Why Christians Don’t Prosper

balance

Why Christians Don’t Prosper. The balance to the Prosperity message.

          I have continually interacted with many different denominations and have been exposed to their various doctrines and traditions. After a few decades of this, something becomes glaringly obvious; No denomination has all the answers, not YOURS, and not MINE.
          To give you some background on myself, I am currently involved in the Pentecostal denomination but I have been involved with Four Square, Full Gospel, Baptist, Methodist and Word Of Faith. Denominational titles mean very little to me because they were all birthed out of disagreement on doctrine. I don’t call myself a “Pentecostal,” or any other church group moniker, but simply say that I am a friend to all who believe on Christ and serve Him.
          Before I was married I led bible studies and mens groups that had a diverse mix of denominations and beliefs and I was constantly challenged to examine what I believe and why I believe it. Sometimes it would serve to strengthen my belief, and sometimes I would be forced to change what I believe based on my new understanding of the Word of God. I think this is a healthy thing. I have come to love being around people who challenge my beliefs because it always points me back to the Word, and that is where all the answers are. I have said this many times, “If I am in a group of people who agree with every word I say, then I should probably find a new group.” Not that I am just naturally contrary, but I see the value of relationships that challenge me to be better, stronger, and clearer on what I believe. 

          For 30 years I have been taught that it is God’s will for you to prosper. Over that same period of time I have been challenged just as much that the “Prosperity Message” is a false doctrine, a wrong emphasis, even a doctrine of devils. Because of this, I have continued to revisit the scriptures concerning prosperity and have come to the conclusion that people who resist the doctrine that God wants His people to prosper are completely ignorant of God’s Word concerning the matter. On the flip side, most Christians that are gung-ho about prosperity are equally as ignorant. I see both groups spending entirely too much time defending their position and not enough time pursuing the truth. So I have decided to put my 2cents worth in and I welcome any comments or insights… as long as you have scripture to back it up. Your personal opinion is meaningless if not founded on the word.

          So, Here we go! The Bible is absolutely LOADED with promises concerning financial and material blessings. Before I prove this with the scripture, let me say this: I understand the bad taste people get in their mouth when they see abuse in this area. I also know that most Christians in the world never grow past being a spiritual toddler so they are very impressionable and easily influenced by others. They have swallowed the religious tradition and ignorant assumptions handed down by their leaders without question, without seeing what God has to say about the matter themselves. Furthermore, there is too much focus, from too many TV preachers on the topic of prosperity that are NOT teaching it the right way. Do yourself a favor, don’t take their word for it and don’t take my word for it, search the scriptures yourself.
So lets open this up with some “in your face” scripture about YOU being rich.

2 Corinthians 8:9 ~ For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.

          That’s right, RICH is a bible word. To understand this scripture you really need to read all of 2 Corinthians 8. Paul is talking about ministry and liberal giving. This is bible. One of the first principles of being prosperous is being a liberal giver. That disqualifies most Christians right there! Being a liberal, cheerful giver is the first step to enjoying biblical prosperity. If you don’t get this right, you will never have faith to receive the promises of material and financial blessings.
The words “rich” used in this verse have been explained away as meaning spiritual blessing only. They are two slightly different words in the Greek, but look at the definition of rich in the latter part of the verse. This pertains to YOU.
RICH ~ plouteō 1) to be rich, to have abundance. a) of outward possessions. 2) metaphorically, to be richly supplied. a) is affluent in resources so that he can give blessings of salvation to all.

          Notice the phrase, “is affluent in resources so that he can give blessings of salvation to all.” Does it take money to give salvation? In many cases, YES. It takes money to do ministry. Even Jesus had a treasurer. It took money to feed and equip His disciples, it took money for travel and lodging, paying taxes, etc. and it still takes money today.
          One of the greatest tragedies of our time is that ministers who have given their life to the call of God and the tending of His sheep live in poverty or struggle financially. In some cases it is the ministers fault for not embracing the gospel of prosperity, in others it is the church council, the deacon board, or the sheep in general for not thinking enough of the gift of God in their lives to insure that finances are never a concern for the minister.
At the same time, it irks me to see so many televised preachers teach a twisted “prosperity message.” To every truth there is a road and there are ditches on each side.

          The predominant message on prosperity has the tendency to get people in the ditch of either excess, selfishness, and abuse, or the ditch of ignorance and avoidance. People need to find the truth for themselves so that they can stay on the road, not letting spiritually blind leaders guide them into one ditch or the other.
On another note, I need to address the popular doctrine of:

“It is God’s will for EVERYONE to prosper financially.”

           Is this true? Yes, and no. Like any good Father, God wants only the richest and best for His kids. That being said, money may not always be the best thing for children, especially immature ones, (which make up the majority of the Body of Christ)
If you give a ten year old $1000. and told him/her to do whatever they want, spend it however they want, they would likely go crazy and buy a bunch of electronic devices, video games, useless toys, and enough junk food and candy to put them in a sugar coma. The money would not only be wasted, but none of these things are going to do anything to help them spiritually or give glory to God, and in truth, could actually hurt them.
          I have a relative that has been in and out of prison all his life. He’s never learned any responsibility, abused drugs, and has no respect for anyone. He only thinks of himself. The worst thing that could happen is for him to suddenly come into a large sum of money. He does not have the character or restraint to keep himself out of trouble and money would just give him more opportunities to screw up and self destruct. He believes that if he had money everything would change, but …

“Money doesn’t change your character, it only serves to magnify it and make it more evident.”

