Dear friends and family,
The Holy Spirit has been showing me a lot lately about how materialism is so prevalent in our society that it has crept into the church and has altered many believers’ views on what Godly prosperity is really about. This is an important topic to understand because God judges our hearts and motivations. Our motivations in life and what we pursue is so important because it impacts what we do and how useful we are for godly Kingdom purposes. If you are striving for acquisition, promotion, and fortune, all of your decisions will be affected by this motivation, rather than the motivation to please God and bear HIS fruits.
First I will show many of the scriptures that people frequently misunderstand and misinterpret to be applied to the concept of Christian prosperity, in terms of financial gain.
Hebrews 11:6: And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
What is the reward? Many say it’s financial prosperity. But if you read the chapter around this verse, you will see the rewards are: overcoming and conquering adversity, obtaining righteousness and eternal life, and in the case of Abraham and Sarah, “as many descendants as the stars in heaven.” In fact, in this same chapter, the Lord speaks of how faith and obedience led some of the great men of God to WALK AWAY from the path that led to earthly riches. For example, Abraham “went out not knowing where he was going…living as an alien…dwelling in tents.” Moses walked away from his cushy position in the kingdom of Egypt because he chose “rather to endure ill treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater than the treasures of Egypt.”
Matthew 6:33: But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Many say or imply that “all these things” is prosperity, riches, and everything you want. In the context, Jesus was trying to tell people to stop thinking about acquiring things and to just trust God and His plan. Set your heart and mind on righteousness and Kingdom purposes. He said when you do this, your needs will be met. You don’t have to worry about it…needs like food, clothes, and shelter, not everything you covet. In this same chapter, Jesus says when you pray, say “give us this day our daily bread.” He also says: “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 neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV): “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 hope and a future.”
NIV is a newer version of the Bible. If you read other versions (I like to do this on Biblegateway.com), you will see the word prosper is not even in the verse. Additionally, once again, context is important. God is talking to Israelites in exile, who He allowed to go into captivity in Babylon for 70 years. He is telling them to stop listening to “prophets” who are telling the Israelites that God will free them in the immediate future, and reminded them that they will still be in captivity for the full 70 years. But in this specific verse, He is giving them hope that He will deliver them from that captivity after that time. He is speaking to a specific people at a specific place and time in history.
Psalms 37:4: “Delight yourself in the LORD; And He will give you the desires of your heart.”
Many interpret this to say, if you are a Christian, God will give you what you want. In reality, there is no real “if and then” statement here. If it was, you could say: I want to be a millionaire! I will become a Christian so God can do that for me. The verse doesn’t say God will give you the lusts of your heart, the things you covet, and the things your flesh desires. I believe what this is really saying is when you delight in the Lord, that means his principals of how to live life, how to love, how to bear fruits, and how to spend time in God’s presence and God’s Word are things you delight in. You strive to be Christ-like in your mind, heart, and actions. The more you strive for this, the more you are delighting yourself in the Lord. Then, the old fleshly desires you used to have are disappearing, because Jesus didn’t desire earthly riches, so the desires of your heart that God will give you don’t have anything to do with material gain. In this same chapter, David says not to be jealous of people who seem prosperous. He says to focus on doing good, being faithful, and being righteous. He says to commit your way to the Lord, not to be committed to your own way or to the way of the wicked. It says in verse 16 and 18: “Better is the little of the righteous than the abundance of many wicked. The LORD knows the days of the blameless, and their inheritance will be forever.” In this chapter, David is urging believers to stop focusing on short-term gain, but instead focus on the eternal gain of the kingdom of God.
John 10:10: (Jesus said) The thief doth not come, except that he may steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they may have life, and may have abundantly.
Jesus is not speaking of abundance in terms of earthly possessions. In this chapter, He is talking about the reason He came to earth. He came because the enemy seeks to steal, kill, and destroy us. But God is a good shepherd and cares about saving his sheep, so He came to lay down His life for us so that we may have life abundantly. Life abundantly is another way of saying eternal life well after we pass away on this earth. If you look at the descriptions of Heaven in the Bible, it sure looks more like the picture people get in their minds when they think of an abundant life! The purpose of Jesus’ coming is reiterated in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life."
Luke 11:9-10 says “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened."
How do I know Jesus is talking about praying for spiritual things rather than material things? Because in verse 13, He says “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?” This goes back to seeking first and foremost in your life righteousness and Kingdom purposes.
Luke 6:38: Give, and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed, and shaken, and running over, they shall give into your bosom; for with that measure with which ye measure, it shall be measured to you again.
