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PROSPERITY – IS THERE A BIBLE WAY?

By Stephen Green

First published in Christian Voice February 2012

 

What is loosely known as ‘prosperity preaching’ seems to be loved and loathed in equal measure today.  With my usual delicacy I thought I should wade into this fight and see if I could string together some thoughts on the matter, which, if they are of the Lord, will be by his grace alone, and if they are of the flesh, no doubt members and friends of Christian Voice will put me right.

I think I can do no better than to start with the 1st Psalm:

Psa 1:1  Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2  But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3  And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

4  The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. 5  Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

6  For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

It cannot be by accident that such a definite affirmation of the determination of God to bless the faithful is placed right at the start of the book of Psalms.  We are meant to take notice of it.  It is a divine principle.

I believe that God is involved with the whole of life, and that his blessings should be seen in the material as well as in the spiritual dimension.  I reject the atheist taunt that Christianity is just “pie in the sky when you die”.  I long and believe to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living (Psa 27:13).

I believe that the very fact that God became one of us shows that he is involved in our material existence and that he longs to pour out a blessing on the faithful which is as relevant to this life as our eternal reward is to the next.

After all, the ministry of Christian Voice would make no sense if God were not actively involved in the affairs of men in this temporal realm.  We have said, for example, that Tesco cannot expect to be blessed while following the paths of wickedness.  We constantly urge Her Majesty’s Government to lead the nation in repentance back to faith in the living God that the nation might be blessed.

BALANCING CONTENTMENT AND AMBITION

Some of us may be reluctant to ask God for his blessing.  I know I am slow to ask God for the material resources that both I and the ministry of Christian Voice need in order to function.  When I do, I make it clear to the Lord that we need these things not for our own glory or material advancement, and in the case of the Christian Voice ministry, not for any empire building, but for God’s glory, for his kingdom and to see his will done on earth as it is in heaven.

While it is wrong to place our trust in our possessions, Ecclesiastes says that there is nothing better at the end of the day than to sit down and enjoy the fruits of our labours.  It also says:

Eccl 5:12  The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.

The words of the Lord Jesus and the Apostle Paul come to mind:

Mark 8:36  For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?

Matt 6:24  No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. 

1Tim 6:10  For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

It is the love of money rather than the wealth in itself which places both the rich man’s sleep and his eternal destiny in peril. 

We do not read that Abraham had any trouble sleeping.  The ministry of the Lord himself was financed by a group of prosperous women who provided for him out of their substance (Luke 8:3).  At one time in Israel the entire counter-cultural prophetic movement was financed and protected by one wealthy individual, king Ahab’s prime minister, Obadiah (1Kgs 18:4).

The Bible shows God transforming lives, and if he can save a sinner like me, make a shepherd boy the king of Israel or make a barren woman to be a joyful mother of children, then there is room for the ambition of Jabez:

1Chr 4:10  And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.

The Bible says:

Heb 13:5  Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.

Clearly we need a degree of balance between ambition and contentment.  In the more recent past, I have erred too much to the contentment end of the spectrum.  These days I have rediscovered ambition both for myself and for the Christian Voice ministry.  We can and must do things better.  There is a lesson from Jabez, and from Jacob before him, striving all night with God and refusing to end the struggle save on one condition:

Gen 32:26  And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.

THE ROLE OF THE CHURCH

There appear to me to be very few churches, certainly in the West, which devote themselves today to encouraging the faithful to better themselves materially as well as spiritually.   There is a verse (rarely sung today) in All things bright and beautiful about “the rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate” and how God “made them, high or lowly and ordered their estate”.  Too many ministers give the impression that every poor man is destined to stay forever at the gate of the rich man’s castle.

The trend over the past hundred years has been to spiritualise the Christian faith away.  The Church in general has retreated from an involvement in politics and public life confident in the righteousness of the laws of God in equal measure to the extent in which it has tended to urge the faithful to give up on this world while assuring themselves of a consolation to come.

It is almost as if they are leaning to the error of the Gnostics in which only the spiritual is good and everything material is bad.  Now, this may be a reaction to the decadent materialism of the world.  We do need to react against that, but by showing the breadth of the Gospel of Christ, not by veering to the other extreme.  Gnosticism is a dangerous road to travel, on one level because it denies Christ’s humanity, but on another level because it ends up in the very decadence and materialism it claims to deny.

Now we turn to the other end of the spectrum.  Sadly, many of those ministries and churches which do encourage material advancement focus almost exclusively on only one or two of the spiritual principles involved.  The first of these is giving.

SOWING AND REAPING

The principle of sowing and reaping itself is entirely scriptural. It is not the end of the matter by any means but it is as good a place as any to start.  These are the main scriptures:

Gen 8:22  While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.

Mal 3:10  Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.

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.

2Cor 9:6  But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.

It is not unusual in African churches for there to be a teaching on sowing and reaping before the offering is taken.  Sometimes we all need reminding that everything we have is the gift of God and we only give him back what is his in the first place.

Now we know of the common grace of God, that he sends the rain on the good and on the wicked alike.  The general principles of sowing and reaping may validly be considered as part of the common grace of God.  Things have a tendency to come around for everyone.  The bread cast on the waters returns.  The wicked will come to judgment eventually.

It is important to remember that it is not just money we can sow.  We can sow prayers, time, love, care, goodness and humility just as well as cash.  We also need to be reminded that we can sow bad things as well as good.  If we sow hatred, division, gossip and selfishness then that is what we shall reap.

SAYING, BELIEVING AND RECEIVING

The second principle which finds itself over-emphasised is that of attitude.  The teaching of our blessed Lord on this matter is as unequivocal as possible:

Mark 11:22  And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God. 23 For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. 24 Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.

John 15:7  If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

Plainly, there is no point in praying for something and immediately disbelieving the prayer.  It is possible to spoil a good prayer with a bad confession.  Why pray for something you don’t believe the Lord can do in the first place?  Nor should we launch prayers like a footballer taking a speculative shot at goal.  Some people have a scattergun approach to prayer in which they fire off a couple of dozen in the hope that a percentage of their prayers will be in accordance to the will of God and therefore answered.  The two can be combined: ‘Lord, please do such-and-such.  Amen.’  (Aside) ‘I don’t think the Lord will do that, but it’s worth a try’.   That is not how it works.

Attitude, they say, determines altitude.  Even if that is just a clever play on words, the fact remains that the ten spies who said they could not enter Canaan didn’t. The two who said they could, did.

If you tell yourself you are addicted to smoking you will never give up.  We saw last month how King George V cursed his eldest son and how effective that was.  Our spoken words have a spiritual dimension and it is perfectly possible to curse ourselves.  If we call ourselves stupid or unloveable or unreliable we can bring that on ourselves.  In the context of asking for wisdom, James says:

Jas 1:6  But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7  For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.

So this principle of confessing, believing and receiving has foundation in Scripture. The problem comes when it is used like a sort of magic wand, as James says, to be consumed on our lusts. I think I have yet to hear a teaching on confessing, believing and receiving (save that of Andrew Murray) which acknowledges what the Lord Jesus himself said as a qualification.  In John it was this:

John 15:8  Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

In other words, a big part of us receiving what we ask from the Lord is to enable us to bear fruit for the kingdom of God.  In Mark, the Lord went straight on to say:

Mark 11:25  And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.

He made the answer to our prayer dependent upon our nature of forgiveness.  That is not what the people always want to hear.

A LIFE OF OBEDIENCE

So if giving and a certain kind of believing are over-emphasised by those teaching prosperity, which principles are not spoken of enough – or at all?

I believe the first is a life of obedience to and trust in God’s holy word. We Christians are constantly reminded  of Paul’s exposition of how ‘Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness’ (Gen 15:6; Rom 4:3).  The dear Apostle wrote this explaining how we should have faith in the sacrifice of Christ. It was not intended to downplay the other important aspect of Abraham’s life, that of obedience:

Gen 18:19  For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.

God’s blessing fell upon Abraham because of his belief in God and because of his obedience to the laws of God.  The same message is clear in Psalm 1, with which we opened, and all through the Psalms.  It is set out in Deuteronomy, particularly in chapter 28, and in the prophets. If you can be argued to run through the whole of Scripture.

People encouraged into obedience to the word of God will be encouraged into biblical virtues of honesty and integrity which bring their own reward.  We know that:

Heb 11:6  … 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.

