Many Christians think that there is something deeply unspiritual about prosperity.
I have been to a church, where they always shied away from mentioning the P word (prosperity). Whenever the subject of God’s blessing or the subject of giving came up, they would say something like, “Of course, we don’t want to mention the P word“. That church was hardly unusual; many Christians think that there is something deeply unspiritual about prosperity. They view any preacher that talks about it with disdain. But what is God’s view on the whole prosperity thing? In my blog post “Poverty: Blessing or Curse” we saw that God does not want us to live in poverty. People who took a vow of poverty, did it with the intention of serving God in the best way that they could, and for that they should have our respect, but the truth is that they were deceived. Satan conned them into believing that God wanted them poor.
We wouldn’t want to miss out on what God has for us.
So if poverty is not really a means of being spiritual, could the bad name that prosperity has amongst a large part of the church, also be a deception of the devil? Could it be a big con trick to stop us experiencing the material blessings that God wants to pour out on, and through us? We wouldn’t want to miss out on what God has for us, so let’s see what He has to say to us in His Word. Here are some of the references to the word ‘prosperity’ in the Bible:
- “If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasures.” Job 36:11
- “Let the Lord be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.” Psalm 35:27
- “Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord: O Lord, I beseech thee, send now prosperity.” Psalm 118:25
- “It shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and an honour before all the nations of the earth, which shall hear all the good that I do unto them: and they shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I procure unto it.” Jeremiah 33:9
Don’t be a fool!
From these verses, we can clearly see that it is God’s will for us to prosper. Despite what you may have heard, there is such as thing as Biblical prosperity. There is, however, one verse that the doubters will point you towards (it’s funny how they can always find a verse to apparently disprove that God’s will is to do something good for us). That verse is Proverbs 1:32, “For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them“. The answer to this is simple though. It is not: don’t be prosperous, the answer is: don’t be a fool! (Maybe the naysayers are avoiding prosperity for a reason). But because this can be such a controversial subject, let’s see what else we can find out. If we are to learn how to prosper, we need to firmly establish that it is God’s will for us to prosper. So let’s take a look at some examples of prosperous people in the Bible, because we know that God does not change (Malachi 3:6) and we also know that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). So if it was God’s will for people to prosper in the Bible, it must also be His will for us to prosper today.
Abraham was very well off, to say the least.
We’ll start with Abraham, or Abram as he was originally called. Genesis 13:2 says, “Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold“. So it’s fair to say that Abraham was very well off, to say the least. We could look a lot more at Abraham, but for the sake of time and variety let’s move onto his son Isaac. Genesis 26:12 says, “Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the Lord blessed him“. A hundredfold return – that’s a pretty impressive harvest! So like his daddy, Isaac was doing pretty well! The next example is Joseph, Genesis 39:2 says, “The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man“. If you read the story of Joseph, you will see that he prospered wherever he was – study it for yourself. Next up is Solomon, Solomon was the richest man that ever lived, but how did he become rich? Did he ask for riches? No, Solomon asked for the wisdom to be able to carry out his role as king. So God gave Solomon the wisdom he asked for and in addition God said, “As a bonus, I’m giving you both the wealth and glory you didn’t ask for—there’s not a king anywhere who will come up to your mark” (1 Kings 3:13 The Message).
When you read verses in the Bible you need to be sure that you read them in context.
Let’s move now to the New Testament, because whilst there are plenty of examples of Biblical prosperity in the Old Testament, one of the things that often comes up is, “Well, God blessed the Jews with material blessings, but ours are spiritual blessings“. So we need to establish that Biblical prosperity is as much a New Testament thing, as it is an Old Testament thing. Otherwise the Old Testament examples can be relegated to that favourite category of, “But that was for the Jews“. When you read verses in the Bible you need to be sure that you read them in context, so that you get the correct meaning. With this in mind, let’s look at 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich“. People often say, “Oh, but that means spiritual riches“. But does it? Actually, if you read the preceding and following verses in chapter 8 you will see that Paul is talking about the giving of a financial offering. One of the things Jesus came for was to make us rich – I hope you didn’t choke on your coffee as you read that!
Keep your focus on God and not on the money.
It is true that the Bible carries many warnings about riches, but we should heed what the warnings say, not avoid riches at all costs. There is so much good that you can do with money and we should not be scared of having a lot of it. One of the top keys to correctly handling prosperity is found in Deuteronomy 8:18, “But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth“. In other words, keep your focus on God and not on the money. Keeping your focus on God will get you out of poverty, and continuing to keep your focus on God, will keep you from falling into the potential traps of having money.
The young ruler had fallen into one of the traps of having money.
Speaking of the potential traps of having money, let’s look at the account of the rich young ruler, found in Mark 10. This account is often presented as evidence that God wants us to be poor, “Well, Jesus told that man to give away everything he had“. The problem is, that is only half the picture. Firstly, Jesus realised that the young ruler had fallen into one of the traps of having money. This young man was religiously obeying the commandments, but his money had become a problem for him. The problem that Jesus recognised was that he had put his trust in money, rather than in God. So when Jesus told him to give it away, he couldn’t do it. But did Jesus want the young ruler to be poor for the rest of his life? That’s what many people would have you believe, however after this man had left Jesus, the disciples were discussing what had happened. Peter pointed out that they had left everything to follow Jesus, to which Jesus replied, “Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life“. Notice that I highlighted the words “houses” & “lands“. Jesus was saying that when you give things up for God, you will receive a hundredfold return. Now you may find that hard to believe, but its right there in the Bible – in the red letters of Jesus’ words (if your version has red letters). I also highlighted the phrase “now in this time“. Jesus wanted to make it clear, that He was not talking about the reward which we will receive in the sweet by and by – He was talking about NOW. You do not have to wait until you get to heaven in order to receive anything.
Why do they need such a big house?
I will conclude today by looking at what happened at the end of the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15. After the youngest son had been reunited with his father, and subsequently his father had organised a big celebration for his return, the older son was upset at the expense spent on his rebellious younger brother. Today many Christians have a similar attitude towards wealthy Christians, “Why do they need such a big house?“, “Why do they need another new car?“, “Why do they need to stay in that hotel?” etc. But look at the reply that the father (who represents God) gave to his son, “Son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours“. God is saying to you, “Son, daughter, I want the very best for you, everything I have is yours” – accept it by faith.
If you have any further questions or thoughts, please feel free to leave a comment.
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