What Is Prosperity?
There are particular verses in the bible that seem to get thrown around more frequently than others. One of those that I hear frequently is Jeremiah 29:11.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” (NIV)
Particularly in today’s society, we hear a whole lot about this thing called “Prosperity Gospel” or “Prosperity Doctrine” or whatever other term you might choose to put with it. Basically, though, it’s the belief in material prosperity for those who believe in God.
It’s not the only verse that people preaching the Prosperity Doctrine refer to, not by a long shot. The bible is full of verses that speak about the blessing of God.
But is it really what God’s talking about when he talks about his blessing?
In Isaiah 55:8-9, God tells us:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
There are also two key verses from the words of Jesus, that I’d like to bring up.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. – Matthew 6:19-20
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” – Matthew 19:23-24
Have you ever wondered what money is to God?
For every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine.
We’re talking about the Almighty God here, the creator of everything that we actually can see around us. Money means nothing to God – and therefore, I can’t help wondering, when he’s talking about blessing us abundantly, he’s got greater things in mind than money.
Malachi 3:10 is another verse that’s heavily used in preaching messages of Prosperity. I’ve heard it over and over and over again. God says in this verse:
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”
I’ve heard this preached in such a way that almost makes it seem like a great big door opens, and money magically flows out of it. Of course, that’s imagery, but it’s not necessarily a completely inaccurate description of the picture people are trying to paint. In giving, then money will come back to you in greater measures than you released it.
And this is true – I am in no means saying that God’s blessing does not include the provision of material things. Unfortunately it’s a fact of our existence that we do need money to live, we need material items to survive, we need food and water to sustain ourselves.
But having too much materialism begins to remove us from God. God’s blessing doesn’t take away the reality of Jesus’ words, that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus also said, in Matthew 6:24:
“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
Perhaps some people might claim that money doesn’t rule them, that money is their servant, rather than the other way around.
The problem is that it doesn’t work like that. We’re material beings. We live in a physical, material world.
God’s blessing, though – and more importantly, God’s prosperity – is so much more than anything we can dream of in this physical and material world! When God tells us that he wants to prosper us, he’s talking about prosperity in a manner that we cannot even imagine. God’s ways are higher than our ways, his thoughts, higher than our thoughts – and his prosperity goes far beyond what we would imagine.
God certainly doesn’t want us to struggle in this life, however if these claims of Prosperity Doctrine are correct, then it takes away an aspect of reliance on God. Money may be amoral, it has no moral value in and of itself, but the love of money can very easily, and very quickly distract and interfere with the love of God.
And that, perhaps, is the real issue. Prosperity Doctrine encourages the love of money, it encourages a hunger for money – and in essence, that’s encouraging greed.
As Christians, we are called to live Christ-like lives. Jesus didn’t live a life of opulence or glamour, and if he were to be walking among us today, I would be willing to guarantee that he would not be flying around in his own private jet, or driving a Bentley. He might have a car, but I think it’s more likely he would be driving a twenty year old Ford Laser, than a current model BMW.
Jesus didn’t enter Jerusalem on a mighty steed, he entered on a donkey. Jesus lived a life where he was provided for, but not to the point where it could have distracted from God, and God’s plan for his life.
If Jesus lived without opulence or riches, what makes us so much better that we should?