One of the things I have learned over time, is that if you expect a thing to come to you, you need to respect it. That has been a big lesson for me, especially in the realm of finances. I disdained money, yet I wanted to be released to do God’s will, to go and do as He directed with no concern over time, finances, etc. Yet, how do you do that without the necessary resources?
And this brings us to another topic that is controversial in the church today, that of prosperity. There have been two lies in the teachings about prosperity, the first is that God will just bless us and make us rich like some sort of cosmic “sugar daddy.” The other that many of us have bought into, is that the Word is speaking only of spiritual riches, and that we should be content in our poverty, because it means greater spiritual riches in the “sweet by and by!” Neither one of those extremes are correct, neither is the truth in the middle, it is beyond them both. Now before we go on, let’s take a moment to make sure we are all on the same page. Just what is prosperity anyway? We’ll look at some aspects of what it means biblically, but for now, let’s see what the dictionary says. According to Webster’s Ninth Collegiate Dictionary, to be prosperous is: To be marked by success or economic well being; enjoying vigorous and healthy growth, to be flourishing. Prosperity is: The condition of being successful, or thriving; especially, economic well being.
Let’s continue by looking at some scripture, beginning with 2 Corinthians 8:9:
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”
The word rich here is the word “plousios,” which means: “wealthy, abounding in material resources,” while the word poor is “ptocheuo” meaning: “reduced to beggary, begging, asking alms; destitute of wealth, influence, position, honor. The word poverty is “ptocheia” meaning: “beggary; poverty; the condition of one destitute of riches and abundance.” Finally the last occurrence of rich is the word “plouteo” meaning: “to be rich, to have abundance; of outward possessions; to be richly supplied; is affluent in resources, so that he can give blessings of salvation to all.
I will be first to agree that this has spiritual implications, but we will see as we study on that it also applies in the natural, to the here and now. Let’s skip down to verses 13-15:
“For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack, that their abundance also may supply your lack—that there may be equality. As it is written, ‘He who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack.”
Here we can begin to see the reason for the prosperity, that “your abundance may supply their lack.” Actually we can see it in the meaning of “plouteo” “is affluent in resources so that he can give blessings of resources…” So in this case at least, we can conclude that Paul was speaking of material prosperity. The truth is that God does want to bless His people, but He also wants us to use those resources to bless others, and to further His kingdom work. Like the widow, we need to look expectantly to God as our source, and like Jesus, we need to look to heaven doing, and declaring what we see there, giving as the Father directs.
So then why did Jesus not teach more on prosperity? Why did not the disciples? Remember, they were for the most part Jews writing to Jews. We often forget this and it can cause great error. Even today, if we are to correctly understand what is being said, we must keep in mind the context and culture in which it is being said. What is true now, was true then. Prosperity was part of their culture. They all knew the scriptures well, and so knew that if they sought the ways of the Lord, prosperity would follow. It was not talked about much for the same reason other things were not addressed in the New Testament, simply because it was assumed they were all familiar with God’s promises and instructions. There is much more to say on this, but this should be enough to get us all thinking.