Saturday, December 7, 2019


Within the church universal, there is a rather predominant conflict between those who preach a prosperity gospel, and those who call that teaching absolute heresy. The thing is they both make compelling arguments. Still, I think they are both missing the mark with this issue. What we really need to look at is what scripture reveals about prosperity. If we don’t do that, our definition runs the risk of being worldly, instead of spiritual. Let’s face it, if one simply follows their longings and emotions, our perception of prosperity will likely revolve around things like comfort, ease, convenience, fame, or fortune. How does that compare to spiritual prosperity though? One could write a whole book on this subject, but let me highlight but a few key points.

Let's start with the concept of ease. Name a single person in the Bible who had an easy time of it? You can't do it, because not even Jesus himself had it easy. So why do believers assume that they are entitled to an easy life. For example, I once saw a video online of a dramatic car crash. It was posted by the driver, and the description said God must have been with him to have survived such a horror. Yet, a commenter posed the question, if God were really there, why didn't he just prevent the crash entirely. A common perception of those who look only at the surface. Yet, how would you have even known God had done anything that way? God isn't as visible during calm waters, yet the hand of God is often most visible as we overcome the storm that dwarfs us. (Exodus 7:1-6)

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. -Romans 8:28

An often quoted verse that seemingly points to a warm and fuzzy prosperity that people want. Yet if we consider the broader context, that idea falls apart. This one verse is referring to a future glory, yet the entire passage reveals that we will have to suffer through labor pains to obtain that good. I challenge you to look it up for yourself, so you can stop taking it out of context.

My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. -James 1:2-4

This builds upon the last verse, which reveals that God wants his children to grow and mature. Which happens in times of trial, not comfort.

Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. -1 Kings 19:3-8

We see God comforting Elijah in this verse, but notice it comes in the midst of the trial, not as a replacement for the trial.

Two things I ask of you; do not deny them to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that I need, or I shall be full, and deny you, and say, “Who is the Lord?” or I shall be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my God. -Proverbs 30:7-9

People often have extremist notions about wealth. That it has to either be a defining characteristic of prosperity, or an absolute evil. This passage puts things into a balanced perspective. Money is indeed needed to survive in this world, so no need to take a vow of poverty. Yet, if we put all our hope in it, we can alienate ourselves from God.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength. -Philippians 4:11-13

Verse 11 is often quoted by itself, and not in context. One thing we often forget is that Paul wrote this from prison. 

There is indeed a prosperity gospel, but I hope you realize now that spiritual prosperity is about strength, faith, endurance, and contentment. Not a life inside a glass bubble free from trials and storms, as the world defines it.

a man deflecting lightning in a storm
click to enlarge