Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalms 37:4 (NIV)
This is a beautiful promise. Sadly, though, we may read it the wrong way. Our culture has adopted the view that stuff is the best measure of success. For many of us, this verse is the spiritual equivalent of the bumper sticker: He who dies with the most toys wins.
I have fallen into that trap on occasion. Maybe you have too. The idea has been given the name “prosperity gospel” and there are a group of people within the church who have turned the idea into one of their central message. Where our culture promotes the view that stuff is the measure of success, these folks have taken the position that stuff is the measure of faithfulness. If you want a big house and new car and you don’t have one, the problem is you are not faithful enough. After all, if God owns the cattle on a thousand hills, surely, he could free up a little of his capital and throw a fortune your way if only you were one of his true followers. When the folks who preach the prosperity gospel use this verse, they rephrase it just a little: Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you everything your heart desires. You picture the words on a poster, written in calligraphy, under a pile of stuff.
The prosperity gospel interpretation of this verse bothered me for a long time. It wasn’t consistent with how I understood the Bible and how I had seen God work. But, my explanation of the verse was always long and complicated. Then, one day, I ran across a simple way to explain it: the verse doesn’t promise stuff, it promises desires. The verse says, if you delight yourself in the Lord, He will give you your deepest desires. Or, if I delight myself in the Lord, he will lead me to desire for myself that which he desires for me.
That understanding of the promise was helpful because I know what God desires for me. I talked about this last week. God wants me to love him with all my heart, soul and mind and to love my neighbor as myself. So, if I reconstruct this verse with that background, the promise is, if I take delight in the Lord, he will give me a desire to love him and love my neighbor.
Take time this week to read and pray about this verse. Ask God to lead you to desire those things for yourself that he desires for you.