But the seeking must begin in prayer and in his word and then be put into practice. Having faith in God and then ignoring his word and living in disobedience is to miss the mark. As the Apostle James says unequivocally:

Jas 2:18  Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.  …  20  But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? … 26  For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

We need to be doers of the word not just hearers of it. (Romans 2:12; Jas 1:22)  It is Christ which lives in me, so every aspect of my life is to be in obedience to his will.

GO TO THE ANT

After obedience, the second principle which does not get enough coverage is that of hard work coupled with diligence.  It is not enough to go away from a church service, even having given a sacrificial offering believing for a Mercedes, only to get home, put on some uplifting worship music, sit down and wait for the car key to drop through the letterbox.

No doubt someone will email me with a story of a dear soul who did exactly that, but in general, as the Bible shows us, you have to get up and do something:

Prov 6:6 Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: 7 Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, 8 Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.

9 How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? 10 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: 11 So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.

In some places in the Far East, the Christians are resented by the fatalistic Buddhists because, free from the belief that life is a mere illusion, they actually go out into their fields, plant seed and reap a harvest.

That’s how it should be, but in other places Christians have let their piety rob them of their prosperity.  They have become so heavenly minded they are no earthly use. People of other faiths and no faith are working hard and the Christians are wasting the Lord’s time listening to music, reading devotional books, holding meetings, praying aimlessly or whatever else eats into productive time.

Very few people are more passionate about reading the word of God than I am.  I know the power of music, I know how books inspire, I know the power of prayer and the value of fellowship.  Yet I can imagine somebody hearing a teaching around Genesis 8:22.  A day later he is reading a book on ‘Receiving the Blessing’ and occasionally looking out onto his unkempt garden.  The garden is crying out to be dug over and seeded at the real earthly seedtime, but our brother leaves that plot of land just as it is. Then he comforts himself by saying “the Lord will provide” and is last seen piously waiting for his harvest to arrive in the form of a gift from someone else.

You feel like saying “The Lord has provided you – with a garden.  Why aren’t you planting in it?”

THE WISDOM OF ARCHDEACON GRANTLY!

The irony is that if those pastors who are preaching tithing and claiming would also preach obedience and diligence, and if they would set up schools to teach their people business and trade skills, then over a short period of time the offerings upon which they depend would increase dramatically.

John Wesley said: “Earn all you can, give all you can, save all you can.”  I heard once that the early Methodist Church went from being working-class to middle-class in a couple of generations by adherence to the Wesleyan ideals of obedience and holiness, diligence and thrift.  Not all the faithful will succeed in business or develop a trade, and the poor we shall always have with us, but could we not at least help the majority of the faithful set their sights a little higher?  The Apostle John wrote to Gaius:

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

In my King James Bible, the editor, Spiros Zodhiates, writes a note against the misapplication of this verse to mean that God’s will for his children is always to prosper and be in good health, which he says would give credence to the belief in a “health and wealth gospel”. He says John is conveying nothing more than a wish that this letter might find Gaius well and in good health’.

Equally there seems to be nothing unscriptural about prospering and being in good health, as long as, or even because, we put the Kingdom of God first.  The Lord Jesus said:

Matt 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

In the Psalms we have the same emphasis on putting the Lord and obedience to his word first and the same promise of prosperity:

Psa 37:3 Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed. 4 Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.

Two psalms earlier, David is inspired by the Holy Spirit to write this:

Psa 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.

There is no BIble verse which says that the Lord delights in the poverty of his servant.  The virtues preached by John Wesley need to be heard in the church world-wide today. In Kenya, for example, Christians form 80% of the population but only own 30% of the wealth.  It does not have to be like that, but us Christians need a paradigm shift in our thinking.  I am not suggesting we become all ‘worldly’ as opposed to ‘spiritual’, but we need a bit more balance and a lot more of what God tells us in the Bible!

In his book Barchester Towers, Anthony Trollope’s Archdeacon Grantly says this:  “If honest men did not squabble for money, in this wicked world of ours, the dishonest men would get it all; and I do not see that the cause of virtue would be much improved.” 

I think there is more than a grain of truth in the archdeacon’s words.  The work of ministry needs finance today just as much as the ministry of the Lord Jesus himself needed it 2,000 years ago – and got it from those with substance, including the wealthy women we read about in Luke 8:2-3.  The Lord owns all the silver and gold.  Why is the Church not doing more to encourage the faithful into the honest endeavour of bringing more of it into the body of Christ?

