First, let us look at the word ‘prosperity’. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary says that prosperity is the condition of being successful or thriving; especially: economic well-being.
A recorded example of prosperity was recorded over 3000 years ago. It is found in the Book of Job.
In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.
His sons used to hold feasts in their homes on their birthdays, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom. Job 1:1-5 (NIV)
Did prosperity come to Job because he was only thinking about himself and always being happy? According to the Bible, he attained it by fearing God and shunning evil.
As we read the book of Job, we read that Job lost everything! So Job cursed God and said: ‘I am going to do it my way!’ I don’t find that any place in the book of Job. What you will find is that Job kept trusting God.
Job’s prosperity was not about Job. It was about God. Just like our prosperity is not about us. It is about God and what he is doing for us. In fact, after Job prayed for his friend, the Bible says that God restored his prosperity. Because Job believed God, he was given twice as much has he had to start with!
The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. 13 And he also had seven sons and three daughters. 14 The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. 15 Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.
16 After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. 17 And so Job died, an old man and full of years. Job 42:12-18(NIV)
Prosperity Gospel, as I understand it, is the idea that we use God to obtain our fleshly desires. We can have whatever we want, because God will give it to us. Prosperity Gospel also uses the notion that the Holy Spirit is there for us to use to our advantage. We can use the Holy Spirit for whatever we want because God wants us to be happy. It should also be noted that the prosperity we get following our fleshly desires is only good for our time on earth.
We can have a ‘be happy attitude’ and expect to be prosperous…and in fact some people are prosperous without trusting God. But the truth is that this prosperity is only for a short period of time. People die. Then, what good is the prosperity?
The first example of prosperity gospel is found in Genesis 3 when Satan told Eve that she didn’t have to do things God’s way. God was holding out on her. If she ate from the tree that God told her not to eat from, she wouldn’t die but would be like God. She could do it her way and have ‘prosperity’.
However, Eve already had prosperity. She had everything she could want but Satan made her believe there was something more. Because Eve listened to Satan and did it her way, she actually lost the prosperity that she had.
God sent his Son to be crucified for our sin and to become victorious over death. He made a way for us to once again have the prosperity that Eve had before she ate the forbidden fruit.
Another problem with our prosperity is that when it is gained following our fleshly desires, it is only good for this lifetime. The prosperity that is gained by following the Holy Spirit is good for eternity. You see, the prosperity that God wants for his children is for them to share his wealth for eternity.
Who are God’s children? Galatians 5:24(NIV) says: Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. You see the children of God have crucified themselves. In other words, they have become nothing, so God could use them to do His work rather than expecting God to do their work.
We can pretend to be happy, and can even deceive ourselves into thinking we are happy, but it doesn’t guarantee prosperity. In fact, it may even lead to a feeling of guilt because you aren’t becoming prosperous. The Bible says that when we follow our fleshly desires, we get involved in ‘sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like’. (Galatians 5:19-21, NIV)
However, when you follow the Holy Spirit, the actions you demonstrate are ‘love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.’ (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV).
Perhaps the real question about prosperity is: How important is prosperity?
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Mark 8:36(NIV)
Is it really prosperity we are looking for or is it love, joy, and peace?
But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:15-16(NIV)
Note: All scriptures used in this article have been downloaded from http://www.biblegateway.com/?version=NIV unless otherwise noted.