Is There Really a Such Thing as a "Prosperity Gospel"?
It’s a snowy day here in New Hampshire. Not only is it very pretty, I like the mood it puts me in.
No play on words intended. OK. Maybe a little.
This article is a fuller response to a good friend that asked a few really good questions concerning the “Prosperity Gospel” and/or “Word of Faith” teachings.
Once I read them, I was immediately thinking, “These are great questions and would be a really good springboard to share a few thoughts and observations!”
The more I started to write, the more this took on its own “life”. I developed my thoughts more fully than originally intended and I was able to discuss these observations from many different angles. Expounding a little more here, changing and editing a little there, this may very well turn into a small book. Take your time going through this. There are lots of great lessons within this one big one.
It's taken me about three months to be happy enough with the article to publish it. And I am sure more tweaks are to come. So don't be in a hurry. There's enough in here to keep you thinking for awhile.
So…here we go!
Opinions Are Like…
Before we start investigating in depth the matters I want to discuss, it's going to be necessary to let you "get in my head" on a few things. Specifically, my deeply held convictions that the Word of God must be honored, and that it is not in our powers to edit what we do or do not like concerning what God has said. That we not compromise the Word of God and His standards; and when folks are manipulating and twisting things to say what they do not, something should be said.
I'll expect you to use this first section as a filter for the later parts of the study. And at some point, I'll make sure to remind you, "Hey, remember what I said at the beginning of this article?"
Everybody has something to say about everything it seems. With Google and the internet at large, certainly there is no shortage of those espousing their own qualifications and self-evaluation of greatness to bluster upon anything from politics and religion to diet and whether we are going to be returning to another ice age.
Theology certainly has no shortage of its “parking lot prophets” and exegetists willing at a moment’s notice to proclaim their insights and then with careless abandon, attach the Lord’s name to their meanderings as a personal guarantee of its correctness. And since every cake needs its icing…to ridicule and demean those who do not see things as they do.
No doubt, there certainly are “revelations” that come down the pike that can be so "out there" it seems the easiest thing to do would be to mock and have some fun with what is being taught and the people believing those things. I must admit that I am "guilty as charged" at doing that occasionally. But all of us need to be careful. We must have the filter and even restraint to be able to disagree with someone without claiming they are Beelzebub ascending from the seventh level of hell because they don’t see things quite the same as we do.
To insult and indict someone’s very Christianity because they may believe differently is foolish and certainly not going to help anyone. To do that is to imply that any other interpretation than what you believe is to the point of being heretical and of necessity should be demeaned. It shuts down a discussion before you can even start one!
"...but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good." I Thessalonians 5:21
No doubt, I get pretty stirred up when strange ideas of the Lord and His kingdom show up. I don’t apologize for that either. The Ephesian Church was commended by the Lord in the Book of Revelation, for calling out so called “apostles”, that actually weren’t apostles. They vehemently resisted the Nicolaitans as well, whom Jesus Himself didn’t have much tolerance for.
Just because something shows up in Charisma Magazine or Christianity Today, and I read both by they way, doesn't necessarily and automatically mean it is doctrinally sound. The Apostle Paul has already granted people are going to say and teach things that must be examined, and that not all of it will be correct.
I take a long time to consider and meditate and pray over what I believe (hint: you should too by the way!). We should be willing to explore the Word of God to extract even the slightest blessing from the Scriptures. But the balance, and you're going to hear this word a lot in this article, for any of us is to remember that the deepest Thinker of all (Jesus, if you hadn’t figured it out) continually simplified the concepts of His creation! So much so, He summed up access to His kingdom in, “Let the kids come and jump on my lap. This is how it’s done and it's not any more complicated than that. You don't learn this lesson on childlike faith, you won't get very far!” (Matthew 19:14).
When someone shows up on the scene claiming to have some new revelation which only complicates and confuses people, clouding our ability to walk with Christ with a childlike faith, you bet I will take issue and say something. It’s in my job description as a Pastor.
At the same time, and why I took the last couple paragraphs to say what I did, I don’t reflexively indict and then affix the “heretic” tag on the person’s forehead and question the genuineness of the person’s faith in Christ, simply because I may take issue with some of what they teach!
Remember, even the Apostle Peter had to change his theology midstream when God had granted salvation to Cornelius and the Gentiles with him. A necessary adjustment in belief and doctrine in no way means someone was previously reprobate! (see Acts 10:1-11:18)
It is in this previous context I believe we should take some time to discuss the connotations of the above terms i.e. “Prosperity Gospel” and/or “Word of Faith”, which more often than not are used as slang and contempt towards other genuine believers.
Is it possible that misusing and misapplying those terms have implanted bias's in our thinking, causing us to miss out on some really great information? Or are these folks charlatans feeding off the misfortune of gullible people looking for immediate relief or a get rich scheme God Himself came up with?
Having introduced these things, let’s get right into our subject.
Is there a real such thing?
The answer is no. Absolutely not. That term is fabricated and pulled out of thin air. You will not find one single time that the writers, specifically in the New Testament, used the term “prosperity gospel”.
OK, where did it come from then?
Well, it is generally used in one of two ways:
- As a malicious term used by some to describe the belief and teaching (which they obviously disagree with) that God wants His people to be well, have more than enough to enjoy and share freely with others, and that God can be trusted to be a Source of refuge and deliverance throughout our entire lives in EVERY adverse circumstance. That God delivers us from adversity, He is not the cause of it. That He creates to share, and that freely and abundantly! He has a big family in Christ, and He has no qualms having lots of good things under the tree for His kids! (It was the Christmas season as I started to write this, and that illustration seems appropriate)
A few names with the biggest bulls-eyes on their back being aimed at by these theological sharpshooters and assassins are folks like Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, and Joel Osteen.
So, what is wrong with believing that God is overwhelmingly good and that He loves to demonstrate in tangible ways that goodness, you ask?
Hey, don’t ask me. I will never figure out how there are those that almost in a meth like hysteria will ambush anyone believing with childlike faith that God really is good all the time and that He is continually looking out for the welfare of His people. That you can have a good life in this life, enjoying the benefits of a Father who just so happens to be God as well! (And by the way, not just in America, but wherever His children are found. Do we think for a second that God needs a record high stock market to bless someone in the most remote parts of the earth? I'll explain more later in greater detail. We will discover that "relative", is an important principle to grasp if we are going to understand these things)
Unfortunately, there is no shortage of those that equate suffering as the primary means and medal of a truly “spiritual” person. And run far and wide from any hint that God always wants to fulfill His promises to heal, save, and deliver. I'll let you in on a little something. Suffering may be the result of spirituality, but it is not necessarily the cause of it. I have been as “spiritual” having tons of stuff as when I had nothing!
- Secondly, “prosperity gospel” or “Word of Faith” thrown in there for good measure, is a term/terms used to label those who are genuinely out of balance and have misinterpreted the Word of God concerning wealth and wellness. Their interpretations are extreme and have left a wake of those hurt at best, shipwrecked in their faith, at worst. They represent our Father as Someone at our beckon call if we just put the coin in the machine with enough giving and confessing. And this particular subject, “health and wealth”, seems to draw more of this than the bugs glued to the fly traps hanging in the barn I used to own in New Hampshire in the heat of the summer!
Either way, when the above terms are used, more often than not, the phrases imply bitterness, disdain, and judgment of other brothers and sisters in Christ and complete dismissal of their beliefs.
I don’t think that is profitable, so I’ll make a couple points on why.
How Much is Too Much?
I don’t like doctrinal extremes. OK…full disclosure…I despise them!
At best, confusion about God and theological disarray result. At worst, this can be the breeding ground of cultish ideas and leaders attempting to sustain their insatiable appetites for power and control, or just plain stupidity, upon the gullible.
As a Pastor of almost 30 years, I have seen faiths shipwrecked, disciples discouraged, and the local church wounded terribly by these things. I stand amazed that it can seem at times the weirder and “out there” some ideas or “revelations” sound, the more folks run after them with the same fervor I did the neighborhood ice cream truck in July when I was five years old!
Some new guy gets talked about in Charisma Magazine, and now the race to follow the next fad begins, at the expense of discarding at times even the most fundamental and established doctrines recognized for thousands of years, that a local pastor has worked hard to instill into God’s children.
My personal “go to” solution, “filter” is a good word, is to remember the KISS method (Keep It Simple Saint).
There are multiple extremes out there. Whether it’s “health and wealth”, that is if you just have enough faith you will never get sick and God wants all of us to be gazillionaires. Or the laptop peruser sitting in their beds at two in the morning convinced they are qualified to rain brimstone down upon all they do not agree with, even upon the most influential ministries in the nation and the world. Both are out of balance and unscriptural (and in very poor taste by the way).
So stop it!
(This is totally off topic, but if you haven't seen the Bob Newhardt skit called "Stop It!", you gotta check it out. Funny but insightful as well...but I digress.)
It’s important to remember. Whether it’s about money, the power of faith, or anything else in the Scriptures, for the most part, there is always a balance. And we need to find balance in those things we believe and are trying to walk in.
I don’t like the preacher promising Cadillacs to the first five hundred givers any more than most others do. In the same breath, the idea God is all doom and gloom, or He has a personal vendetta against Cadillacs for that matter, is just as wrong. That your day cannot start until you have repented over sins you don’t even know about and have rolled around in the mud in sackcloth and ashes, is as misrepresentative of Him and His Word as thinking no one ever gets sick, or being broke is always some indication you have no faith.
So, have I proven yet I don’t like charlatans any more than anyone else? It's going to be real important you remember this as we move on.
But come on my friends…
These abusive, greedy, extreme and misdirected preachers and believers on both extremes are such a vast minority compared to the millions of those just trying to honorably serve God, disciple those whom the Lord has placed to serve beside them, and trust Him in their lives that God is good and there are benefits to serving Him.
To jump on the Jeremiah judgement train and dismiss deeply entrenched principles in the Word of God because of abuses is not wise.
Now. Are there some things Scripturally, that there is no leeway and nothing really to balance, that just “are” or "is"? Absolutely. Of course.
"Hell is hot and there is no thermostat to turn the heat down!"
The reality of heaven and hell just “is”. Nothing there to balance. Like God is love, “is” and “You must be born again”, “is”.
Other than similar examples like this, there is usually some room for practical, even generational consideration’s and modifications. Eating meat or just vegetables. Married like the Lord’s apostles or going solo like Paul. Enjoying a Cabernet with your rib eyed steak or not. “Agreeing to disagree” is just fine and totally acceptable. And neither of you are burning forever in hell because of your differences.
You Smell That?
We all know folks that are negative, and all of us have been that way some times in our life. It's human nature. And I have an illustration which perfectly describes this in context with what I am discussing.
Negativity is like throw up. You can be in another room in your house, yet get one good whiff of the stuff, and you’ll be as sick as if you were right next to it!
In context with this article, let me define what I mean by “negativity”, and why the above illustration I used was meant to be as graphic. This is important. I’m not talking about a Charlie Brown Pigpen "woe is me" type cloud of depression around someone. Here, I define negativity as the denigration and insulting of those whom we do not agree; specifically, as far as doctrine is concerned. This type of person carries around their own “prophet rocks”, ready to condemn and stone anyone who does not fit inside their personal framework of what is God.
This type of negativity, usually masked and self proclaimed as some type of “discernment”, too often has a magnetic attractiveness to it. Sad to say, it seems that criticism and nay saying are much easier to evoke an appetite for than love, joy, peace, etc. that we are clearly instructed to filter our attitudes through.
Go on social media today, and there will be no shortage of those who having a first-grade level understanding of Christianity at best, yet have little to no hesitation to criticize, demean and dismiss everyone from the Pope to the President to Billy Graham and everyone in between. And the long line of folks ready to join the fray with their “Yeah, that’s right! Darn Christians need to act so and so!”
On the other extreme, apparently genuine Christians who proclaim those who are not aligned with them as the lone “remnant” are “The whore of Babylon and are doomed to wrath and fire and a continual bath in the vomit they returned to!”
At the same time, many of these purveyors (not all, but I'm making a point) of all that is wrong with others, saint and unbeliever alike, can’t hold down a job, are on their third marriage, are too “free” to be members of a local church and attend regularly, and balance their personal lives as well as the ballet dancer trying to do point on a beach ball!
(That was a great visual right there by the way if I do say so myself!)
Soooooooooooooo…why did I take the extended time to talk about negativity in this light and with such snark?
Because those things I just described are the petri dish and breeding ground of the terms of which this article is discussing!
The term “Prosperity Gospel” and all those like it were for the most part developed and defined in the breeding environment of immaturity and out of balance judgementalism. “Come let us reason together” is discarded for the much simpler “Crucify them!”
Have we considered, speaking of negativity and crucifixion, that LOTS of people talked negatively and ridiculed Jesus...and Paul... and most all of the Lord's faithful servants as well!
They were persecuted and even murdered as a result of lots of people speaking negatively about them. You’re not going to get any more “right” than Jesus, and they killed Him for it! A direct result of the bad press and propaganda spread by those who despised Him personally and what He stood for.
Let’s consider that the more "right" something is, and instructs us accurately concerning the things of God; do we not think Satan would bombard that very thing with negativity? Those who do not know how to disregard such things can suffer terrible loss. In the same way gigantic oil spills in the ocean saturate and cripple the wildlife it consumes, the truths of God’s word can be so drenched in religious vilification, that it becomes difficult to see the beauty and power of them. This very thing has left too many Christians in adverse situations they easily could have victory in, they just don’t know it.
“…my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. “Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.” Hosea 4:6
Ignorance has consequences. And if the devil can stop us from even looking at a principle in God's word because we believed the disinformation, it's our loss. And our own fault!
I can think back to one family in particular. They were faithful friends for years. Had been wonderfully blessed and ministered to at GHCC for a long time. Yet, it took just one internet article to begin a downward spiral; tragically ending their blessing to the faith community and severing friendships they had for years.
Just one article!
One commentary, authored by someone they had no clue of concerning their character or interpretive skills, became a sliver in their souls that became so infected that no one on our team could say or do anything to undo the septicity. My understanding is they have no spiritual walk of any kind, even to this day.
This is a classic example of a “faith shipwreck”, and how it can happen. And why I called this specific type of negativity “throw up” earlier.
I meant it. I stand by the term.
Let the Word Say What the Word Says!
Alright. Having done my best to establish a platform from which I can comment from, let’s get specific as to some of the terms and concepts concerning “health and wealth” teachings. Do we think there just might be a balance concerning money, prosperity, or whether God cares whether you have the flu or not?
“Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, Who delights greatly in His commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth; The generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches will be in his house (emphasis mine) And his righteousness endures forever. Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness, He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous. A good man deals graciously and lends;(emphasis mine) He will guide his affairs with discretion. Surely he will never be shaken.” Psalm 112 1-6
- “Wealth and riches in his house..."
- "A good man deals graciously and lends (How can you lend if you don’t have extra stuff hanging around?)
- "He will never be shaken..."
- "His descendants (kids) are mighty (manly...vigorous...champion...superior) on the earth..."
Do the above statements sound like a God that gets really turned on when His children are having their lights shut off for lack of payment to the electric company, overcome with guilt, their kids adrift and lost in sin and addicted to drugs, and loaded to their eyeballs in debt?
The Psalmist is referring to anyone and whosoever that commits their lives to meditating, understanding, and living out as best they can the Scriptures. You can double check to make sure I'm not making this stuff up, but there's no stipulation as to nationality, time period, or geographical location as far as those blessings. Actually, the better word is...
Over and over again, the Scriptures make it clear that many of God's favors are "results", not special endowments bestowed by a whimsical God. And results can be duplicated time and again. The Scriptures are not myths and fanciful thoughts of tooth fairies and babies buzzing around clouds playing harps. The Word of God is science. Real science with real results if you cooperate with its "laws".
To continue, let's consider that Jesus had a lot to say about money.
“For it (the kingdom of heaven) will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.” Matthew 25:14-15
Note: Please take the time to read the entire account (Matthew 25:14-30) of which I am referencing to get the context and specific details of what the Lord was teaching and to which I am referencing. It is only for the sake of space I didn't post the whole passage. Yet it is important you read the whole parable to converse intelligently with me on these next points.
We probably know the story. You should if you read it like I just suggested. Oh, you ignored the last paragraph and didn't read it? Please look up and read the entire passage. I'm asking nicely. Never, ever, ever, forget. God is much better at talking about Himself and what He thinks than my discussions and opinions of Him...or anyone elses for that matter.
So now that we have read the story, we must discuss the terms and definitions to which He was illustrating!
