This past week I was at a hunger symposium with a bunch of famous do-gooders. The keynote speaker referenced a commonly known (and empirically verified) phenomenon: poor people are the most religious among us, on average. Strange because I was always taught in church that God is the author of blessing (material blessing- don’t get deep and throw up inner peace etc.). Further, if God has the power to bless and serves as arbiter of the flow of blessings, logically God would choose first to bless those most pleasing to God. So then, why are the poor- the most religious- the least “blessed” in this life?
Tim Tebow acknowledges God for every single touchdown and completion. Some would point to his success (Heisman trophy, first round pick) as evidence that those who reverence God prosper in their life course. Yet I can recall another name, one which most would never recognize- Dan Kendra. As a high school senior, Kendra was thought to be the next great thing from Pennsylvania since Dan Marino- he was that great. Like Tebow, Kendra enrolled at a big time football school in Florida- Florida State University (Tebow attended the University of Florida).
Tebow went on to be a star while Kendra had a career altering injury. After the injury, Kendra became a vocal, devout Christian- like Tebow- and made his way back to the football field. That’s where the similarities end. Though every bit as vocal and (seemingly) sincere in commitment to God, Kendra- who was considered much more talented than Tebow ever was- is forgotten in history, never having reached the heights of Tebow has. Now certainly the matter is much too complex to limit the analysis to two football players.You get the point though. Yes, there are examples of people who seem to excel in this world that credit God for that success. Yet it is extremely hard to hold to the simplistic narrative of God being the one who blesses and favors the people of faith when the poor are disproportionately religious and atheists like Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) do quite well.
So then, is it true that God is the author of blessings and those who serve God prosper? Or, based on the mounds of contradictory evidence can we say that some individuals are merely lucky, some skillful and hardworking and others (religious or not) are held back from success by ignorance? When it comes to material blessings and prosperity, is God at all involved? Some very successful atheists would certainly say no. Still, in my neighborhood there is still the deep rooted thought that “all things come of thee o Lord” and as such there must still be a theological framework for some to even consider the questions I am raising. Let me try my best to accommodate that.
The Bible says that God causes it to rain on the just (godly) and the unjust (ungodly). Most of us live in metropolitan areas and as such the full impact of that statement is lost on us. For people living in an agricultural society, the rains are everything. Whether or not there was sufficient rain to support crop growth was literally a matter of life and death for those whom the scriptures were originally written. It was God who was seen as the provider of the rains. So then, evil or good, nice or nasty, everyone received the same rain- there apparently is no distinction as to whom God is willing to send rain to. Even so, rain can come but if there has been nothing done in terms of planting and cultivating the field it would be of no consequence. So perhaps God gives provision and blessing for everyone to prosper. The critical question is, what will we do with the field?