          Many Christians have this same mentality. They seek and pursue financial blessing far more than their own spiritual progress and live a life full of frustration and disappointment, always looking for blessings that never come. Look at a couple of verses and you will see God’s heart on this matter.

3 John 1:2 ~ Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

          This is not just a letter from the Apostle John to “the beloved Gaius”, But to ALL people, for ALL time.
          Prospering in your soul is important. The more prosperous you are in your soul is a reflection of how mature and developed you are spiritually. A maturing soul indicates a growing likeness to the character of God and an increase in spiritual maturity. Notice that John stated his desire for Gaius to prosper and be in health AS HIS SOUL PROSPERS. John said this by inspiration of the Holy Spirit and it indicates that there is an important connection between YOU prospering and being in health and the prosperity of your soul. Look at another verse that makes this clear.

Joshua 1:7-8 ~ 7Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

          In this passage we see that prosperity and success is dependant on keeping God’s Word in your mouth, meditating on it, and DOING IT. This is not just Old Testament Law, but a spiritual principle that we see throughout the bible and still applies to us today. This causes you to grow spiritually, prosper in your soul, and develop strong Godly character, and when you do this, God said THEN you will make your way prosperous, and THEN you will have good success. Why is it that so many believers that are hot on the prosperity message choose to ignore this?
          That being said, just because you are a Christian doesn’t mean you have good character. Just because God has an inheritance for you does not mean He will give it to you knowing it will hurt you. He is a better father than that. You may be thinking of the prodigal son mentioned in Luke 15, how he asked for his inheritance, the father gave it to him, and then he wasted it and brought himself to total ruin. What you need to realize is, the son was a grown young man not a child. He was mature enough to leave home on his own. This is a warning to mature Christians.
           I have three boys from the age of 12 to 18 years old. Everything I have, they will inherit. If my 12-year-old asked me for his portion of the inheritance now, should I give it to him and let him go and do as he pleases? I would be a terrible father if I did that. He has a lot to learn and a lot of maturing to do yet. I have to believe that God is at least as responsible as I am.

           This raises another issue that most Christians are completely confused on. Spiritual maturity and just how mature people THINK they are. I will just say this point-blank; If you have been a Christian for only a few years, say, less than ten, regardless of your commitment and how much you have learned, you are not a mature Christian. On the other hand, if you have been a Christian for 60 years, that does not mean that you are mature spiritually. Spiritual growth does not happen automatically.
          The point is, just because you have grown some spiritually and prospered in your soul a little doesn’t mean that you can handle the responsibility that comes with money. Regardless of that, the promise of prosperity is STILL yours.
          Another twisted belief we see prevalent in the Church is that IF someone is blessed financially, they are mature and understand biblical principles concerning prosperity. This is a huge problem in the church for many reasons.

          One mistake I see Pastors make continually is putting a person in a position of authority based solely on the fact that they are prosperous, and are big givers to the ministry. Pastors feel that because of big financial support, a person should have some influence and a voice about the workings of the ministry. Or they allow them a title and position to insure their continued financial support. You will find that NO WHERE in the Bible. This is a recipe for disaster, and more Church splits and other hardships have come from this mistake than any I can think of.
          Rarely will you see prosperity come all at once. When it does, it is usually followed by destruction. Just look at most of the young entertainers in our culture.

“Prosperity is a journey that is travelled in the vehicle of faith, navigated by wisdom, and fueled by love for God and His people.”

           The purpose of the journey is not prosperity in itself, but to ever be maturing into Christ-likeness. All of the experiences, the ups and downs, good and bad times, the rich relationships, the successes and failures, are all tools to help shape and define the character of God that is just aching to rise to the surface and show up in our life.
It is the life of the Spirit in Christ, and adherence and commitment to God’s word in all these circumstances that prospers our souls and insures our prosperity.

2 Corinthians 1:20 ~ For all the promises of God IN HIM (in Christ) are yea, and IN HIM Amen, unto the glory of God by us.

“If your focus is prosperity and not the journey of living the Spirit filled life in Christ…you may never arrive at your destination.”

            In a nutshell, I think this is a balanced understanding of the prosperity message as God intended it, and I will leave you with this one thought that will help put it in perspective;

“If your primary focus as a Christian is health and wealth for yourself, you have reduced the gospel to a self serving, powerless theology that brings a reproach on Christ.”

           That being said; Here are some rich promises from God’s word to show you what God thinks of prosperity.

Psalm 84:11 ~ For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.
Hebrews 11:6 ~ But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
Proverbs 3:8-10 ~ 8 It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones. 9 Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase: 10 So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.
Deuteronomy 8:18 ~ But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.
Luke 6:38 ~ Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
Psalm 35:27 ~ Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause: yea, let them say continually, Let the LORD be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.
Proverbs 22:4 ~ By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honour, and life.
2 Corinthians 8:9 ~ For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.
Matthew 19:29 ~ And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.
JC

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