This morning, I consider the concept of “increase” in scripture. So many times, we pray that God would increase our wealth, fruitfulness, influence, families, or any other category. We want to increase! We think of influence and material resources more often than not. But as I look at the transformation of this verb increase throughout scripture, I find new ways to think and pray.
If you remember, God’s blessing in the beginning proclaimed that man would “be fruitful and increase in number.” We also see the blessing of God in Deuteronomy connected to an increase in wealth, herds, and harvest. Yet we also see, in the Psalms, the command that when wealth increases, that we “not set our heart on [it]” (Psalm 62:10) and not to be overawed with wealth (Psalm 49:16). As we keep reading the Psalms, we next observe another kind of increase from God: comfort and honor (Psalm 71:21). We might consider the “increase of wisdom” given to a wise king (Ecclesiastes 1:16), or the “increase in joy” granted in Isaiah 9:3. I also think about the beautiful “increase of power” in Isaiah 40:29.
In this brief journey through scripture, I’m beginning to disconnect increase from anything material at all. I rejoice that God increases honor, comfort, wisdom, power for our weakness, and our joy in the midst of difficulty. Yes, God, increase us in these ways!
In the New Testament we see the phenomenon of God’s warning about an “increase in wickedness” and an “increase of crowds.” I think about what’s always increasing alongside our cry for increase: temptation for wealth and fame. No wonder the disciples desperately cry out, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5). What a great prayer to cry: Increase our faith! More than wealth or fame, increase our faith!
In Romans, we learn of Paul’s goal to increase His glory and allow an increase of His glorious grace (Romans 3 and 5). Suddenly, nobody’s talking about wealth, herds, and a harvest of food; instead, we see a promise that God will “enlarge the harvest of [our] righteousness” (2 Corinthians 9:10). Instead of more people and money, we see a prayer that our “love would increase and overflow for each other” (1 Thessalonians 3:12).
I pray for an increase in faith, and increase of God’s glory and grace, an increase in a harvest of righteousness, and an increase in love.
When I’m tempted to always pray for an increase in material resources (or any kind of increase that’s coming to your mind) I remember the spiritual resources that God knows our hearts need most: His glory, His grace, His righteousness, the gift of faith, and His love flowing through us to the whole world.
That’s the kind of increase we need.