This is a big one coming up. And I have heard even preachers get this wrong. Any idea what a “talent” was?
Here’s a hint:
He is not talking about skill.
A “talent” was a unit of money. Yep. Cold...hard…metal. And a lot of it.
How much is “a lot” you ask? Glad you asked! If you hadn't, we would talk about it anyway. We cannot possibly understand the gravity of what the Lord wanted us to know without having this definition correct.
Let’s let Wikipedia tell us. That way you can’t blame the definition on…yep…one of those “prosperity preachers”:
"When used as a measure of money, it refers to a talent-weight of gold or of silver. The gold talent is reported as weighing roughly the same as a person, and so perhaps 50 kg (110 lb avoirdupois). Some authorities say that the talent typically weighed about 33 kg (75 lb) varying from 20 to 40 kg. In June, 2018, the international price of gold was about US $41,155.69 per kilogram. One gram costs about $38. At this price, a talent (33 kg) would be worth about $1,400,116.57. (emphasis mine J.J.).
Similarly, in February 2016, the price of silver was about $15 per troy ounce or about 50 cents per gram, so a 33 kg silver talent would be worth about $16,500. Thus when we read that King Auletes of Egypt paid Gaius Julius Caesar the sum of 6,000 talents of gold to grant him the status of a "Friend and Ally of the Roman People," this amount would be worth about $8,400,699,422.80 USD today!”
I’ll repeat directly from the article for emphasis:
“At this price, a talent (33 kg) would be worth about $1,400,116.57.”
So, in laymen’s terms, even from this secular standpoint, the little guy in this story, who had the least ability, allotted only one teeny weenie little talent, was still given a million and a half dollars!
My friends. Stop...breath...consider.
Not only do we gotta stop thinking God is cheap and against money…
…it is imperative we realize wealth is actually the means of one of His favorite tests as far as loyalty and faithfulness are concerned…and we better pass the test!!!
I’m not done. Let’s do some basic math.
Referring again to Jesus’ teaching on talent/money administration. The most gifted and able servant started with five talents, or around seven million dollars. The Master gave it to him. Yep. Just handed over to him around seven million dollars. Consider that the servant’s work wasn’t to get the money, his responsibility was to multiply that which he had been freely given.
Ready for this? The math is simple.
By the time this fellow reported back to the Owner with his gains, he was worth over 35 MILLION DOLLARS!!!
Note: it could be argued that the Master was the one who had the thirty-five million since the steward worked for him. That is immaterial. The lesson being that God has no issues with exorbitant amounts of money. And furthermore, His servants...yeah you too if you are a Christian...are going to be tested by having some, if not a whole lot it!
Not only was God cool with all that money, He commended the servant for his diligence and had lots more in store for him because he was so good at what he did.
Oh, and don’t forget…
That poor, unfortunate, one talented guy, who so unfairly was only given a measly million and a half dollars…whom many of our politicians would use as the poster child for the evils of money and privilege and unfairness…his one and a half million was handed over to the thirty-five million dollar guy at the same time he was tossed out of the boss’s office and told not to come back!
The Owner (God) did not take from the successful and wealthy steward to “make things fair” …He took from the lazy guy and gave it to the faithful one to make things right!
Clearly we see the priority the Lord puts on success and multiplication and faithfulness.
On to our next example.
The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul had something to say about money too.
“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…” I Timothy 6:17
Notice Paul didn’t tell Pastor Timothy to demean the wealthy or tell them an abundance of money is a sign of carnality. That they are heretical “health and wealth” preachers and believers, condemned to the abyss.
He gave simple instructions. To paraphrase:
“You guys that have been abundantly blessed; don’t get arrogant over the wealth and don’t trust in money. The stuff can blow away into the wind as quickly as the dried-up weeds in the field in the middle of the hot August summer. Stay focused on God”. PJ's New International Paraphrase😊
What “God” is he/Paul referring too?
The God Who gives us RICHLY for our enjoyment!
Go back and read it again for yourself. God Himself was ultimately the begetter of their wealth. Our God clearly enjoys blessing His people. So much so, we are told to ENJOY EVERYTHING He so graciously and abundantly bestows.
Doesn't it beg the question, that if God is into blessings, joy, and benevolence, why shouldn't we!
“They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” I Timothy 6:18-19
Those that are wealthy are instructed not to be selfish. Actually, Paul used the word “command” when it comes to sharing.
In the original language, the word "command is "parangello", which means to command, charge strictly, give orders. Preachers have a duty to without hesitation and stuttering let those who are wealthy know God expects them to be generous benefactors. “Blessed to be a blessing” is both an expectation and a lifestyle.
Ever hear someone say, "That Preacher just wants my money!" Well, in a sense and specific to this context, the answer is...ABSOLUTELY!
Wanna know why with the same urgency as the Marine drill sergeant with his new recruits, Paul commands wealthy people to be generous philanthropists? One of the key answers is not difficult to find and is in reference to a few verses just before the ones we just cited. And wouldn't you know, the very same verses I am about to quote are relentlessly quoted by those who contend that money is evil and we have no business wanting any of it.
"But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs." I Timothy 6:9-10
I'll make this real simple.
We can look at money as a tree which is gonna produce one of two kinds of fruit. Money creates the power and enablement to indulge in many appetites that the Scriptures tell us are harmful to ourselves and others. Money becomes the gasoline to the vehicle of self that fuels "all kinds of evils." The above verse is the poster child of the individual that has squarely put his trust in his money, contrary to the commands of the Lord just a few verses later not to "...put your hope in wealth which is so uncertain...".
But it doesn't have to be that way!
