11. Providence Takes the Long View

Essay #11 from the book, "Reflections on Providence" by the Rev. Frank S. Rose, Tucson, AZ

“The divine providence looks to eternal things. It looks to temporal things only to the extent that they agree with eternal things.” Divine Providence #214

Suppose a couple had a baby and a Fairy Godmother showed up explaining that she could give one blessing to the child. “I can give your child wealth, or I can give it happiness, but I cannot give both.” What would the couple choose for their child?

I think most parents would choose happiness.

We have all heard stories of people whose lives were ruined by money. The love of money is even called “the root of all evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10)

In spite of this, many people get obsessed with the idea of gaining more money, as if their happiness depended on it.  People with that kind of attitude think that a windfall of money is proof of the existence of God. The opposite side of this, obviously, is that a lack of money would be evidence that God does not exist, or does not care.

The reality is that money is not high on the list of God’s priorities. Of course God wants to give good gifts to His children. Our happiness is a high priority in the divine plan. The angels have an abundance of good and beautiful things. Having wealth in this material world is not a bad thing, unless it is at the expense of things of higher value. If, for example, a person acted contrary to conscience and integrity in order to gain money the money would be a curse, not a blessing since the cost of gaining it was so high.

God wants to bestow blessings on us. The test of whether riches and the finer things of life are blessings or not lies not in their inherent value, but in what they do for our eternal spiritual welfare. If a person ends up among the blessed in heaven, then whatever income he or she enjoyed on earth, was somehow right and good. If a person ends up in the other place, those external things may have been curses.

There is an old saying: “Redeem and lift.” It means that for some people finding redemption means also finding a better standard of living. This is not always the case. But you would expect that people who are living a more spiritual life, would also pay more attention to living with integrity in their work and in their relationships. It would follow that they would become more desirable employees (unless they have a spiritual objection to the work they are doing or the morality of the firm for which they work – in which case they would probably seek employment elsewhere). A spiritual person is more likely to pay attention to living a good and healthy life than one who is not very spiritual.

Divine providence has very clear priorities. The number one concern is the eternal happiness of people. External things like wealth, fame, status and possessions, are of much less interest.

We can align our priorities in the same way. We can pay the most attention to the wealth of the spirit. We can acquire good habits, and strong virtues. We can seek the kingdom of God. If we do so, as Jesus indicated, all these other things will be added to us (Matthew 6:33). And then, because these external things are in their place, they are more likely to benefit us.

—Rev. Frank Rose, Former Pastor of Sunrise Chapel, Tucson, AZ