In the context of this chapter, Jesus is talking about what we give out, whether it be love or hate, blessings or cursings, returning evil with kindness or with contempt, passing judgment or showing grace and mercy, and of course, giving of our possessions…this passage says there is a difference between giving to those from whom you expect to receive something back versus someone who will probably not return the favor. This verse can be compared to Galatians 6:7-10: Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary. So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.
Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Many interpret this to mean they can achieve anything they want because they’re a Christian or because of Christ’s provision for them. In the verses surrounding this, Paul is explaining how we need to keep our mind fixed on God, fixed on truth, and with positive thoughts. He also says he has learned how to be content in all circumstances, whether he has a little or a lot, even if he is going hungry! He thanks the people he is speaking to for their sacrificial love gift to him to support him as he ministers, and he says that God will supply their needs. He didn’t say anything about 10-fold, 100-fold, or 1,000 fold financial reward in return for their giving. So back to the verse, when read in the context, it clearly means that Paul can suffer any trials and circumstances because God’s grace strengthens him to do so. It has nothing to do with personal selfish ambition.
Malachi 3:10: “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.”
Again, this requires an understanding of the context. In this case, at this time in history, the Israelites were bound to keep all of the commandments, statutes, and ordinances of the law. (Note that the topics of tithing, old covenant, and new covenant are separate discussions that cannot be addressed entirely in this blog post). But at this point in time, they had turned away from obeying a lot of the law. This passage said the people were cursed for robbing God, but He promised that if they tithed, their crops would be blessed. He promised He would not destroy their crops, but would prosper their crops. But note that not tithing wasn’t the only reason the people were cursed. Malachi 2:2 says “If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart.” Verses 7-9: “For the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts. Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law.” Malachi 4:4 reiterates the importance of the Israelites keeping the entirety of the law of Moses: “Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.” The entire book of Malachi was calling out the Israelites and the Levital priesthood for not following and enforcing the law of Moses and explaining they were under the curse for this reason. He was saying if they followed all of their required laws at that time, the curse would be removed, and their land would be blessed. Again, the context of the language in this verse was intended for a specific time and a specific people.
Many people point at the prosperity of some of God’s people in the Bible and say that is proof God wants Christians to be prosperous. But in doing this, people omit or forget the people who lived in poverty or having just enough but were also counted as righteous and faithful. I am not saying that God wants all of His people to be poor. It’s not that He wants them all to be wealthy in earthly riches either. The bottom line is that wealth should not be an expectation or life goal for a Christian. It then easily becomes an idol. It becomes the motivation for the choices someone makes in life. It leads to a lot of little compromises that seem harmless, but turn into walking a different path than God intended.
What did Jesus say about this idea of desiring and coveting earthly wealth and possessions?
Matthew 6:24, 31-33: No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth… Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles (unbelievers) eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Matthew 19:21-24: Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to 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.”
The entire chapter of Matthew 25 is Jesus speaking of how we must be good stewards of time and resources God has given us by using them to give back to the purposes of the Lord.
Mark 4:18-19: And others are the ones on whom seed (the Word of God) was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
Mark 8:34-38: And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
Luke 3:11: And he would answer and say to them, “The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise.”
Luke 6:20-26: And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.
Luke 12:15, 19-21, 29-34: Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions…And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”…And do not seek what you will eat and what you will drink, and do not keep worrying. For all these things the nations of the world eagerly seek; but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Luke 16:10-15: He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him. And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.
Luke 21:1-4: And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury. And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins. And He said, “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them; for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on.”
Other related scriptures
Proverbs 16:8: Better is a little with righteousness than great income with injustice.
Proverbs 30:8-9: (Excerpt from a prayer) Keep deception and lies far from me, give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, that I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the LORD?” Or that I not be in want and steal, and profane the name of my God.
Philippians 4:11-13: …(Paul said) I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Acts 20:33-35: (Paul said) I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothes. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my own needs and to the men who were with me. In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
1 Timothy 6:5-12: (Regarding false doctrine) that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13: But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these… But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
2 Timothy 4:3-4: For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
Revelations 3:15-21: I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
Sometimes the things we pursue seem innocent or justifiable, but as it says in Proverbs 21:2: “Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the hearts.” The reason I share these scriptures is to show you that God’s idea of prospering you as a Christian is to make you more and more like Him and to pursue God and His purposes and eternal life. If God blesses someone with more than they need, this is not so that they can just keep accumulating things; it is so that they can be a blessing and be the light of God in the world. So let us stop striving for the things our flesh desires, and really pursue righteousness in Christ.
1 John 2:15-17: Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.