Coins have two sides my friends. Money can also be the nitro glycerin fuel that allows the benevolent heart to bless many peoples' lives with a whole lot more than, "Ill pray for you." I never minded having people pray for me, but man, when they wrote the check to be the miracle I needed, that was much better and can you say Amen!!!
The person that has no fear of lack and whose trust is in God, not his 401K, will have no hesitation sharing and helping those less fortunate in wonderful ways.
Am I the only one reading this that has ever said, "I sure wish I could help that person?" Well, if your heart and mind are renewed to think more about God's ways than your own, and you have a checking account balance equal to Fort Knox as a result of shrewdness and faithfulness you have exercised by God's grace, the Lord has no issues at all with that kind of wealth. Frankly, I'm convinced He'd make sure a lot more folks had wealth if they would just pass the tests concerning money we referenced earlier when we were learning about talents.
Let me share a story that graphically illustrates what I am referring to.
As many know, God has blessed me with two careers. I am the Senior Pastor at GHCC, and for many years I also owned an aviation company. Harvest Aviation had a very successful flight school and we crewed private jets for owners and businesses. As of this writing, I remain a qualified captain on two types of business jets (those pictured); which I still currently fly.
One day, I was in a supermarket and ran into a very good friend of mine. He was a retired pastor who I had worked with on multiple occasions. As we talked, he told me how things weren't well and he was having a very difficult time financially, including making his rent. As well, he starting talking about the new pastor that took over his church after he had retired. My pastor friend said he was greatly troubled because the new guy was preaching that "prosperity stuff". We finished talking about a few other things and went our way.
Not thirty seconds later, the Lord told me to go back to my friend and tell him I was supposed to pay his rent for him. So, I went and wrote the check on the spot. Of course my pastor friend was very grateful to the Lord and to my being a blessing. He thanked me over and over. As we were parting again, I said to him, "Sir, if I didn't believe in prosperity, I couldn't have written that check!".
I wish I could describe what his face looked like!
Friends, abundance...excess...is nothing to fear when in the hands of a generous child of God that understands he is only a steward of wealth, not an owner. And that with such wealth, comes incredible responsibility of which they are more than happy to fulfill.
Speaking again concerning the Scriptural command to the wealthy not to trust in money and to share; here’s an important point to my Socialist/Marxist antagonists:
Paul's command to the wealthy to share is not the same as commanding Timothy to TAKE!
Paul did not tell Timothy, or the government, or some politician, to take their money forcefully from them. Neither Paul nor Timothy went on a diatribe concerning the unfairness of the wealthy, redistribution, and privilege to stir hate and victimization of one group against the other. The Scriptures teach simply that one group is not to be favored more than the other, and the other is not to be jealous over those who have what they do not.
Want more fun for extra credit? Read Paul’s instructions concerning giving and receiving in II Corinthians 8 and 9.
I admit, I’m having too much fun to stop! So just a little more.
Though what I am about to talk about isn't specifically whether God wants you to own an airplane, have an extra car in the garage or never get headaches because of your faith in divine healing, it's really important we continue with the following lessons. Reason being that what I talk about next is the favorite first cousin to what we have been studying.
In other words, if we don't have absolute confidence that God is all for His children living a blessed and abundant life, in this life, we necessarily must conclude that God enjoys and is all for watching His children go through continuous adversity and we all ought to be overjoyed when life tanks!
If we can't be confident that "God is good all the time, and that all the time God is good", then logically we should conclude that lack, poverty, and oppression must be His plan and purposes for His children. Which then leads to the conclusion that all the joy and fun and material wealth of this age all belong to the children of the devil, while the sons of God look sheepishly up to heaven in the same way Tiny Tim did to his father Bob Cratchit and beg for just a small crumb of bread!
How could you trust God to save you from drowning if you're convinced He is the one holding your head under water!!!!!
note: I do think its fair to ask those of the above persuasion, that if misery is such a blessing, why do we all want out of adversity the moment we find ourselves in it? If that headache is such a blessing, why are you taking an aspirin for it? If poverty was such a wonderful blessing of God, why then are we upset when we don't get the raise we wanted and our taxes go up?
So, the following is for those who have been continually assaulted, “bludgeoned” is probably a more accurate term, with the uber and extreme out of balance "religious" teaching, that not everyone can have faith and hope to be delivered, healed, whatever is needed at any given time, from every trial and tribulation they face. That for some cosmic reason buried deep in the depths of God’s own soul, there are those so worthy, sooooooo spiritual, that their lives are meant to be miserable forever; at least while alive on the earth. That misfortune is a “grace” to be embraced, not something grace is available to deliver them from!
I'll let the Apostle Paul fill us in on what he learned concerning hardships and whether or not we should have a strong faith to be freed from any…some…most…or all of them.
"...my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra —which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me."
II Timothy 3:11 (emphasis mine)
I can't tell you how many times in my years as a Christian and minister of the gospel, that folks will throw out Paul's name as proof that life isn't always a bed of roses. Well, no kidding Sherlock! I don't need Paul to prove that, life itself has proven that! But folks, it is disingenuous to use Paul or anyone else and their misfortunes as an evidence that life should be a continuous case of misery with only scant moments of relief to catch a breath!
As Paul Harvey would say "And now, the rest of the story."
Folks, there is always a "rest of the story!"
"...yet from them all the Lord rescued me."
The man couldn’t be any clearer. Paul himself, the very one used on multiple occasions as the poster child of someone that God “blesses” with misery. Yet, not for a second is he going to let any of us use him to assert that God is not the mighty deliverer of the oppressed all the time...every time!
This isn’t the only time the Apostle talked about his attitude when life wasn’t going so well.
