The Prosperity Principle.
(3Jn 1:2 LITV) Beloved, in regard to all things, I pray for you to prosper and to be in health, as your soul prospers.
It has become the mother’s milk of the 21st century church. The undeniable fact is: God wants His people to prosper. After years of toiling through the valley of deficiency and lack and the doctrinal belief that it was a sign of humility to be materially poor, the church awoke to the concept that it was acceptable to have money; to own houses and businesses; to venture into the financial market and yes to even become millionaires. The discovery of this fact gave the necessary freedom to many believers to pursue goals and dreams that before where not permitted by the archaic beliefs of Christendom. Gradually, ministries began to embrace the so-called “name it and claim it” or “faith and prosperity” teaching which evolved into the Word of Faith Movement. Scores of books, workshops, conferences and conventions have followed; all aimed at teaching the “laws of prosperity,” “seed faith,” “wealth transfer,” ect.. Today there is a general consensus among believer that acquiring material wealth is one of the privileges of son-ship and the right of every believer. As a matter of fact, if you are not experiencing this kind of prosperity and financial increase, then you are considered by most to be “living beneath your privilege.” We now measure success, favor and even spirituality by the abundant size of your bank account, the kind of car you drive, the size of your church, the brand of jet you own or the name of your tailor. It is this evolution that I want to address in this chapter.
While I do believe it is the will of God for all of his people to have increase and to prosper, the meaning of these words and even this fundamental truth has been distorted and used to inflict harm on the body of Christ. It is akin to straining at a gnat and swallowing a camel. As a result beliers have been turned to themselves and their on desires. The “gospel of prosperity” has become the gospel of wantonness, covetousness and greed and the respect for God as sovereign and holy has been replaced with a view of God as a spiritual Santa with a sleigh of goodies for his good little children. The words prosperity, increase, wealth, riches and blessings are now synonymous with money or material things. The scriptures are littered with these words as well as references to them which have been narrowly interpreted to fit the confines of a doctrine that has evolved into heresy. That’s right I said it: Heresy. Is it wrong for believers to have money or material wealth; absolutely not. However, material wealth should be a possible result and not the goal of a life in Christ.
Let’s examine a couple of the above mentioned words and their full meaning in context. The words “prosperity or prosper” are found in scripture 17 and 48 times respectively. The word prosperity and prosper, only found once in the New Testament, has 7 variations; Shalom and Shalev being the most common. The uses given all concern security, peace, welfare, well-being and happiness as it relates to the people of God. One of the often used verses recently is Ps. 118:25 which says “Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity. “ The Hebrew word used here for prosperity(3rd most used) is צלח (tsâlach) which literally means “to push forward or to break out” The literal translation of the verse is “O Jehovah, I beseech You, save now; I beseech You, O Jehovah, cause us to prosper (push forward or break out) now.” In this context, this is clearly a prayer for God to help us to live freely and joyfully each day. Transversely. it has been misinterpreted by many as “putting a demand on God to give you money right now.” Consequently, we have a host of believers pulling an imaginary lever and declaring “money cometh to me now!” Again; I am not against believers having money but itshould never be the focus. We should “seek first” the Kingdom God and as a result of our apprehension of the Kingdom then these “other things” will be added. The New Testament word translated prosper is found in 3rd Jn. 1:12 is εὐοδόω (euodoō / pronounced “yoo-od-o'-o”) literally means “to help on the road or to succeed in reaching,” and was intended as well wishes from the Apostle to Gaius to whom he addressed the letter and that he would succeed in reaching his goals. It is clear from a full reading of the book that his goal was not material wealth but to continue to walk in truth and hold the standards of holiness and respect for spiritual authority. So, how did this simple truth become the credit card of Christians everywhere? It was a natural progression of a people fixated on what God could do for them instead of what they could do for God.
Simply put, God defines success and prosperity as a life lived in pursuit of Him and fulfilling its purpose in the earth. Not every Christian will have millions or even drive the most expensive cars, however every Christian can have wealth and riches that are found in a life lived in service to God. What are we to say of such great men and women of God who served the Lord and yet lived a modest lifestyle? Did they some how fall short of the promise of God because they were not materially wealthy? Or could it be that the assignment given to them by God was more important to them than storing up treasures on earth; that they sought a reward in heaven which is eternal? At the risk of being repetitive let me say again I DON’T BELIEVE IT IS WRONG TO HAVE MONEY, but that money is not a substitute nor is it an indication of a healthy relationship with God. The truth is, with or with out a relationship with God you can have money or material wealth. There are more examples of that fact around us than I have space to mention in this chapter. So money is NOT an indication of God’s favor. Let’s examine the journey of Joseph. In Genesis 39:2 the bible refers to Joseph as being “a prosperous man” while he served as a slave in the house of Potiphar. Clearly he had no money or earthly possessions yet God calls him prosperous. The same is said of Joseph while he is in prison. The Bible says God gave him Favor with the head of the guards who in turn placed Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners. The chapter concludes by saying “…the Lord was with him and that which he did, the Lord made it to proper.” (tsâlach=to push forward or be profitable) However, Joseph was still a prisoner and broke! Therefore, prosperity or to prosper does not require money. Money may come as a result of your purpose in the Kingdom but it is not an indication of being blessed by God nor is it a requisite acquisition for a prosperous life.
