When Balaam stubbornly refused to curse the people of God, Balak was furious. He was prepared to pay Balaam big money — and judging from the number of meetings Balaam took with Balak, Balaam was more than willing to accommodate him. But, as Balaam told Balak, that’s not the way inspiration works — “Did I not tell your messengers whom you had sent to me, saying, ‘Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything contrary to the command of the LORD, either good or bad, of my own accord. What the LORD speaks, that I will speak’?” (Numbers 24:12-13).
Balak chose to look at it from a purely carnal standpoint. He told Balaam in Numbers 24:11, “The LORD has kept you back from honor.” And he was right, after a fashion. If you define “honor” as money and the acclaim of kings (or at least one king), then definitely God had kept Balaam from going in the direction of honor. And given that Balaam died in the slaughter of the Midianites (Numbers 31:8), the ones he presumably convinced Balak to send to corrupt Israel, Balaam was personally inclined to go in Balak’s way. It just could not be done within the confines of submission to the Spirit of God.
Not much has changed over the millennia. The mechanisms by which God sends us His Spirit has changed — today we listen to “the perfect” instead of “the partial” (1 Corinthians 13:10), “perfect” referring to the complete revelation of the gospel given through Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2) and delivered through the apostles (2 Peter 1:19-21). But it is still God’s inspired message. And when we submit to it, sometimes we miss out on the blessings the world has to offer. And sometimes, to be frank, we resent God for it — and like Balaam, we may try to find a “workaround” so we can have our cake and eat it, too.
But we have God’s word on the matter of honor; as He told Eli in regard to his willful and carnal sons, “for those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me will be lightly esteemed” (1 Samuel 2:31). We have God’s assurance that He will see and reward our efforts in His cause. But God’s idea of honor is different from Balak’s — and the world’s. We have to decide which one appeals the most to us.
The humble, godly soul will be accept what God offers and count himself privileged to have a part in His plan. If it involves missing out on some earthly treasure, well, that was not what he was really after in the first place — and its absence may actually help him keep his eyes on the true prize (Matthew 6:19-21). If, however, he goes the way of Balaam and covets the things he believes God is denying him, he can set himself up for a world of spiritual hurt.
Money is the obvious worldly allure. It is, after all, “a root of all kinds of evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). But for someone differently motivated, it could be fame, appreciation, relationships, physical appearance, or one of a host of other “honors” the world offers. It is very easy for a Christian to scorn those who chase after such things openly, and then secretly resent God that He withholds them from His own. Our time and energies are spent far better in praising Him for what He has given us, rather than sulking in the corner over the rest.
Think about that when you find yourself envying the short-term benefits of sin (Psalm 37:1-4). God knows what you truly need, and He is giving it to you in abundance.