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This Week's Teaching: "Affirmations & Cautions About The 'Prosperity Gospel'"
Is it God's will to prosper you? Yes.
Is it his will to make you rich? Not necessarily.
It's his will to give you everything you need.
Is it God's will for you to desire prosperity? Yes.
Is it his will for you to desire great riches? No.
It's his will for you to be content with what you have.
Now, with that comes wisdom that he gives us, so that we can make good use of the provisions that he puts in our way. In Proverbs 28: 19 we read "those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty." We read, "a faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished." We read, "the stingy are eager to get rich and are unaware that poverty awaits them." We read, "the greedy stir up conflict, but those who trust in the Lord will prosper." We read, "those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses."
Chapter 24, this is just the wisdom of God: "put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready. After that, build your house." There are certain things that we can do to make sure that we cooperate with the laws of wisdom that God has sewn into the fabric of creation. If we do these things, it goes well with us. If we ignore these things, it's a foolishness and it doesn't go well with us. And so we might find ourselves struggling with what we believe is injustice. