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Prosperity in Perspective

Years ago when we were ministering in California, the imbalanced prosperity doctrine was just beginning to slither its way into the church. I remember hearing one of its proponents boast, "God got me my Mercedes!” I thought, “God got you a lot of money and you decided to spend it on a Mercedes.” There is nothing wrong with having a nice car as the reward of your labors. But as Christians we need to remember that when our possessions begin to possess us, we are in the same category as the rich young man that Jesus counseled with these words, “…sell all you have and distribute to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come, follow Me” (Luke 18:22).

We have to remember to balance our prosperity with Biblical principles.

God does tell us in His Word that when we give we will be blessed. -

You bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it (Malachi 3:10).

Cast your bread upon the waters: for you shall find it after many days (Ecclesiastes 11:1).

In our ministry we always tithed, casting a lot of bread over the years, yet God chose to keep us poor, just so He could bail us out at the last minute to glorify Himself and develop the faith and trust we might not have gained otherwise. On more than one occasion when we were low on funds, total strangers came up to us and said, “The Lord told me to give you some money,” and handed us the cash we needed.

One time when our truck broke down and we didn’t have the money to fix it, we were given the exact amount of money we had tithed the previous year which was enough to pay the car repair and help get us through the following winter.

The principle of God returning what you give is Biblical, but He will not indulge lust and greed. He wants us to be good stewards of the money He gives us. Our first priority should be expanding His kingdom and caring for the poor. Self-indulgence, lust and greed are the things the Holy Spirit works to eliminate for our welfare and character development. Jesus is a selfless giver and that is the model we are being formed to emulate.

While God promises to bless us when we give, it should never be our motive for giving. We are servants and we do what is our duty to do (Luke 17:10).

Poverty and illness are not of God. When we do not have the things we need for our daily survival that is poverty. God expects His people to be His hands in service to those in need, and along with spreading the gospel, that is what our prosperity is for.

Jesus said specifically that sickness is the devil’s work and we can pray expectantly for healing. And if it does not come for whatever reason, we still can emulate Job, remain faithful and trust Him through our sufferings."Though He slay me, yet will I trust in him:... (Job 13:15). 

(Based on what I have learned about spiritual warfare, sometimes poverty and sickness are the result of curses and they must be broken before healing can come. This fact is often neglected and its victims are blamed for not having enough faith when there is a demonic blockage that needs to be removed. Remember to always break curses first before you pray for healing in anyone. I had a woman that came up to me for prayer at a service. She told me that she had chest pains that would not go away even when she was prayed for. I broke a curse on her and the pain left instantly.)

One prosperity teacher I heard said that she would not serve a God who would not take care of her. I think of the Christians all over the world who remain like Job, praising God and retaining their faith in Jesus after losing all their possession and even loved ones after experiencing persecution. I shudder to think of the shallow faith this woman is installing into her followers. The slightest wind of persecution will cause many to fall away.

I had the privilege of meeting Dr. John Porter in California, a well-known pastor then who ministered to many movie stars. He told me that the Charismatics have the highest rate of falling away than any other group of believers. I can understand why. When people are told that nothing bad is going to happen to them if they follow Jesus, when things do go wrong they become disillusioned with the version of Christianity they have been taught and leave the faith. This is the influence of the Jezebel spirit.

Jesus said that in this life we would have tribulation (John 16:33). The word of God is designed to prepare us for persecution and trials, and even expect them. “Yes and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (II Timothy 3:12).

God’s love is always there for us no matter what we must endure for Him in this life. We can look again at the poverty and the suffering that Jesus’ disciples were willing to endure for the sake of the gospel and we should be inspired, not repulsed.

Did the apostles emphasize prosperity in their doctrine? No, they emphasized the gospel, holiness and serving others. Our provision and healing are benefits that follow us when we are following the apostolic model. The apostles’ emphasis should be our emphasis. If it is not, then adjustments are in order.

Jesus gave us the only true formula for success in this life; “But you seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

Let’s work to maintain balanced doctrine in all things. Be content with what you have as we are instructed by the apostle Paul (Philippians 4:11, I Timothy 6:8). This apostle knew how to navigate successfully through the waters of prosperity and the droughts of poverty (Philippians 4:12). He knew how to be abased and how to abound because his inheritance in heaven was more important to him than any earthy prosperity he may have had in this life. Let’s follow his example, as he followed Christ (I Corinthians 4:16, 11:1). Amen.

Copyright 2023 by H.D. Shively

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