In today’s passage, God is sharing a parable through the prophet Ezekiel. In the parable, an eagle carries a branch into a new land. The branch thrives under the eagle’s care. But then another eagle comes and the branch starts to reach toward it. Ezekiel, then, asks this question: “Will it thrive?”

We often look at our lives and measure it by worldly standards. We think having money or being popular shows that we are favored by God. It is a kind of blasphemy to assume that financial success and the approval of others are fruit of our spiritual lives. Like the branch in this story, we reach toward whatever brings us worldly success. Whatever makes us rich in the eyes of man.

Sitting in seats of power, pride, and comfort, we either think we do not need God or that we are in such good standing with Him (how else would we have gotten all this stuff?) that we can put it on cruise control and assume our “success” will continue.

This parable asks the question, what does our wealth matter if it is not serving God? If it is not reaching toward Him? If we are not using it to serve others? What good is it? If the primary way we think about our wealth (and power, etc.) is how it validates us as a person and what appetites it can satisfy, is it really right to call it “riches”? It is more like a curse. An obstacle.

On the other hand, without changing anything about our circumstances or standing, we can use our wealth (and power, etc.) to love others. We can see it as a gift to steward rather than a trophy to mount.

Wealth and worldly success can be just as much of an obstacle in the kingdom of God as poverty and suffering. The question is: will you thrive with your success? Or will it be a poison that steals away your life?

“Say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Will it thrive? Will it not be uprooted and stripped of its fruit so that it withers? All its new growth will wither. It will not take a strong arm or many people to pull it up by the roots. It has been planted, but will it thrive? Will it not wither completely when the east wind strikes it—wither away in the plot where it grew?’”
– Ezekiel 17:9-10