Let’s get one thing established from the beginning: there is actually no such thing as the prosperity gospel. There is only one true gospel, and any other teaching that claims to be the gospel, but which does not agree with the Biblical description of the gospel, is at best only a partial picture, and at worst a deception. Take a look at James 5:1-5 (Common English Bible):
“Pay attention, you wealthy people! Weep and moan over the miseries coming upon you. Your riches have rotted. Moths have destroyed your clothes. Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you. It will eat your flesh like fire. Consider the treasure you have hoarded in the last days. Listen! Hear the cries of the wages of your field hands. These are the wages you stole from those who harvested your fields. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of heavenly forces. You have lived a self-satisfying life on this earth, a life of luxury. You have stuffed your hearts in preparation for the day of slaughter”.
Not all Christians who have money paint a good picture.
That pretty much sums up the view, that the portion of the church that does not believe in prosperity, has of the portion of the church that does believe in prosperity. It is a view that says, “This whole prosperity thing is about selfishness, why do they need all of those riches”. It is certainly true that not all Christians who have money, paint a good picture (but then the same could be said for many Christians who don’t have money). It is also true that the secular media, and parts of the Christian media, are very good at twisting stories to portray people in a bad light. For example you may have heard the story about a previous Pope visiting New York, where he was asked what he thought of the nightclubs in the city. To which the Pope asked sarcastically, “Are there nightclubs in New York?” The next morning the newspapers had banner headlines quoting the Pope’s first question on arrival in NYC: “Are there nightclubs in New York?”
I am not interested in giving you my own opinion, I am only interested in relaying to you what God has already said.
So what is the truth? Why would God want Christians to be rich? For what purpose? As always in this blog we will be looking for answers in the Bible, because it is the only 100% reliable source – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. I am not interested in giving you my own opinion, I am only interested in relaying to you what God has already said. So firstly, what exactly is the gospel? Well, you probably know that the word “gospel” means “good news”. But good news about what? Let’s find out!
The gospel was preached to Abraham.
Galatians 3:8 tells us that the scripture preached the gospel to Abraham. Now, you may be thinking, “Abraham? But he was in the Old Testament, isn’t the gospel about the new birth?” and, yes you’re right, the new birth is certainly a part of the gospel. However the gospel is not limited to the new birth. The gospel was indeed preached to Abraham, despite the fact that he lived thousands of years before Jesus. So what exactly was the gospel that was preached to Abraham? Let’s read Galatians 3:8: “The scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed”.
Who are ‘the righteous’?
There we have a concise, Biblical definition of the gospel. Namely that through Abraham all nations would be blessed. Based on this, it would seem to make sense for us to find out how Abraham himself was blessed. Genesis 24:1 tells us that, “The Lord had blessed Abraham in all things”. Which seems to be cover, well, all things. In fact, if you have read the story of Abraham, you will know that he was most certainly rich, very rich in fact. But knowing that Abraham was rich is not enough to convince people that they should be rich. So let’s look at why God would want us to be wealthy. Proverbs 13:22 tells us that, “The wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous”. The question must then be, “Who are ‘the righteous’?” The short answer is that it’s us – 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (Jesus)”.
Be extravagantly generous.
Based on that verse alone, it is clear that God does want us – the righteous – to be wealthy. But we have still not established why. Now I could tell you that it is because God loves us, and that is certainly true. However, I want to show you another reason. In 1 Timothy 6:18, Paul gives Timothy instructions to pass on to the rich people in Timothy’s church. Paul says to tell them, “to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous” (The Message). That, in a nutshell, is the reason why it is God’s desire for us to be wealthy. Because when we are in a position to be “extravagantly generous”, we can not only do immense good with our money, but we also demonstrate the heart of God – who is Himself, extravagantly generous. The God who says, “Help yourself, there’s plenty more where that came from!“
My title for this post is “The Selfishness of The Prosperity Gospel” – because as I said, that is the view that many in the Church have of anyone who teaches prosperity. But in reality there is nothing selfish about desiring to be prosperous, according to the Biblical model of prosperity – “freely you have received, freely give“. On the contrary however, it is the height of selfishness to seek for only your own needs to be met, when there is a world out there with needs desperately waiting to be met.
If you have any further questions or thoughts, please feel free to leave a comment.
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