Regrettably, Christianity has known a brand of “preachers” who endlessly promote health, wealth and (material) prosperity. You can often see these so-called ministers ranting and raving on your television screen. They promote their grandiose lifestyle with three piece suits and fancy cars; all while telling you to give them more and more “love gifts” (i.e. money) to advance their standard of living. You’d think this dog and pony show would have little effect. I mean…who’s really gonna give their hard-earned money to some well dressed charlatan? However, you’d be surprised how many people empty their pockets. Here’s the catch: these “pastors” tell you that if you have enough “faith” in your giving, then God will “bless” you as richly as he has blessed them. Surely, then, you can see how this prosperity message could work. After all, nearly everyone values and wants wealth, and they’ll utilize any means to get it…Jesus included!
However, to say that this “gospel” of prosperity is unbiblical would be a gross understatement! It is blasphemous at best and completely heretical at worst. These “teachings” couldn’t be further from what Jesus teaches in the Bible. True prosperity is not bound up in the fading and finite glory of earthly riches. No, no, no…Jesus is much more creative than that! True prosperity is far greater!
Now, I’m no hater of goods and possessions. In fact, God may very well bless his people with great material wealth, and he has for many people. The issue, however, is with our hearts and inner desires. The issue is about where our focus should lie and what our souls should seek, and it should not be earthly gain (Matthew 6:19-21). The true prosperity that we ought to be seeking is not material health and wealth; rather, it is God’s enduring presence among us in the midst of a broken world. And the benefits that come with the presence of the Almighty are very great indeed!
In the Jewish Scriptures, there are endless accounts that highlight for us the value of God’s presence. Israel (i.e. God’s chosen people) well knew that when God was in there midst, he would fight on their behalf against the enemy nations, which surrounded them (see Exodus 14:14; Deuteronomy 1:30; Deuteronomy 20:4; Joshua 10:14, 2 Chronicles 20:15, 29). They knew that if God was present, all that God had purposed for them to accomplish would succeed. They knew they would be a great kingdom and a mighty nation with an everlasting King (2 Samuel 8-16). They knew they would enjoy the comfort of peace on every border (Joshua 21:44-45). And they knew they would never lack or be in want (Psalm 23:1). In short, when God dwelt in the midst of his people, they would prosper, and his promises for them as a nation would come to pass. In response to such prosperity, Israel would continually sing the refrain, “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 136:1 ESV). This was Israel’s recognition of the love and compassion of God, which he continually demonstrated in their midst, despite their sin and disobedience.
Today (in the age beginning with Jesus Christ – i.e. A.D.), God has demonstrated his presence, with the Church, far more clearly and profoundly than he ever did with national Israel. In fact, God himself came into the world as a man and dwelt in our midst (John 14:1-14), so that all who would believe in him may have life (John 3:16). Consequently, he gave all such believers his Spirit (John 14:15-17). It is these people, who have the indwelling Spirit of God, who make up the true church of God (i.e. the people of God). And God’s stated purpose for his people today is to bring forth his kingdom into the world (Matthew 28:18-20). This Great Commission, as it is called, is God’s intended mission for his people in this final age. We are here as his ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) – spreading the joy and wonder of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that all may know and see that the LORD is God and that he is good. We are to proclaim the supremacy and sovereignty of the great King.
However, as you know, this kingdom does not come forth without conflict and violence. In fact, we engage in embittered spiritual warfare every day. The the problem of sin has brought great corruption into the world. Thus, we have death, decay and decline in all of life. Sin is why there is suffering. Sin is why there is struggle. Sin is why there is hardship and difficulty. However, the glory of God’s mission is this: that despite our sin-saturated world, God will enable his people (i.e. the Church) to bring the salvation of Jesus Christ to the nations, because he will be with us as we do it. In this great commission we have received, God will be with us – his presence among us, as we tread through the storm of a sin-fallen world. True prosperity for the Church is the experience and enjoyment of God’s presence in the midst of hardship; being enabled and strengthened to succeed in his plan for us!
Prosperity is not about obtaining earthly wealth and health in this life; rather true prosperity is about enjoying the heavenly wealth of God’s presence in our lives, as he enables us to reach the New Heavens and New Earth (Revelation 21), where we will enjoy the fullness of his presence – apart from the frothy film of remaining sin in our current world. Therefore, Jesus tells us, “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b ESV). Surely, the “withness” of Jesus is far greater prosperity than any health, wealth, or (material) prosperity! And though God may grant us those things, they mean nothing if he is not with us!
I leave you with the words of King David: “Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!” 1 Chronicles 16:11 ESV
Grace to you