The whole idea of prosperity being God’s will for us taught in many churches today has always bothered me. Throughout the Bible the message is centered around relationships; relationships with God and with others. God is interested in our hearts, our heart motivations, specifically, and much of our journey with Him is refining those motivations to align more closely with His nature. So how does material prosperity fit into that message?
Certainly, God knows that our human needs in terms of shelter, food, water, and being able to support ourselves financially are important, but they are not the central theme. To adopt the mindset that we are all to be materially prosperous results in a chasm between members of a church, and between believers, in the greater picture. How do we explain that God’s desire is that all are materially prosperous when there are solid Christ-professing followers being beaten, tortured, starved, and killed for not renouncing Jesus as Savior in countries around the world? Having posed that question in the past to prosperous church-goers, I have heard that those in other countries have been chosen to suffer for Christ, or those in prison needed to muster a little more faith that God would meet all of their needs. Really?? I find those explanations harsh.
As a young “Christian”, and part of a name-it-claim-it church, I found myself sorely lacking in the “prosperity” department. Many of the teachings from the pulpit were about prosperity; why it’s ours for the taking, how to get it, and the like. New and immature believers are conditioned to believe that the prosperity message is central to successful Christianity, and that, in my mind, is sad, if not even a bit dangerous. Christianity becomes more about formulas and prayers, that if spoken correctly, result in material gain. Reaching out for guidance from a seasoned “Christian” the counsel I received was that God was teaching me a lesson, or perhaps, I didn’t have enough faith and needed to spend more time on bended knee; variations on the above explanation. From my reading of scripture it says that we need faith the size of a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds, surely I had at least that much!! Apparently not, otherwise the formula for prosperity would have worked. I am not suggesting that God doesn’t want us to be prosperous materially; by and large that prosperity, however, seems to be centered over the USA, with a smattering around the rest of the world. A bit lopsided, wouldn’t you say? Personally, those who enjoy material prosperity and dismiss the many in prison as being chosen to suffer for the cause of Christ, makes me wonder if selfish pride, and certainly greed, may be the roots of such thinking.
In Hebrew, the word “prosperity” is “salach”, and its meaning has the feeling of moving forward, or accomplishing a task. More specifically, salach means to do a job, accomplish a task as unto God prayerfully, humbly, and in unity with Him. Puts a different spin on prosperity altogether, wouldn’t you agree? Prosperity is referenced several times throughout the Bible. Some references are associated with material wealth, or possessions; there are also scriptures where the reference is a warning, however in terms of our attitudes, again our heart motivations, concerning wealth. Often, the essence of the word used in a scripture is concerning moving forward.
Through the years I have noticed that the teachers of the prosperity message, the hard-core adherents who believe the Bible is primarily a financial textbook, loosely apply the material wealth definition to scriptures that have little to do with financial gain. Words like reward, bless, desires, and abundance, to name a few, are often associated with money or the accumulation of wealth. In truth, many of these scriptures taken in context have little to do with any kind of material or monetary gain. Loosely tied scriptural references regarding wealth speak to the carnal nature of man, greed, specifically, and before we know it we are sucked into false beliefs about prosperity and God’s desire to meet our material needs above all else.
Focusing on the acquisition of material wealth distracts us from a meaningful relationship with God and our spiritual efforts become self-serving. In thinking of prosperity as moving forward our journey with God offers opportunities for growth and transformation so that our heart motivation aligns more closely with God’s will that all would know of His love and mercy. Heart motivation changes in us touch the lives of others, hopefully for the better! And what of the tasks we are called to accomplish? If God assigns me to examine the motivations of my heart and therein I find qualities that are detrimental to myself and others, I then have the task of changing how I think and act; prosperity of heart becomes a product of growth.
Does God want the best for us in all things? The answer is yes. Are you spending more time accumulating prosperity of heart or material gain? The choice is ours…..