Thursday, February 19, 2009
The Real Deal on Prosperity
The fact is, these people can find only ONE verse that mentions "Prosperity" in the whole New Testament (-and it is of dubious help, as we shall see). And there are dozens and dozens of verses in opposition! But which one do they choose to quote again and again? Here it is in the King James version (-which is the only translation that helps them in any way): "I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." (3 John 2). Now, it is interesting to note what this word "prosper" really means in this verse. Renowned Greek scholar W.E. Vine says that it simply speaks of "the prosperity of physical and spiritual health." So it's not about MONEY at all!
And thus we find that in all the later translations, this meaning is made clear. For example, the NIV translation says: "I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well" (3 John 2). Isn't that interesting?
As I said, this is one of the ONLY VERSES that these Prosperity teachers quote in the entire New Testament. If they are honest, they will admit that most of the rest of the NT is squarely AGAINST THEM.
What I would encourage anyone to do, who wants to research this subject, is to get a Concordance and look up EVERY VERSE in the New Testament that contains these words: (1) Rich or Riches, (2) Money, (3) Poor, (4) Mammon (5) Possessions, (6) Treasure, (7) Sell or Sold, etc.
You will be absolutely amazed at how strong the NT Scriptures are on this subject. I did this exact search year ago, and was astonished at what I found.
When you look up the word 'Rich' you find Scriptures such as this: "Woe unto you that are rich! For you have received your consolation" (Lk 6:24) and "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 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" (Lk 18:24-25, NIV) and "People who want to GET RICH fall into temptation and a trap" (1 Tim 6:9) and "You rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you" (Ja 5:1). There are many more along similar lines. Go and look them up, and you will see!
We find that when Jesus was preaching kingdom principles he was very strong in this area. When the 'Rich young man' came to him, He told him: "SELL your possessions and give to the POOR, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (Mt 19:21, NIV). He also told his own disciples to "SELL your possessions and give to the POOR" (Lk 12:33).
In my recent article on "Tithing" we discussed the whole issue of 'Giving' in the New Testament. The fact is, there is no "law" telling Christians to give 10%. In fact, what the NT makes clear is that EVERYTHING we have literally belongs to God. Many people claim that "All I have is God's" but they do not act like it! In the New Testament it is clear that it was EXPECTED for Christians to sell any spare possessions, land or houses, to give to their needy brothers and sisters - especially widows and orphans. They certainly weren't giving their money to wealthy preachers on TV! And neither were they giving it to erect a new church building on the corner! (-Such things did not exist). They were giving from their HEART - and while some of it went to support the ministry, MOST of it clearly went to feed and clothe the POOR. (See Acts 2:44-45, Acts 4:34-37).
Some people today want to go back to the Old Testament and use people like Solomon and Abraham as examples of RICH people to emulate. But what they fail to realize is that the Old Testament is a 'type' or a "SHADOW" of the New. (Col 2:16, Heb 10:1). The Old was a "physical" covenant, with a "physical" temple and rituals, etc. The "blessings" of God were also mostly PHYSICAL and material. But today we have a "spiritual" covenant - a "heart-based" covenant, with mostly SPIRITUAL blessings. That is why we should not seek Old Testament wealth today. -We live under a different covenant.
It is very obvious from the New Testament that there is NO SUCH THING as a 'Prosperity' gospel. In fact, it is the exact OPPOSITE. Jesus said, "Blessed are you who are POOR, for yours is the kingdom of God" (Lk 6:20). And James declared: "Has not God chosen those who are POOR in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?" (Ja 2:5, NIV). Jesus clearly stated that you "CANNOT serve God and Mammon" (Mt 6:24) and yet it is obvious that many Christians today are trying to serve BOTH. The 'Prosperity' teaching clearly encourages this. It is a very dangerous and harmful fallacy.
The glaring hole in these false and perverted messages that tie your blessings and prosperity to how much money you give is that you have to give to the person delivering the message! They have set themselves up as God's trustee for your blessings and prosperity. I guess that means if you believe their message and choose to give your gift to some other work of God you won't receive the same blessings or be as prosperous.
The other glaring hole is what if you don't have anything to give? Does that mean you don't qualify for God's blessings? Does that mean you will never be prosperous? Does that mean you have no faith? I guess God doesn't love those who follow Jesus in India, or China, or Africa, or in most places on this planet where people have little if any material possessions. I guess that means a man or woman in Texas who loves Jesus and is serving Him each day but is living in a one-bedroom apartment and driving a 20-year-old car have no faith.
Here is the problem with these messages that are designed simply to raise money. They use some truth from God's Word but pervert that truth by tying it all to how much money you give. The Bible DOES teach us to have faith in all things, including our finances. The Bible DOES teach that God will bless us and prosper us as we are faithful, and that includes being faithful with our finances. The Bible also teaches us to be wise stewards of what God has entrusted to our care.
ALL we have is from God, He has simply given us stewardship over whatever resources we have during our brief journey through this life. GOD DOESN'T NEED OUR MONEY! We give to God as an act of worship. We give to God as an act of obedience. We give to give as an act of sacrifice. When you read the Bible, the giving of the tenth or "tithe" in the Old Testament was part of the Old Treatment Law. We are no longer under the Old Testament Law. 100%, not 10% of everything we have belongs to God. So when we give, we are simply giving back to God what is His already out of obedience and as an act of sacrifice and worship!
The Bible teaches us to give according to our ability to give. We are also taught to give cheerfully. Don't get so legalistic in your giving that you lose the joy of giving.
I counsel people all the time to sit down with God and decide how much you can give to His work each week. Agree with God and than be faithful to give that amount. As the Holy Sprit leads you, you may be led to give over and above that amount to those works of God He lays on your heart.
There will be times God challenges you to give sacrificially, as an act of faith. Again, God will prompt your heart on those occasions and those are the opportunities in life to really take a stand of faith and trust God. YOU DON'T MAKE THE SACRIFICE TO GIVE BY FAITH EXPECTING ANYTHING IN RETURN. YOU MAKE THE SACRIFICE TO GIVE BY FAITH TO SIMPLY BE OBEDIENT AND TO PLEASE GOD!