Remembrance IV: Prosperity

Modern Pentecostalism tends to equate prosperity with righteousness. That’s a shame really, and it’s not scripturally sound. A materialistic gospel is its own danger. God is not against the prosperity of his servants however, and we see copious references to this disposition in scriptures. As far back as 1,000 BC David had written, “Let them shout for joy and rejoice, who favour my vindication and want what is right for me; let them say continually, ‘Let the Lord be magnified, who delights and takes pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.’” Psalms 35:27 AMP. Though we must note the word “prosperity” is rendered blessing and security in some other translations. But the general point is that God wants his people to prosper.

There are other passages that talk about prosperity. Paul for example wrote, “You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9 NLT. And John wrote, “Beloved, I pray that in every way you may succeed and prosper and be in good health physically, just as I know your soul prospers spiritually.” 3 John 1:2 AMP. It is therefore hard to objectively eliminate prosperity from the package of atonement. That will not be honest scholarship, it will be ideology. The scriptures are clear, and we can’t blame preachers for enunciating scriptures.
But we must concede there are gospel abusers. Some preachers abuse the teaching of scriptures. Peter gives us an earful on those people: “Having hearts trained in greed, they are children of a curse. Abandoning the straight road that is, the right way to live, they have gone astray; they have followed the way of the false teacher Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the reward of wickedness.” 2 Peter 2:14-15 AMP. Balaam Beor was that notorious prophet in the Old Testament who became a consultant to Israel’s enemy, King Balak of Moab. He was a gun for hire prophet who developed a specialty in political proclamations. He was recruited to curse Israel by King Balak. Deuteronomy 23:3-6, Jude 1:11. His tunnel vision on that assignment nearly got him killed. He was saved by a talking donkey. (It’s not just in Shrek you have a talking donkey). An angel was going to assassinate him. To be fair the donkey probably thought her life was in danger too, though it would have been spared. Numbers 22. It’s not just in Shrek you have a talking donkey. Balaam would go on to devise other means to accomplish the objective. The guy was invidious. It was Jesus who told us what he did. Speaking to the church in Pergamum he said: “But I have a few things against you, because you have there some among you who are holding to the corrupt teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel enticing them to eat things that had been sacrificed to idols and to commit acts of sexual immorality.” Revelation 2:14 AMP. How can a prophet give such advice! Balaam was lost. He loved money. He would be killed by Israelites during Joshua’s regime. Joshua 13:22. You can read more about him in Numbers 22-24. That’s one misused brilliance.
When God prospers us he doesn’t want our hearts attached to the money. It shouldn’t be the centre of our life. Psalm 62:10. “Don’t make your living by extortion or put your hope in stealing. And if your wealth increases, don’t make it the centre of your life.” Psalms 62:10 NLT. God HAS to be the centre of our life, no matter what. For this grace we must plead.
The illogicality of equating prosperity with righteousness lies in the fact many of the early disciples were poor. And yet they were righteous. Some were impoverished by the state on account of their faith: “Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.” Hebrews 11:37-38 NLT. If these impoverished saints are recorded in faith’s hall of fame prosperity cannot be the definition of righteousness. There are Christians who are materially poor but God rich. Being God-rich is the best kind of prosperity. At the end of the day it’s the prosperity that counts. The Dollar has no value in heaven.
There were of course some successful Christians in those days. Barnabas was rich. Ananias and Sapphira were rich. These folks could afford to sell assets and donate proceeds to the church. Acts 2:45, Acts 4:36-37, Acts 5:1. In fact the impression given is that Barnabas kept on bailing out the church. Which was why he was given the nickname “Barnabas.” It means, “Son of Encouragement.” His original name was Joe. Acts 4:36. But the majority of the disciples were poor, especially those in Jerusalem. Paul organised one or two relief efforts for them. Acts 24:17, 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, 2 Corinthians 8:1-15, Romans 15:25-29.