An examination of other terms such as riches, wealth and increase explicate these words more often refer to the spiritual then the material. While money has a purpose in the Kingdom of God; it is not the focal point of the Christian message or the work of the church. Jesus illustrates this when he tell of a man whose land produced so much that he had to tare down his barns and build bigger ones to accommodate all his wealth. After doing so he felt he has accomplished all he needed to in life. He would be considered by today’s standard a successful man and in today’s church a shinning example of prosperity. However, Jesus calls him a fool! The man is told he is about to die and all that he has acquired and treasured will be left for others to enjoy. Jesus concludes the story with this profound observation; “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God” (bold mine). The key words in this statement are “for himself’.” The issue was not the wealth he had but the fact that it had no purpose. The man’s focus was on his on personal satisfaction and happiness and not the Kingdom.
Jesus continues His teaching by telling the disciples not to focus their attention on acquiring wealth or even their basic necessities. He uses His care for the birds and flowers as examples of His faithfulness and asks the pointed question “…how much more are ye better than the fowls?” In other word He asks; don’t you think you mean more to me than birds and flowers? If I am faithful about taking care of them, then why are you so focused on your needs? Further he asks “which of you, with taking thought, can add to his stature one cubit?” The literal translation of this verse says “and who of you, being anxious, is able to add to his age one cubit.” So, being obsessed with increase and/ or money or material things will not add to your life.
Clearly, Jesus did not view material wealth with the same concentration of importance as has been ascribed to it by the church today. Luke 12:31 is the lynch pin of the discourse; Jesus says “seek ye FIRST (cps and bld mine) the Kingdom of God, and all these things (what you shall eat, what you shall wear, where you will live) shall be added unto you.” The priority is on seeking the Kingdom of God; which is not “meat or drink” or material wealth. God’s desire is for His people to focus on the work of the church, the preaching of the Gospel, making disciples and the work of the Kingdom.
So how did we get where we are today. Today, the concentration has shifted to being rich and having money or driving a nice care or living in a big house. We exist in the era of the “celebrity preacher” and gospel “entertainment.” Now those who are suppose to be servants demand to be served and admired; more importantly, PAID. I know the laborer is worthy of his hire and we are not to muzzle the ox that treads out the corn, but something is wrong when the servant takes the whole field of corn and leaves the people to starve. Something is amiss, when the contractual obligations to have someone preach or “minister in song” rivals those in the secular entertainment field. I am not advocating that ministers not be taken care of because it is the righteous responsibility of the church to care for the ministers. However, demanding 10, 15, 20 thousand dollars to preach or sing is excessive and repugnant! It has created a culture of greed and wantonness in Christendom; where so-called ministries cherry pick their engagements based on who can meet their demands. We no longer go into the hedges and highways unless they are gold plaited and we can get there on our privet plane. Here we go again…I AM NOT AGAINST CHRISTAINS HAVING MONEY! However I am very much against money having Christians! What we call favor is really the same kind of “old boys club” networking practiced in the world. I even had a so-called Bishop who wanted me to be one of his “sons” of his ministry say “…it’s not what you know its who you’re connected to…” Sadly, in the growing culture of voracity and lust in Christian society today, his words ring true. Today, if you dress the part, fine tune your delivery and style to fit the norms and run in the “right circles” you can be a successful Christian celebrity, even if you don’t really have a word from God or the anointing. Ok that’s another book….
Looking further at Luke 12 in verses 32 -34 Jesus gives the purpose of material wealth. He says, “Fear not little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell that you have and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief appoacheth neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” This is not a complex statement. Simply put, Christians are to use the God- given wealth or possessions they are given stewardship over to assist the less fortunate and sow into the lives of those in need. We do so because our hearts are tied to the heart of God and the things we treasure the most are not tangible; but await us in heaven because they are eternal.
How did things get so distorted? Today, we are told through messages and songs that it’s all about us. That you serve the kingdom when you drive a Bently or live in a mansion. That it is God’s will for us to use wealth to gratify our greed; that being rich is a pictogram of God’s favor; that the purpose of faith is to pay our bills and buy us toys and other creature comforts. We have long prayer lines for financial breakthroughs, whole conferences about money and increase and ministries whose claim to fame is to teach you how to “get rich or die trying.”
Now if it’s about buying a product then that would be fine but this is suppose to be Kingdom ministry. Further, if I am paying these exorbitant prices for a product, then it should at the very least produce the advertised results. I want to see some blind eyes opened; some real miracles; some demons being cast out and whole communities transformed. I don’t want to be entertained or hyped; I don’t want to be told “there’s a move of God in here” just because people are dancing and falling out on the floor when someone smacks them on the head with a hand full of oil.
Its time for ministry that doesn’t point us to ourselves, feed into our narcissism or play on our emotions; but that does place a demand on us to go into all the world and preach the gospel; that focuses us on the true work of the Kingdom and challenges and provokes us to go and heal the sick, cast out devils, win the lost, be perfected and promote holiness. It is time for believers to understand true prosperity is a right relationship with God, doing His will and fulfilling their purpose in the earth. I think the Apostle Paul’s last testimony says it best; (2Ti 4:7 & 8 LITV) I have fought the good fight. I have finished the course. I have kept the faith. For the rest, the crown of righteousness is laid up for me, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me in that Day, and not only to me, but also to all the ones loving His appearance.