"...according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed..." Philippians 1:20
If, as some claim, New Testament theology teaches we cannot be sure God will deliver us every time we are in trouble, maybe these naysayers should have gotten a hold of Paul before he wrote these things down and subsequently were endorsed as the New Covenant Scriptures!!!
I submit, that it will be next to impossible to observe the Scriptures’ admonition of having “earnest expectation and hope”, if we've been taught otherwise. Or maybe worse, have those Scriptural promises hidden from us altogether because we are sitting under ministries that won't even teach us these things! Those instructed to believe that unending trials are a blessing and that they are to be embraced enthusiastically, at best are limited to wishing for God to have a good day and cut them some slack. Or cross our fingers and maybe the bad times will simply “time out” and go away by themselves!
God isn't petulant. He is not skiddish or emotionally unstable. He promises what He will do when trusted to do it, and answers when childlike faith is exercised. Our trust is not supposed to be in God’s whims…but His Word!
Why are there so many promises concerning God’s willingness to deliver, and the clearly stated pronouncements that we "...are more than conquerors...", if misery is a friend to be permanently accosted by? Why is it regularly recorded in the gospels that Jesus "healed every one" if folks were to be thankful for their wonderful infirmities and pet them like their favorite dog!
Have we not considered that if sickness and poverty bring glory to God, Jesus didn't seem to hesitate to liberate His people from that which supposedly was bringing God glory! Why was there not a line a mile long of folks running from Jesus, not to Him, so that they could keep that wonderful cancer, leprosy, blindness and paralysis, even early death, that was so glorious to God!
If your cancer was such a great blessing, or not paying your electric bill and sitting by a candle was so glorious, why are you taking chemo and asking to borrow twenty bucks from your friend?
Ever Done This Before?
As with any subject in the Scriptures, there are ministers more “graced” at certain subjects than others. What I mean is, I wouldn’t go to a Billy Graham conference to listen to him teach on the four horsemen of the Apocalypse or to pastor my family and council my marriage…but he would be the first place to go to learn how to be born again!
Well, in the same way, if I am having chest pains, my left arm is going numb while it feels like an elephant is sitting on my chest, I’m not going to make an appointment with a podiatrist…
...get me a cardiologist and defibrillator…STAT!
Consider that both the foot and chest guys may have “MD” after their name, but many of the similarities end there.
In the same way, there are those that are exceptionally gifted and successful at teaching specific subjects within the Word of God. "Specialists" if you will. Including what the Scriptures have to say concerning dominating faith, the provisions of the atonement to include healing and financial provision, and the overall blessings of being in a covenant with God.
These wonderful men and women of God may not be general practitioners say as your pastor, but if we need to concentrate on a specific area in the Word...thank God for these people!!!
We should be grateful, not uber critical, of these ministers in the same way you are grateful that it's the heart surgeon opening your chest in the operating room, and not your family doctor who is more adept at fixing little Johnny's skinned knee!
I’ll be frank and please consider this well:
The devil has used “prosperity gospel” and “Word of Faith” insults to hinder folks from listening to genuine teachers of the Word who could help them walk in victory in these specific areas of their lives!
We wouldn't hesitate to go to a doctor, nutritionist, or exercise trainer, to stay physically healthy. Or a financial counselor or loan officer concerning money issues. So why would we think it is carnal, extreme, even heretical to learn from proven experts at what the Bible says about health and finances?
Would you trust your financial manager with your retirement savings if he has been bankrupt five times and just had his home repossessed? Of course not. So why in the world would we not expect those graced and practiced to teach the Lord's instructions concerning faith and blessings and His will to heal the sick, to have a fair amount of wealth, and documented evidences of the Lord's healing power, demonstrating that they know what they are talking about?
Do we think the Lord through the Apostle Paul was kidding when he said “…we are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus…”? (Romans 8:37) How would we learn to be a “conqueror” if we bought in to the lie that those who teach how to live victoriously are heretical?
This is identical to not calling the heart surgeon during a heart attack for help because for the last year, we kept listening to "discerning experts" tell us how mean, extreme, and out of balance those "heart heretics" are.
They might say something like:
"God gave us all things to enjoy right? So who in the world does that heart guy think he is telling us to endure the pain and sweat and discipline of exercise, and stay away from the Twinkies? All they want to talk and write about is cholesterol, fat, and blood pressure. Don't they know there is a lot more to health than that? They're not teaching the "whole council of Grey's Anatomy you know!" And do you believe how much money they collect from you to listen to what they have to say?
Man those guys are way too into works and they make it all about them.
Oh, and are you ready for this? I read somewhere on Facebook they will literally cut you wide open and split your ribs apart! Yep. Stay away from those guys. They are obviously quacks! Can’t eat what you want and actually expect you to sweat and lose weight?"
You’re not going to go and listen to one of those “chest splitters” are you?"
But can we see how in the same way I used the term “chest splitter”, the slang “prosperity preacher” and other terms like it, can be used to greatly hinder the development of a strong faith in clearly defined promises of the Word of God concerning salvation, deliverance, and blessing? That these terms keep us from learning from those that could assist us in our walk to experience more of His graces and favor!
Just one more, out of a gazillion it seems, example of what God thinks about bad times in the life of His children
"...Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all." Psalm 34:19 (emphasis mine)
Not only does Paul not agree with the idea that God is the great giver, purveyor, and sustainer of all that is miserable towards His children, neither does the Psalmist under the Spirit’s inspiration!
Folks need to stop thinking because we believe the Scriptures concerning God being the All Powerful Deliverer available at all times to rescuce His children, that means we do not believe there will be great and terrible things to be delivered from!