 

The author of this paper will be delighted to bring this message to your church or fellowship and encourage the faithful to prosper through Biblical principles including those idenitified above.  Email [email protected]

 

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17 comments

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  1. Chris

    There is a very important point here.

    We are saved by Grace, and not by Works. Those who believe are saved.

    I heard a sermon very recently, where the pastor spent 30 minutes expounding these very points. I challenged him when the meeting had finished with the content of James 2.20 & James 2.26, that “Faith without works is dead.” This clearly irritated him, and I could see his anger beginning to rise. I told him that what he had said was totally correct, but that if he were to preach the same sermon again, he should include the message of James 2 as an addendum. Clearly the question of faith must come first, but once this has been established then works must follow, otherwise the faith is dead.

    I think this can be aligned to the Parable of the Talents, where the man with one talent just hid it in the ground, and his master was very angry with him. He had done nothing with what he had been given, whereas as those with higher numbers of talents had earned more talents and were praised for having done so.

  2. eleanor

    I AM RICH AND WEALTHY AND HAVE MORE THAN ENOUGH TO ENABLE ME TO HELP FURNISH THIS GOSPEL. EQUALLY GOD HAS GIVEN ALL OF US THE POWER TO GET WEALTH AND IT IS A SIN TO LIVE BELOW PAR

    WILL A MAN ROB GOD?…………………..YES IN TITHES AND OFFERINGS. WHEN WE WORK BELOW OUR POTENTIAL AND FAIL TO USE OUR TALENTS, THIS VERSE ALSO APPLIES TO US.

    WE COULD ALL TITHE AND GIVE MORE IF WE WE GOT OFF OF OUR BLESSED ASSURANCE AND MAXIMISED OUR TALENTS AND GIFTS AS WE HAVE BEEN COMMANDED TO DO.

    WE ARE READ OF MEN AND GOD IS JUDGED ON OUR BEHAVIOUR………………WE NEED TO FLY THE FLAG OF THE GOD OF MORE THAN ENOUGH.

    POVERTY IS NOT BIBLICAL!!

    WE NEED TO BE ABLE TO EVANGELISE AND MEET THE NEEDS OF OTHERS LIKE IN THE BOOK OF ACTS, NO LACK

  3. Charles

    While spirituality is more important than material things, I think it is important that we dispel certain myths. There is nothing wrong in being wealthy and generous. Abraham was such, and he gave away over half of his material wealth. There is also the plain fact that if all we have is distributed around, there will still be many people who are poor, and at least some people are able to live more comfortable lives. Also, the wealthy who are generous give some work to poorer people.

    Alas though for the wealthy who are stingy and ungenerous, for they have the ability to help others, and manifestly fail to provide that help.

    Instead of suing debtors to the hilt, they should write off many more debts held by very poor people. Credit card interest rates plainly fall into the Usury category with rates at or over 20% commonplace when the companies can often borrow the money at half a per cent rates. Usury is a great sin, i.e. exploiting poorer and very poor people.

    Unfortunately we live in a money -grabbing society where the emphasis isn’t on modest growth, but rather on maximizing profits at all costs. Their computers tell them they can sell something at 3 times the price to a lot less people and still make as much, if not more profit. They accumulate extremely vast pools of virtual money, often running into the hundreds of millions, for individuals, and billions upon billions for exorbitantly wealthy corporations … …

    It has to be extremely sinful that in our society basic necessities are beyond the reach of many people. Fuel, energy, food and drink and very modest housing should not be exorbitantly expensive as they are in our present decade. Poorer people should not be forced into £25,000 worth of debt or more, just to keep a roof over their heads, have just about enough to eat and shivering their way through colder weather. It shouldn’t have to cost over £100 in petrol and running costs to drive a few handfuls of miles to see relatives. But it does.

    How few rich people today would consider giving away half their wealth to good causes. It mostly just doesn’t happen. Christian charity seems to have almost died out amongst the very well off.

    It is not difficult for wealthy people and massively wealthy companies to to do vastly more to truly help poorer people, but with present society ethics, there is often more help for very distant endangered species than for our own sometimes extremely impoverished people.

    It says a lot that as more middle class people are feeling the pinch, they are partly or sometimes entirely blaming those vastly less well off than they are themselves.