There are many wonderful Christians who are not materially rich. I recall a Christian couple I met while I was in university. I was introduced to them by my best friend and we used to go visit. He was a student of medicine at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). I regularly visited the school, sometimes attended lectures, without the knowledge of the lecturers of course! My friend had made friends with the couple. They lived just outside LUTH. Their names remind me of that other wonderful couple in the Bible, Aquila and Priscila. They were Paul and Paulina. Sister Paulina as we fondly called her was bubbly. She was small and girlish, her voice high pitched like a small girl’s. She was dark, had those wonderful dimples. They were as enduring as her innocence. Sister Paulina had no guile. Her giggles betrayed no sense of lack. And yet they lacked. Her husband was a driver. That couple taught me about love, a good heart and contentment. They had such generosity of spirit that with the little they had they would always offer to buy us drinks. Before you know it Sister Paulina has set a table. I could not really appreciate their level of deprivation in those days but now I know. We knew they were poor but we couldn’t really appreciate their sacrifices. We were young, knew nothing about life. Now that I’m old I know much better. I appreciate them even more. Sister Paulina was a domestic. She took care of their brood, meaning she brought in no income. But out of the little they had they constantly gave to two teenagers whose parents were way more comfortable than they were. But what they gave the most was the comfort of their heart and their home. We would sometimes stay till past 10pm. Sister Paulina never complained. She would even offer food. We knew not to eat. They couldn’t really afford to feed us but what a couple!
My friend later moved to England. He became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. He came in to town the other day and went looking for Brother Paul and Sister Paulina. This was thirty something years after. They still lived in the same neighbourhood. And as in the past he spent considerable time with them, leaving after 10pm. Their children are grown now. Sister Paulina and Brother Paul are now grandparents. But the love of God in that home never waned. The little they had they continued to share.
In material pursuit we so easily miss the things that really matter in life – things like friends and family, like charity and kindness, like joy and harmony, like love and contentment. Our primary pursuit ought to be God. Every other thing is an addendum: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33 KJV. “As the deer pants longingly for the water brooks, so my soul pants longingly for you, O God. My soul – my life, my inner self thirsts for God, for the living God. When will I come and see the face of God?” Psalms 42:1-2 AMP.
There’s a societal factor to the deceitfulness of riches. Mark 4:19. When you’re doing well in life the world will applaud you. Success has a chorus band. You won’t be short of praise singers. Psalm 49:18. The fate of a rich man is unlike that of a poor man. “All the relatives of a poor person hate him; how much more do his friends avoid him – he pursues them with words, but they do not respond.” Proverbs 19:7 NET. The Message translation speaks of the man down on his luck: “When you’re down on your luck, even your family avoids you – yes, even your best friends wish you’d get lost. If they see you coming, they look the other way— out of sight, out of mind.” Proverbs 19:7 MSG. Prosperity must be accompanied by spiritual understanding. The Bible says, “A man who is held in honour, yet who lacks spiritual understanding and a teachable heart, is like the beasts that perish.” Psalms 49:20 AMP. When wealth becomes a god in your life spiritual affection will be transferred. You can’t love God and Mammon in equal measure. Matthew 6:24. And a poor man can love Mammon as much as the rich man.
The scriptures tell us the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. 1 Timothy 6:10. The love of money opens you to all sorts of possibilities, things you can’t imagine yourself doing. Or why else would a man ritualistically sleep with a demoniac for the sake of money? His mind is broken. He is one with the demoniac. He has crossed the Rubicon. There are things you shouldn’t do. Godliness with contentment is great gain. 1 Timothy 6:6-11 is most instructive in this regard. Read it.
If you’ll like to receive Jesus into your life please pray this prayer: “Father I acknowledge that I am a sinner, that Jesus died for me, that you raised him from the dead. Father please forgive me. I accept Jesus today as my Lord and my Saviour. Amen.”
© Leke Alder |