Whose Fault is it Then?
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” I Peter 5:8-10
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm." Ephesians 6:10-13
This is not rocket science friends and we need to get this into our heads. The devil is our enemy and the primary source of our problems (when it's not our own stupidity of course)…NOT GOD!!!
Friends, we're not in contention with God to snatch something out of His tightly held grip. We are in conflict with spiritual personalities fighting to stop us from remaining "steadfast in the faith" until we experience the Lord's delivering power. The end result of a biblically defined fight is that in the end, we stand victorious against the devil and what he has thrown against us. Not beg, plead, wonder, and then yell at God as if He (God) was the source of all that ails us!
Going back to the "stay away from those health and wealth preachers", let's consider that the last thing the devil would ever want us to believe and then develop our "faith skillset" to receive from Him, is that our Father is willing and able to deliver us from EVERY evil.
Think of it.
How could I, you, or anyone else obey the command, yes COMMAND, to resist the devil in steadfast faith and endurance, if we don't have an educated faith to know that God both desires and is more than willing to deliver us out of every affliction? How could we walk in victory without being taught how to develop a skillset that knows how to biblically believe God in the same fashion as did the Apostle Paul and the above Psalmist we quoted!
"...so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." Hebrews 6:12
If we truly want to see God glorified, then we must learn to hang in their long enough in childlike faith knowing the day is coming when our hands will be lifted high and we will be overjoyed at His intervention!
My friends...God is glorified in our victory through Him, not in getting our heads smashed in!
To repeat. Saying that God does not desire to deliver everyone in due time from their adversities directly contradicts what one of the Lord’s closest friends and disciplined followers, the Apostle Peter, had to say about these things:
“…after you have suffered a while (“a while” is not forever folks) …God will restore and confirm and strengthen and establish you!”
We are promised by one of those closest to the Lord, that the end game to any adversity we encounter is restoration, strength, and being firmly founded in a strength we did not have previously. This is what we are admonished to have faith in. The Scriptures are direct, and non flinching as to what we are supposed to know and expect when in the midst of difficult times.
"Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Luke 12:32
From Genesis chapter one, the Word is crystal clear that God is good and that He is a wonderful Father that has more than enough for every one of His children. But this next point I'll bring up is where I have seen many fail in their understanding of God. Not too many folks have issue with believing in God’s resources and ability. That of course He has tons of stuff, can make things out of thin air if need be, and can do whatever He wants whenever He wants.
Please think very carefully on what I am about to say:
"It is not simply God's ability we are asked to place our faith in, but His willingness to use that ability to rescue His children!"
This is so important, I'm going to say it again. If it takes the next year of repeating the above verse one hundred times a day over and over, remind yourself it is God's will and pleasure to give you His kingdom.
Faith is not about believing in God's ability alone, but knowing and then trusting God's willingness to use His ability to help you!!!
Alright. Making sure we stay consistent and true to the principles of this article, let's make sure we stay balanced concerning what the Bible teaches concerning what we have been studying.
No one, until you’re dead of course, is exempt from nasty things happening to them. We need faith and the promises of God to believe in BECAUSE we will suffer trials and experience misfortune in this life, not to keep us isolated from the “storms and winds and waves” attempting to huff and puff and blow our house down.
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-27
The passage above was the conclusion of Jesus’ instructions in Matthew’s Gospel of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus guaranteed believers and unbelievers alike are going to have times of great misfortune. Yet He was clear. Just do what He told us to do, and those instructions we are obeying and believing cause us to not just survive, but come out on top when the storm finally pulls away. On the other hand, the one who doesn’t do these things, gets annihilated!
Notice that the “foolish” person heard the same teachings the wise one did. There's just one difference between the two as far as experiencing storms in this life. One did what Jesus said...the other ignored the instructions.
Pay attention here please:
Having all that the unwise and foolish person worked for come crashing down as a result of the relentless storms of life, did not happen because God willed it. This person was ravaged because he didn’t do what Jesus had clearly taught him to do when the proverbial "stuff hit the fan". God had nothing to do with their failure.
"Crashing and burning" are not God's fault!!!
Lack of obedience and the endurance to hold out was the sole reason this individual's house went down the drain in the same way the leftover mac and cheese was rinsed off my dinner plate last night and swirled into the garbage disposal.
Look as hard as you may, you won’t see the term “by the skin of your teeth” anywhere in the Word!”
So, what’s the “health and wealth” balance? Where is the "pocket" where we are safe from the extremes on both sides?
I think I can help.
Let’s go back to the Parable of the Talents for a moment. There is a crucial piece of information that will help us find “balance” in very short order. As we know from earlier, this parable is about financial stewardship. But we can apply the principles almost universally to any subject in the Word.
“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Matthew 25:14-15 (emphasis mine)
Let's include what the Lord said through the Apostle Paul for good measure:
"And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it." I Corinthians 10:13 (italics mine)
Notice with the Parable of the Talents, that the key factor in deciding who got what was dependent on ability. That’s right. Different people have different abilities and talents and capacity. The Owner, representing the Father of course, was wise enough to know who could handle what. He recognized “fairness” isn’t equal amount, but distributed amount equal to personal ability!
This is so important; I’m going to say it again.
“Fairness is not equal amount. But amount equal to ability!”
The lesson is obvious, or should be. There simply cannot be one standard that applies to every person as far as amounts and distribution. What is “personal prosperity” must be filtered through the understanding that some folks cannot handle as much as others; and many have abilities that far exceed their counterparts. This makes the issue at hand not quantity, but faithfulness.