    We need Christian ethics more than ever in material things at the moment. This isn’t a matter of faith, much more needs to be done in practical terms in helping others. Some parts of the country have food charities helping across a large area. I live in an extremely poor area, yet the only charity food help available locally is for 30 food vouchers per very poor family, and then only to the very poorest people. What they are supposed to feed themselves on when their 30 vouchers run out, I simply do not know. And this scheme has only just commenced.

    Christianity is about helping everyone to live fruitful and happy lives. Unfortunately these sort of values are almost totally missing from our very business and money -orientated society and mostly totally Godless business corporations.. ..

    1. Chris Powell

      In January, my Church started selling cheap, basic food and other groceries from a market stall in the town. Much of the food was beyond it’s ‘best before’ date.
      In February, the project was closed because very little had been sold.
      The neighbourhood is perceived as relatively poor, especially when compared with other nearby communities.

      I do not know what the Lord was trying to tell us – but I would observe that the couple who started the project were (and still are) heavily involved in other ministries.
      Probably it was done in the strength of Man, rather than the strength of God, by people who had already been called to other things.

  4. Barbara Richards

    I would never like to be grindingly poor and homeless again, it is horrible. I didn’t realise that you could ask God for what you needed. I like the whole of that hymn “All things bright and beautiful” and think that verse about the rich man and poor man should not be left out. The Lord God said not to be envious of other people, we should praise God for the things we have got, and ask him if we need anything, because he is our heavenly father and loves us. Poor people can give as well as rich, we are supposed to be the body of Christ, and glorify his name, even if you haven’t got much money, we all have something to give. When I moved into this street I didnt know anyone and one of the neighbours came round to introduce me to the other naighbours on the street, and that was a really really kind thing to do, it didnt cost anything except time, but blessed me a lot. I like what you have written Stephen.

  5. Stephen Mason

    Although I think there are indeed Biblical passages which teach of a gift of prosperity in response to obedience or righteousness, and also of answer to prayer with faith and righteousness, I believe that this article has not looked at the issue in perspective. Although there is a place for prosperity, and enjoying the Created gifts, I believe there is also a place in this life for suffering for Christianity, and that this can be done with joy, so I shall mention more below of how I believe the Bible shows this.
    Although Mark 11:22-24 tells us of Jesus told his disciples about receiving whatever they pray for in faith, I don’t think that necessarily says he was giving them a formula to become materially prosperous or to get whatever they wanted, as we are told elsewhere to live for God, with contentment, and to not put our hope in wealth (see below). Perhaps true disciples would want what God wanted, and I think that God gives me what I pray for if it is His Sovereign Will. Although prayer surely does have an effect, God is the Sovereign. 1 Tim 6:6f says “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.” v.17f “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” And Jesus told us to have treasures in heaven, not on earth (Matt 6:19-20; Lk 12:29-31), and where God “richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment”, I believe this need not always be physical material, from what we read of Paul in Philippians who was apparently “in chains for Christ” (1:13) with real joy.
    Then, in Philippians 2:3-11, Paul says we should have the attitude of Jesus, who “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant….” Although this in itself might not necessarily clash with the concept of prosperity as a secondary goal (below those of serving God and others with humility with no selfish ambition), Paul the circumcized ex-Pharisaical Roman citizen mentions in chapter 3 that “whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” The letter mentions great joy, and that “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (v.14)
    1 Peter 1 also speaks of greatly rejoicing, “though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” These had come so that their faith will be proved genuine and result in praise, glory and honour when Jesus is later revealed. In chapter 2:21, after being told to be submissive to their masters, slaves are told that “Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” Although we are to relate to other people, we live in a sense as aliens and strangers in the world (2:11) (citizens of God’s Kingdom), and chapter 4 shows that there will be suffering – “Do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed…” and this fits in with what Jesus had told his apostles in warning them of suffering. I’m not saying that our lives are to be gloomy, or that we are to be martyrs, but some Christians live persecuted in the world (e.g. in the Middle East currently or in China a few decades ago), and did the apostles or early church become materially prosperous? Perhaps some of them were, and God gives some of us such gifts as we are different unique parts of the Body who are to share with one another as stewards. Presumably such gifts can be enjoyed too, as long as not in an indulgent or selfish way but in living “for the will of God” (1 Pet. 4:2).
    Also, although prayer for healing was spoken of too (e.g. James 5:13-16), I have definitely read New Testament texts which provided medical advice for specific people, showing that not everyone was instantly miraculously healed. “Miraculous Healing” by the late OMF missionary Henry Frost compares cases of miraculous healing with very similar cases where healing was not provided, often prayed for by the same people, where the difference in healing certainly cannot always be explained by difference in faith.
    Although there may sometimes be prosperity for true Christians, which can be a useful tool given by God to be used for His Kingdom, I believe it is not to be a goal in itself, as we are to look forward to the inheritance that we have been given (much more valuable than any temporary earthly treasures – 1 Pet 1, Phil 3) and press on for the prize for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus (Phil 3:14).

