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When we lived and ministered in India, the leader of a small denomination asked me to speak to his pastors. When I had finished, one asked me, “We are poor. Does God want us to be poor?”

How would you have responded? I was an American, who, from their point of view, was rich in comparison to them. I am not wealthy, but their conception of me was accurate. Terrible poverty exists in India. It’s safe to say no one is the U.S. is as poor as millions in India.

I asked, “You have prayed, yes?” They had. “And God has heard your prayers.” They agreed. “Then I must conclude that, yes, at this point in your lives, God wants you to be poor.”

There it was. My American privilege in all its glory.

Except it wasn’t. It was the truth of the sovereignty of God, revealed in Scripture.

I don’t know why some are poor, and some are rich; why some are lifted up and others are not. However, I do know generally, though not specifically, why.

“The Lord makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts. He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor” (1 Samuel 2:7–8a). 1

 “For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, but it is God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another” (Psalm 75:6–7).

God decides these things.

I wish poverty for no one, including those Indian pastors. However, in comfortable wealth or grinding poverty, high in status, on the lowest rung of the ladder, or even below that last rung, Christians are to walk in the life of Jesus and in obedience to God, giving Him thanks in all things. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18).

In addition, since the Lord has put us where He put us, we should not boast about our station in life. That would mean we’re taking credit for bringing ourselves to a certain position. We didn’t plan this on our own. We had no say whatsoever about our skin color. We had no choice at all about which family we were born into. We did not engineer in the womb a matrix of talents, intelligence, and abilities that could help us succeed at one level and not at another. God did. “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13).

If Christians, due to their elevated position in life, have injured and taken advantage of others, they need to repent and ask those so injured and the Lord to forgive them. They have sinned. They are guilty of pride, which the Lord hates, and failing to walk in the humility of Jesus and in obedience. The account of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel is instructive about how the Lord deals with those who think their accomplishments were achieved by themselves alone.

Thus, not only should we not boast, we should not apologize. To ask forgiveness or apologize for a privileged place in life indicates that Christians and those who attack them for it do not know that the Lord brought forth an individual’s status in life. This is a foolish error.

These issues of privilege have nothing to do with what is of primary importance: eternal life. Our lives, for those of high status or low, rich or poor, will soon be over. One’s privilege or lack of it will mean nothing before the judgment throne of God. Unbelievers will be judged on whether they believe in the Lord Jesus and His redeeming sacrifice. Believers, on the other hand, will be judged on what they have done in Him.

Nothing else will matter.

1All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

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