Abundance is a resonant concept for most of us in this country. We have so much material wealth these days that the rental of self-storage facilities is now a $17 billion industry. Imagine that — $17 billion just to provide people a place to put all their belongings that they don’t have room for at home!
As Christians, we sometimes tend to believe that the prosperity in the society around us hinders our ability to find people willing to hear the gospel. People, we reason, are so focused today on the material that they have neither time for nor interest in the spiritual. And there’s a great deal of truth to this — witness Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-24; Mark 10:17-25; Luke 18:18-25), or Paul’s caution to Timothy (1 Timothy 6:6-10).
There is, however, another facet to this prosperity problem. In the February 2006 issue of Wired magazine, contributing editor Daniel H. Pink makes this observation:
“Liberated by this prosperity but not fulfilled by it, more people are searching for meaning. From the mainstream embrace of such once-exotic practices as yoga and meditation to the rise of spirituality in the workplace to the influence of evangelism in pop culture and politics, the quest for meaning and purpose has become an integral part of everyday life. And that will only intensify as the first children of abundance, the baby boomers, realize that they have more of their lives behind them than ahead. In both business and personal life, now that our left-brain needs have largely been sated, our right-brain yearnings will demand to be fed.”
As people begin to realize that material abundance does not truly satisfy, they sometimes begin searching for spiritual satisfaction. A careful study of the book of Ecclesiastes demonstrates how this happened in the life of Solomon. The rich young ruler’s approach to Jesus, as well as those of such well-to-do men as Zacchaeus, Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimathea, illustrate this also.
Unfortunately, too often people’s search for the spiritual leads them down dangerous paths. False spirituality and bogus religion are everywhere in modern society, offering false hope and cold comfort to those who are motivated by self-satisfaction rather than a love for the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). The enticements of the world in this regard make for serious competition for people’s hearts and minds.
The encouraging thing to realize, however, is that even as the material abundance of our modern age creates challenges and obstacles, it also creates opportunity. There will always be those who will, given the chance, hear the word of God with understanding, accept it, and bear fruit, because they possess noble and good hearts (Matthew 13:23; Mark 4:20; Luke 8:15). They may indeed be few (Matthew 7:14; Luke 13:23), but they are out there, and it is our mission as carriers of the gospel to seek them out and present the good news of Christ to them.
The abundance of our time can produce an abundant harvest for the Lord, if the laborers uphold their responsibility (Matthew 9:37-38; Luke 10:2; John 4:35) and stay busy planting the good seed and watering with encouragement those who receive it (1 Corinthians 3:6-9). With whom have you shared your hope of heaven lately?