    1. Chris Hargrave

      Stephen Mason is correct; I too find this article deeply concerning. “And Jesus told us to have treasures in heaven, not on earth (Matt 6:19-20; Lk 12:29-31)”.

      The “Prosperity Gospel” teaches that those Christians who are poor, ill or suffering are in that situation through their own lack of faith – that, in other words, it is their own fault. It is cruel, hard-hearted and judgmental. Check out any of Kenneth Copeland’s works to see this.

      Yet the “Prosperity Gospel” has infiltrated most Charismatic and Pentecostal churches in this country, and has made many pastors rich. (Funny how it’s so popular amongst those “pastors”). It is peddalled by God TV and its ilk. Yet, the Prosperity Gospel condemns and shuns poor and suffering Christians: the antithesis of Jesus’ teaching.

      Dear Stephen Green, I am concerned for you. I feel I must warn you that you continue to follow this way of thinking at your peril. You may think you are moderate at the moment, but this form of heresy is like the “angel of light”, and even the Elect are deceived. You, and Christian Voice, will not be blessed through it. Please don’t let this happen.

      1. Stephen

        Dear Chris, I don’t know you but thank you and bless you for your concern. I really am not defending the ‘Prosperity Gospel’ and preachers enriching themselves at their people’s expense. What I am trying to do by God’s grace is to encourage pastors to empower their people to better themselves through obedience, holiness, hard work, believing prayer and giving. I don’t know of any ‘prosperity preacher’ doing all that, do you?
        I believe my article is consistent with the Christian Voice message of personal obedience to the call to preach the word and to pray for our leaders and of national repentance and the blessing which follows national obedience to the ways of God. Assuming that God changeth not (esp from OT to NT!), that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, what’s not to like – from a Christain perspective – in that?

    2. Stuart Wall

      Amen Brother.

      Material blessings are not to be an objective in the new testament era.

      Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He has promised to those who love Him? But you dishonored the poor one. Do not rich men oppress you and draw you before the judgment seats? Do they not blaspheme that worthy Name by which you are called? (James 2: 5-7)

      Psalm 1 corresponds to the promise found under the land covenant of Israel (Deuteronomy 7), but a life of individual faith has always led to a loss of material benefits.

      They were stoned, they were sawed in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented. The world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains and dens and caves of the earth. (Hebrews 11: 37-38)

      Nothing wrong with making lots of money if God blesses us with it, but the rich are marked by hanging onto that wealth and not giving it to others (Ephesians 4:28).

      As long as we seek for the Kingdom of God everything we need is provided for us:

      Therefore do not be anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, With what shall we be clothed? For the nations seek after all these things. For your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6: 31-33)

      I would recommend my free commentary on the epistles of Peter called Living for the World to Come (on my website)

  6. Victor Meyer

    I couldn’t agree more with Stephen Mason. Jesus puts it into perspective (Luke 6:24, AMP): “But woe to (alas for) you who are rich (abounding in material resources), for you already are receiving your consolation (the solace and sense of strengthening and cheer that come from prosperity) and have taken and enjoyed your comfort in full [having nothing left to be awarded you].”

  7. Patrick

    There is no single (or simple!) answer to this matter of prosperity and the Christian. It is a combination of faith, belief, and action – and no doubt one or two other things as well!

    However, I personally believe that today, not enough emphasis is put on tithing. This is a much misunderstood practice, too often marginalised in Christian thinking as being legalistic, formulaic, or only for Old Testament times.

