churches mentioned in Revelation, Laodicea, is the one that was convinced that itneeded nothing, confident in its own riches and capabilities … even trusting in its confidence.This church is actually poor, blind and naked — poor in faith, blind as to the true state of things,and vulnerable to the loss of true faith and power. They fell for the error of Balaam by sacrificinglukewarm faith for the primacy of warm comfort. The story of Achan in the Old Testament (Joshua10) provides a picture of the future Church that loses the “power” of God for the sake of riches andcomfortable materialism. Israel was commanded not to take any treasures from the booty of fallenJericho.
Yet, one person fell to its lure. Said Achan, “When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe fromBabylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I covetedthem and took them.” (Joshua 7:21) He hid these items underneath his tent.
When Israel next went up to conquer the city of Ai, they were sorely defeated. The power andblessing of God was no longer with them. Why? Achan’s household brought impurity upon entireIsrael by falling for the baubles of Babylon and Jericho – both cities which were renown ancientcenters of commercialism. “When Achan son of Zerah acted unfaithfully regarding the devotedthings, did not wrath come upon the whole community of Israel?” (Joshua 22:20)We have every reason to believe that this is the same reason why much of the last-day church haslost its power to effectively minister the Gospel.
Thoughts to PonderWe return to Christ’s prophecy: “[…] when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"As mentioned, it likely is the most important of all last-day prophesies for the Church. Yet, in theNew Testament, this prophecy seems almost hidden. It is only half a verse long, found only in oneof the four Gospels, and seems entirely disjointed from the text before and after. Jesus is clearlysaying that there will be very little faith found on earth when He returns.
We can better understand why, using our inverse equation rule. When Christ returns, […] will Hefind “wealth” on earth?” Yes. James confirms that this will be the case, saying “Now listen you richpeople […] you have hoarded wealth in the last days.” (James 5:1, 3) At the time Jesus utteredHis statement, He knew that the faith of his flock would face a great onslaught from worldly wealthand comforts in the last days, also revealing that “[…], the love of most will grow cold.” (Matthew24:12) While this statement was probably spoken directly to the Jew, it only follows that it alsoapplies to Christians.
Without a doubt that cold day has arrived … certainly so for Western Christianity and Jews alike.Without pretension, faith in Europe is largely dead. In North America, there are indeed many thatprofess a Christian faith, but of the type that is without power. Many use faith as nothing more thana contractual indemnity policy with God or a device to “get wealth” or warm comforts.This state of mind is easy to fall into … no premeditated plan is necessary to do so. Once oneattitudinally becomes totally reliant upon the bank account, technology, and the pride andaccomplishments of mankind, the power of God diminishes — at least as is utilized in daily life. Nolonger does our faith rest in the notions that God will care for us, has a purpose and a destiny andwants to lead us, not by sight, but by faith.
“We live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7.) Can it be done in North America — a regionmuch overtaken by “Hot Comfort, Cold Faith?” Here, it surely is a daily struggle to beat back thecooling influences upon our faith.
But, every challenge also offers an opportunity. We can again remember what Peter tells us,already quoted earlier. We have reasons to rejoice, for our struggle is only for a little while andthere awaits the eternal reward of real riches.
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief inall kinds of trials […] for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of yoursouls.” (1 Peter 1:6-9)
[…] but he who stands firm to the end will be saved”. (Matthew 24:13)