Christians are supposed to live a prosperous life and that has led some to believe that prosperous means financially wealthy. Is it God’s will for us to be rich?
I try to stay away from hot-button religious debates but this one is central to any discussion of money as it relates to God’s plan. The great Christian understatement may be that the prosperity debate has passionate defenders with strong opinions on either side. It is, in fact, huge so let’s look at both sides.
On one extreme is the “name it, claim it” argument. Also known as the prosperity doctrine, it is the idea that God desires for each of us, wealth. How much wealth is not something that prosperity doctrine proponents put into actual numbers. The main idea is that if you are a Christian, God wants you to have blessings of all types and that includes financial blessings. Robert Tilton, one of the biggest advocates of the prosperity doctrine said this:
“I believe that it is the will of God for all to prosper because I see it in the Word [of God], not because it has worked mightily for someone else. I do not put my eyes on men, but on God who gives me the power to get wealth.”
Another well-known pastor, Joel Osteen, believes in the prosperity doctrine too, although most agree that he leans closer to the middle:
“Does God want us to be rich? When I hear that word rich, I think people say, ‘Well, he’s preaching that everybody’s going to be a millionaire.’ I don’t think that’s it. I preach that anybody can improve their lives. I think God wants us to be prosperous. I think he wants us to be happy. To me, you need to have money to pay your bills. I think God wants us to send our kids to college. I think he wants us to be a blessing to other people. But I don’t think I’d say God wants us to be rich. It’s all relative, isn’t it?”
The Biblical support, according to proponents comes from verses like these:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. – John 10:10
You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it – John 14:14
It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us. “If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes. – Mark 9:22-23
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”– Malachi 3:10
The Other Side
The other side, sometimes called the Liberation Theology, believes differently. They point out that Paul, (who was first Saul) lived a very comfortable life but gave all of it up when he found Christ.
though I myself have reasons for such confidence.If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless. But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”– Philippians 3:4-11
Paul lived a life with which the prosperity doctrine believers would take issue. He didn’t have much money, was put in jail, physically abused, and even sick:
As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you, 14 and even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself.” Galatians 4:13-14
Other than Jesus, it is hard to find anybody more Godly than Paul, yet his life was far from prosperous by the world’s standards.
Rick Warren, author of the book, “the Purpose Driven Life” and pastor of Saddleback Church, the 8th largest church in the country, says this about the prosperity doctrine:
“This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy? There is a word for that: baloney. It’s creating a false idol. You don’t measure your self-worth by your net worth. I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty. Why isn’t everyone in the church a millionaire?”
People like Warren point to verses like these to refute the prosperity doctrine:
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”– Matthew 6:19-21
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”– Matthew 6:24
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs..”– 1 Timothy 6:10
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.”– Matthew 19:23
These verses warn the believer against making money or the accumulation of riches a priority. This could be considered an idol since your focus goes away from God an onto money.
Here are a few of the resources that denounce the prosperity doctrine. (These are only present as further reading. I don’t necessarily agree or disagree with the points made)
- Some people believe that Jesus and some of his disciples were far from poor. Read this.
- Modern churches use the prosperity doctrine to bring in more revenue. Read this.
- Candid sermons about finances are missing from the modern church. Read this.
- In depth Time Magazine article about the prosperity doctrine. Read this.
Everything concerning our Christian walk comes down to the heart. You and I are sinners. We are fallen and by God’s standard for perfection, far from it.
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”– Matthew 5:48
However, I see that all through the Bible God is more interested in dealing with our hearts. He wants us to come to know Him better. Think of the healthy relationships in your life. Are they based on possessions (which I simply call, “stuff”) or on something much deeper? Does it matter to you if they are rich or poor? I have amongst my friends rich people and poor people but those who are within my circle, regardless of money, have a heart for Jesus. They want to know God better and meet the needs of others because that’s God’s heart. The rich and the poor in my life come with different problems.
Some of these people meet needs by providing counsel or prayer—something money cannot buy. Others offer financial support because God has provided them the funds to do it.
I do not believe God wants us to set out to be rich. I believe He wants us to live within our means – the means He has willed for us. If He has not willed you to have great wealth, you can be prosperous, nonetheless, by not buying more than you can afford.
If you have a lot of money, understand that your money is God’s money so freely giving it to finance the needs of His work is one of your central callings. If you are hoarding it, you’re not doing with it what God intends. If you have far more than you need after practicing good financial planning, God likely has other plans for it.
What’s in your heart? How does your heart feel about money? If it’s secondary to you, you’re in the right place, spiritually. If it is central and you spend more time thinking about it than you do about your relationship with God, you need to take real-world steps to change that. Perhaps, you’re not practicing good money management and that makes you stress about something you should not.
Just like so many things, the enemy can pervert God principals and make them into mechanisms of defeat. We can also make financial decisions that have nothing to do with the spiritual realm that are cause for defeat.
This is what Bibledollar.com is all about. Our goal is to help you live a life of prosperity – as defined by God. We want to show you how to live a financially responsible life that allows God to bless you. We all know that the decisions we make in our lives can erect blockades to God’s blessings. We want to help you tear those blockades down.
Regardless of the complexities of this debate, God has a purpose and a plan for you. Regardless of how you feel about yourself and your level of success, God loves you more than you can imagine. Rejoice in that above all else!
Disclosure: Within this article there is a link that takes you to Amazon.com where you can purchase Rick Warren’s book, “The Purpose Driven Life“. As a way to offset costs associated with this site, we receive a small payment from Amazon. You do not pay any more than what you would have if you went to the site directly.