Part of me says that only in America would we be so arrogant as to think that those who are rich are the ones who are saved.
But, the truth is that people have been equating God’s favor with material, temporal blessings since time immemorial.
Case in point: the oldest book in the Bible, the book of Job, is in a large part exactly about this topic.
Job’s friends assumed that his family had died and his possessions destroyed as a punishment from God.
Even back then approval from God was thought to equal wealth.
Now, in the Old Testament during the theocracy, there are certain verses, especially those in Proverbs that, if you don’t take them in the context of the rest of scripture and even the rest of the Old Testament, you could easily think that God rewards His all servants monetarily.
This is why context and comparing verses to other scripture is important.
While Proverbs says that those who serve God will have barns full of food, Psalms says that sometimes the wicked prosper.
That’s just the Old Testament. The New Testament has even more to say about this topic, but it follows –based on the sum of the passages– that wealth cannot be used as a gauge for one’s godliness.
And, yet, a large part of our American population believes that God wants to make us happy, healthy, and wealthy.
We addressed wealthy already, so let’s look at happy.
Does God want us to be happy?
He says that He will discipline us like a father and that this discipline will be unpleasant.
Have you ever seen a child happy while they’re disciplined?
Scripture doesn’t say that God does things for our happiness.
Happiness and joy differ.
We’re supposed to be joyful in tribulation.
It’s hard to be happy when you’re being persecuted, but consider this: joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and is divine power to be happy when circumstances are not happy.
But that’s not what the proponents of this idea are talking about.
They’re not talking about godly contentment and divinely given joy.
They believe that God wants to give you earthly possessions to make you happy with temporal things.
Scripture says we should be willing to give up all these temporal things for the eternal.
That’s what the parable of the pearl of great price was about: heaven was compared to a pearl that was so valuable that the man sold all of his possessions to obtain it.
If Christ is not worth denying all that and more, then maybe you don’t really know Him yet.
The last category that they believe God will give you is health.
This idea of prosperity gospel first came up as a result of my illness.
I didn’t even know that such a belief existed until I was accused of being in sin because I could not heal myself from my illness.
The accuser was a childhood friend, someone who I had known since grade school.
I was shocked when she tried to use the story of Job as evidence that I was either in sin or not saved.
According to her, Job was lying throughout the book when he declared his innocence. She believed he was guilty of sin and that God gave him a new house and new family when he repented.
The problem with that was I have read Job many times. It has been a source of comfort over the last decade of illness.
I knew she was wrong.
I knew that Job never repented of a sin like lack of faith.
When I challenged her position, she accused me of hiding in the darkness of my sin and said that I was just trying to get attention by staying sick. If I just believed, according to her, I would be healed instantly but that I liked being sick so I stayed in the darkness of my sin.
Unfortunately, that was basically the end of our relationship.
It saddens me and I still care about her, but I choose not to spend time with people who verbally attack me and accuse me of “hiding in the darkness and wallowing in sin” (her words, not mine).
I haven’t really had the opportunity to spend time with her anyway because she apparently decided I wasn’t really saved and cut off communication.
Because that’s absolutely how believers are supposed to treat unbelievers, right? (if I actually were unsaved as she believed I was).
What does the Bible say about having disabilities or illnesses?
Moses had a stutter. While God helped him talk, there’s no indication in scripture that God healed him. God just used him anyway.
Paul had an ailment of some sort, some have speculated that perhaps his eyesight was poor. God didn’t take it away, but He used Paul anyway.
Timothy had some sort of digestive problem. Paul told him to drink wine as a medicinal treatment.
This incident with my childhood friend was really my first exposure to prosperity gospel.
But does God want to prosper us?
Is that the pattern we see in the New Testament?
We absolutely see Jesus rich and living the high life, right?
A poor carpenter’s son running around with some fishermen –that sounds high society to me, right?
And then what about the disciples after Jesus death, surely they were rewarded for their faithfulness by big houses and paychecks, many servants, and they died of old age in bed in their big homes, right?
Eleven of the twelve disciples died horrible deaths for Jesus.
The writer of Hebrews said:
“Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, [were] commended through their faith.” Hebrews 11:35-39
Please go tell the people who were stoned and sawn in two how God wanted to make them wealthy if they had just truly followed Him in faith.
But wait, that’s not what Hebrews says.
Hebrews says that these people were commended for their faith.
These were acts of faith.
It doesn’t take any faith to serve God when you’re happy, when you’re completely healthy, and when you’re financially secure.
That’s The least faith-requiring position available to man.
But when you’re sick?
When you’re depressed?
When you’re persecuted?
When you’re homeless?
When you have nothing to eat?
Then that’s the moment of truth.
That’s the faith moment.
That’s the moment when you get to choose if you’ll still follow Him, like Job declared, “even if He kills me, I’ll still trust Him!”
In that moment when you find yourself completely weak, you can turn to Him for His strength.
Prosperity Gospel is all about the glorification of man, how wonderful we all are with our awesome things that we got from genie-god.
The true gospel is about how wonderful God is and about how we are willing to give up everything — even our very lives– to serve Him.
Our focus should be on Him. Prosperity Gospel is so “me” focused that when God doesn’t fulfill what its followers think He should, they abandon Him or think that they have committed some horrible sin that they can’t figure out. We should anticipate persecution and hard times and seek to be content in any situation like Paul did.
“If you want to follow Jesus because He’ll give you a better life, that’s idolatry. Follow Christ for the sake of Christ; He is worthy!” ~ Paul Washer
Until Jesus is all you have and everything else is stripped away it’s hard to know for sure that you will give all for Him.
But, if you’re truly His, then one day you’ll find yourself feeling completely abandoned.
In that moment, will you turn to Him?
Will you view Him as more valuable than all the possessions you have?
Would you be willing to give it all up for Him?
I pray that you will.