The politics of the day wants to redistribute wealth equally so things can be “fair”. That’s foolish and unrealistic. Some folks cannot handle as much as others. In trying to be “fair”, you actually harm the one with lesser ability by giving them more than they can handle.
Imagine if you thought it was unfair that Arnold Schwarzenegger had five hundred pounds on his barbell and you only had fifty pounds. To be “fair”, two hundred pounds is taken from him and put on yours. I’ll tell you what. If that’s me…I’m a dead man! My body can’t handle that weight and I would be crushed under it.
Today’s definition of fairness, more often than not, is meant to play on the selfish nature of people. To take from one who has worked hard and give it to someone else. Politicians in a love affair with Karl Marx and his not fully grown up brother to communism, socialism, are trying to convince you that “thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s goods” doesn’t apply and if you just vote them in they will take at their will from some they demean too wealthy and give to those they will.
“He gave each according to their ability…”
It’s important to consider that ability isn’t just about skill. This also has to do with “station” i.e. what God has called us individually to do and where to do it.
Take Mother Theresa for example. If that woman pulled up to her orphanage in India in a brand-new Porsche or Cadillac Escalade, that would look ridiculous and stupid. She would lose mass amounts of credibility, with the Lord first of all I would think. I'll add as well, I'm sure she could have even cared less for such things. Her "station" in the Kingdom of Heaven, was a filter her "prosperity", was experienced through.
On the other hand, I’ll use Vice President Mike Pence as another example. No one would think twice about him pulling up into the White House in a Cadillac Escalade driven by the secret service. Why? Because it is his "station" and personal grace in the Kingdom of Heaven. A position of this level of resource, power, and exposure is his “personal cross” he carries and with it, the provisions to abundantly succeed.
So, to preach “prosperity” as an amount in material wealth and lots of "stuff" is wrong and out of balance. I have seen this happen many times, and it drives me nuts. But if we teach biblical prosperity in context with personal ability and faithfulness and mission, we have found reasonable grounds to expect our Father to grace us with “more than enough”.
I have a saying I use regularly:
“We may not be able to control the hand we were dealt. But it is our responsibility as far as how we play it!”
The individual with less and say a "simpler" station in life and position, has no right to judge the wealthier as “privileged” or “unspiritual” any more than the ones with more material wealth have any right to claim the other is in some kind of unbelief and/or lazier than a crippled sloth!
Let's examine one last verse. "Finally" you may be saying.
“If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.” Ephesians 4:28
Notice that a priority we should have with our wages, is to be generous to those in need. The work of our hands, whether that’s a Walmart greeter or a billion-dollar hedge fund manager, is meant to earn more than enough to enjoy and then give generously to those in need. I have personally experienced and witnessed in others as well, that when God has found a generous giver, He’ll make sure lots of wonderful blessings and wealth passes to them, knowing it will go through them.
"Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God." I Corinthians 4:5
In my own experience, I have had some, not many, but some, look at the blessings I am enjoying and wonder aloud if a Pastor should have this kind of car, or that kind of “whatever”. My answer is twofold.
I’ll say something like:
“Don’t judge my promised land until you know the wilderness I went through. And don’t judge my harvest until you know the size and scope of my giving!”
There will always be those who say, "Well, what will people think?"
I have been a Christian for over forty years and in the ministry coming up on thirty years as of this writing. No matter how hard I have tried, I just don't seem to make everyone happy. I have really tried. No matter what, I have upset people when I was so broke, that I wasn't at the bottom of the barrel, the barrel was on top of me! And I have irritated people when the bills were all paid and the fresh smell of leather in the new car was as awesome as any aroma therapy.
So, I've concluded that if no matter whatever "station" I am in, that I am not going to make everyone happy, I and my family personally might as well be joyful and enjoy the abundant blessings of my Father in heaven Who loves to bestow good things upon His children!
If I have a choice between forced fasting because I'm broke, verses the medium rare cowboy steaks around the table with my family and friends as I watch my grandchildren enjoy the new gifts I could afford because God has blessed my hard work and faithfulness...pass the potato salad please and Elaina...make sure you don't get those new clothes dirty!
Sounds arrogant? You'll stop thinking so when you're in trouble and I'm able to write the check, with incredible fulfillment and joy by the way, to get you out of your trouble!
Well, I think this is enough for now. I have given us all a lot to think about. I’ll leave us with Paul’s experience and conclusion he reached revealed in his letter to the Philippians. This is a great “filter” to see our lives and ministries through. This verse is the key to balance not just in finances, but every area of our lives.
“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13
Contentment is a beautiful thing. From this position, it will be difficult to get us to fall off into a ditch on any side. Contentment doesn’t mean lack of pursuit. It simply means that we understand in His hands, we are right where we belong; knowing that all things work together for good to those who are called and working toward His purposes.
I have learned that when I am right where I need to be, I don’t have to try to “get blessed”. I am overwhelmed by blessing without trying and it seems is as automatic and dependable as breathing. That’s called the “commanded blessing”. God promised this to all those who diligently obey Him.
If we let our asking and seeking and knocking be toward God Himself, primarily seeking His pleasure and fellowship, He will make sure that the “stuff”, and lots of it, comes our way. “More than enough” puts money in the 401K and allows us to take care of the poor…our church…the missionary…whatever God puts on our heart.
Let’s not be afraid of wealth and the blessings of God. Trust me. You don’t need money to be tempted to sin. There are lots of terribly evil people that don’t have a cent to their name. Stop thinking money is this one big supercharger of sin. Our fallen nature passed on to us from Adam is the one true ground of all evil. It is the fallen spirit separated from Christ that is the great breeding ground of all that is an affront to God…not having extra money to take the grand kids out for ice cream.
Till next time!