Prosperity is not a four letter word and not just because it has ten letters. It’s because the Bible is positive about prosperity. We may think it’s one of the great evils to our faith but upon a closer, unbiased look, we will see prosperity is not to be feared or faked or worshiped. It’s an outcome of the blessing of God.
Let’s take a brief tour:
- Genesis 1 – God blessed Adam and Eve. This has always been His will and desired outcome for His people who revere Him and walk with Him. That has never changed.
- Psalm 1 – The daily, bible meditating, godly man or woman of Psalm 1 is flourishing (to flourish is a good definition of prosper). Whatever he does prospers.
- Joshua 1 – The promise to Joshua is if he meditates on and carefully does the Book of the Law…then you will be prosperous and successful.
- Psalm 35 – The Lord delights in the well-being (prosperity) of His servants
- Psalm 112 – To the man who fears God and keeps His commands it says his children are blessed AND wealth and riches are in his house AND he’s generous and compassionate.
- Proverbs 3 – Keep God’s commands in your heart and they will prolong your life and bring you prosperity
- Proverbs 3 – To the man who finds wisdom – long life is in her (wisdom’s) right hand, in her left hand are riches and honor.
- Proverbs 8 – Again, to the man who finds wisdom, prudence, understanding and knowledge – it yields riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity
- Proverbs 8 – Wisdom is better than gold and silver – true, none the less this biblical wisdom also bestows wealth on those who love her, making their bank accounts full.
- Proverbs 10 – The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, and He adds no trouble (sorrow, hard labor) to it.
- Proverbs 22 – Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth, honor, and life.
Well you say, those are all Old Testament scriptures and we live under a New Covenant in Christ. Ok, let me ask you a few questions. Do you think the blessing, prosperity, and success promised the people of God in the Old Testament is diminished or diluted or disqualified in any way by Christ’s new covenant and greater promises? Do you think the God of the Old Testament patriarchs (pretty much all very well off) is any less committed or intentional to do us good to us in the new covenant era- even in the financial realm? Has God’s intentional, fatherly nature to bless and prosper His people diminished or been withdrawn in the Christian era? I don’t think so.
I understand there are warnings and cautions from Jesus and the New Testament writers concerning riches, but do you realize those cautions came from Jesus to a Jewish audience (His disciples) who grew up in a culture expecting blessing, success and prosperity as an evidence of the covenant blessing of God. Jesus may have issued some cautions because of the high expectations and culture of “we’re the blessed people of God.” Do you see there was context to the warnings?
Jesus did give firm instructions like wealth was not to be laid up for yourselves, and it was not to be your focus. But again on the positive side, wealth was to be used “to make friends for yourselves.” Meaning – use your wealth to build the kingdom and share the gospel benefits with folks who will welcome you into heaven. Didn’t Jesus also introduce his ministry in Luke 4 by saying He was anointed to “bring good news to the poor.” Is He not giving hope to the poor as He introduces them to a Savior, and to Wisdom, and to Principles that will alter their financial destinies.
In his book “Ruling in the Gates,” Joseph Mattera highlights the fact that we American Christians are so worried about a “social gospel” and the notorious “prosperity gospel,” when ironically, and maybe even hypocritically, we do so while we give God thanks for our suburban, 4 bedroom, 2 or 3 bathroom, 2 or 3 car garage homes and our children attend expensive colleges. We bless God for whatever level of prosperity we experience – amen to that – while at the same time lamenting or ridiculing any emphasis by other believers to expect and pursue prosperity. Have you heard the saying “don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”
You see friend, the economic reality is that wealth needs to be created in order to bless and be a blessing to others. Western, christian, capitalist culture is based on these free market motivations towards life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness through property ownership and a system which reflects the ability to reap what we sow economically. Our good news gospel is not just a spiritual ticket to heaven, but a life changing encounter with a God who blesses us in order to be a blessing to others – in every facet and realm, including wealth creation.
A good segment of the church needs to be unshackled from negative prosperity perspectives and then unleashed to fulfill their God-given potential in the marketplace. I think you believers who are worried about prosperity excesses, although not without some merit, may be pleasantly surprised at the faith, courage and skill it requires to prosper, and then how those traits can overflow to create a more dynamic Christ follower.
The believers I pastor’d for 33 years were predominately faithful, God-fearing, and generous folks. If we hadn’t been so fearful of worldliness, wealth and prosperity, I believe we could have had an even greater impact on our families and culture in general.