“I spoke to you in your prosperity; but you said: I will not listen” (Jer. 22:21).
Prosperity causes us to think that we need nothing else, and in having an abundance of goods. But usually what accompanies prosperity among most men, causes them to forget God, His Kingdom, His laws and death culminating with our final judgment. Today this is happening in Orthodoxy and in heresy, for churches and synagogues are becoming increasingly emptier. When people forget the church they also forget God, and some just send out a check. The check is appreciated and important but that alone will not soothe our consciences. God wants each one of us to come to Him to obey Him and to love Him. personally. Even those who go to church and receive Holy Communion, should first offer themselves with all their lives with all their hearts. For twe mus worship God personally, and love Him above everything and everybody for He is more than worthy of our love!
The Scriptural words inscribed above were spoken by God to the Jewish people, but they profoundly also speak to Orthodox people today many of whom say to God: “I will not listen.” How do we listen to the words of God? Through the reading of Divine Scriptures (the Bible) and the hymnology of the Church, the Bishops and Priests also in the Divine Liturgy and other church services, and personally. In many churches the very important Bishop’s voice fails to proclaim the true words of God and their meaning, nor do they remind the faithful to read the Bible daily.
Prosperity causes the faithful to place God in the shadows which increases our separation from Him and in turn to live according to the spirit of this world and its immorality andf uncleanness. We are all sinners and when we know God we can have our sins forgiven and strive to avoid them in the future. But those who fail to go to church or holy confession remain in their sins and remain outside of Christian life. For we are not Christians if we do not read the Bible daily, go to church regularly, confess our sins, and conduct our entire life according to the commandments of Jesus Christ, then we cannot call ourselves Christians. If we are not Christians living according to His holy will, then we will live as pagans.
True prosperity is not measured by incomes or in dollars and cents. True prosperity is becoming rich in God, being far more wealthy by partaking of His divine grace and worshiping Him in spirit and truth. This true prosperity is far greater and more important than anything else. Without faith and hope in God, we are living in spiritual poverty and are among the poorest and most destitute of all on earth. But also this places us among the most foolish, for when we are condemned at the judgment, we will be marked by our false claims to be God’s people.
Poverty in spiritual life is worshiping the devil and matter and without caring whether we have virtues or vices. Faith, hope and love in God. This leads to eternal death and places us far from eternal life. Those who are unbelievers, have the opposing vices, unbelief, despondency and envy.
If misfortune, or sickness falls upon us, it will cause many to call upon God seeking His assistance and wondering why He doesn’t respond to our pleas. If God fails to respond it could be that we are without a wedding garment without the hope of being united permanently with Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church who is His Bride.
So misfortune is superior to prosperity, for misfortune cause us to realize that there is much more to this live than the acquisition of materialistic prosperity, saying to God, “I will not listen.” Prosperity does not simply mean our weekly or annual salaries earned by working or in business. Prosperity is usually what is much above our necessities, being the extras that we continually accumulate and take delight in. Misfortune in spiritual matters means conforming to the devils wishes for us, and included are the love for and accumulation of large sums of money or investments and the pursuit of material pleasures.
The Scriptural quote above: “I spoke to you in your prosperity; but you said, I will not listen; was spoken by God to the Hebrew king Jehoiakim. For the Babylonians had occupied Jerusalem and killed the king and they dragged him beneath the city wall and left him with the dogs. And it happened to the disobedient king and his end will be like that of an ass. If we fail to listen to the timely words of God the end in this life will be for us like that of an ass. We are invited to abandon the folly of this world and live in the glorious kingdom of heaven which surely will help us to be spiritually prosperous, even though we are living in poverty on earth.
Christ our God confirms these things saying: "Seek the kingdom of heaven and all these things shall be added to you.” His priority is clear that in this present life we must seek first the kingdom of heaven, and then all other necessities will be given. Without Christ we will be ashamed and naked and we will be shut out of the heavenly kingdom.