Both in scripture and in life there is an inescapable tension between the two sides of every truth. Thus the Bible contains a message of prosperity, but also one of poverty; of happiness, but also of tears; of triumph, but also of defeat. The art of Christian living is knowing each day on which side of the truth to stand; or, more bluntly, knowing when to change your mind! Indeed, every sensible person knows that it is quite possible to keep together several apparently contradictory opinions –
"The test of a first-class intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function."
This paradox is merely a reflection of the general untidiness and ambiguity of all human experience. That is why the most dangerous people in the world are those with a single-minded obsession that blinds them to all other possibilities. But most ordinary people find themselves well able to look at things from several different viewpoints. Hence they are prone to shift from one opinion on a matter to another, depending upon what is presently influencing them.
Therefore I follow Paul's example. Today you might find me enjoying the abundance of the Lord, while tomorrow you would hear me welcome abasement in Christ. Today, by a miracle of answered prayer, I grasp everything; tomorrow I stand helpless while it is all stolen from me; but on the day after, you might see me pray it all back again!
We all find ourselves facing multiple realities mixed in with a single event. Thus we look at a happening and at once find in it some things that make us happy, and some that make us sad. Which should we choose? Whichever is most appropriate for the moment! Or again, every day we are confronted by competing inadequacies, which clamour for preference. When every decision is a bad one, how can you make one that is right? But that is life.
So then does the Bible teach prosperity or poverty? It teaches both! The trick lies in knowing which one is right for you at the present time, and then being able to embrace that state by faith.
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"The truth of the faith," said St Thomas Aquinas, "is diffused throughout Holy Scripture in various ways, and sometimes obscurely. Hence to bring out the truth of the faith from Holy Scripture requires long study and training. But not everyone who needs to know the truth of the faith can devote themselves to study. So a clear summary is needed of…