    If properly understood and practised, it is an act in faith of recognition of God as sovereign Creator and Provider. As David wrote (1 Chr. 29:12-14): “Both riches and honour come from you and you rule over all, and in your hand is power and might; and it lies in your hand to make great, and to strengthen everyone. Now therefore, our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name. But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from you, and from your hand we have given you”. In other words: all things come from God and we merely give back to Him what is His. To show this, we offer back to God the ‘first-fruits’ of (in this matter of prosperity) our finances, through tithing.

    However, God who is nothing less than a gracious and loving Heavenly Father to His people, promises that our tithing will bring a response from His heart:”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” (Mal. 3:10). Note the word “blessing”. Not necessarily financial wealth, but necessarily a Godly increase of one kind or another, which will definitely be to our positive benefit and wellbeing.

    Tithing, if practised with the “lottery ticket” expectation, is not Biblical tithing. Biblical tithing is first and foremost an act of obedience to and recognition of God’s sovereignty and rule, following Abraham’s example, which should be noted preceded any law requirement.

    I have witnessed several examples where Christians have been convertd to the practice of Biblical tithing only to find that there has been a speedy response from our Heavenly Father. A man I knew was made redundant in extremely severe recessionary times, with little chance of finding the specialist job he needed to support his family. Yet, following his understanding of Biblical tithing, he gave 10% of his redundancy money to God via his church. Shortly thereafter he was offered not one, but two jobs, thereby ensuring his family’s welfare. Sometimes God’s blessings via the windows of heaven may lie in the area of good health, a blessed family, and so on, but it seems to also always include a financial sufficiency.

    As God says in that same chapter in Malachi: “I, the Lord, do not change”.

    And now on a completely different matter! Please, Stephen, accepting your preference for the King James version, why not at least use the New King James version? It is so interrupting to the flow in your artcile to keep changing from your modern English narrative to the “wilt’s, thee’s, thou’s provideth’s and travelleth’s” of yesteryear-speak! The King James Bible was written in the spoken vernacular of the day, and surely should be read today in our current spoken vernacular? I assume we have a “New” King James version for that very reason! God bless you, nonetheless!

  8. Chris Hargrave

    Dear Stephen, thank you for your reply. You say, “What I am trying to do by God’s grace is to encourage pastors to empower their people to better themselves through obedience, holiness, hard work, believing prayer and giving. I don’t know of any ‘prosperity preacher’ doing all that, do you?”

    Well, actually, *yes*. This is what many UK Prosperity “pastors” teach. Their technique is to lace healthy teaching with heretical “name it and claim it” prosperity doctrine. That is why the elect, in their thousands in the UK, have been lured in and deceived. They are enticed by pastors teaching precisely that they should “better themselves” instead of preaching Christ crucified, that we exist in Him and for Him, and that we lay our treasures up in Heaven, not on earth.

    The Prosperity “gospel” has its roots firmly in Christian Science and the occult – please see D.R. McConnell’s excellent book “A Different Gospel” or, for a brief precis of the origins of Prosperity Doctrine, this article.

    Please turn back Stephen – this is the thin end of the wedge. God will continue bless you with what you need for His Kingdom because you’re seeking His Kingdom, and not materialistic blessings. Prosperity doctrine exists to make its proponents rich, but is clever enough (at least in the UK) to conceal this. Someone or something is beginning to lead you astray and I feel angry about this deception – not with you, because the Prosperity heresy is so deceptive. It’s so frustrating to see you going down this path. You have been so faithful, don’t let “him downstairs” turn you aside now.

    1. Stephen

      Actually, Chris, teaching that it is possible – and desirable – for a Christian to prosper materially as well as spiritually is not rooted ‘in Christian Science and the occult’. That is just a cheap attempt at damning by association.
      It is rooted, as you will see above, firmly in the Scripture, like Psalm 1 which is at the top of this article, Psalm 35:27 – ‘the Lord hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant’, Psalm 37:4, and so on. Even ‘name it and claim it’ can be defended from the teachings of our Lord himself.
      I agree that ‘God will continue to bless you with what you need for His Kingdom because you’re seeking His Kingdom,’ and thank you for it. That is the key:
      Matt 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

  9. Tanesha

    Well said.

  10. Angela De Souza

    Great article on a difficult subject, you might like the message I shared on
    Anointed for Business
    Stay blessed 🙂

    1. Stephen

      Thanks for that Angela.

  11. John Sampson

    “Give us this day our daily bread”, and, “Give me neither poverty nor riches” (Proverbs 30: 8)

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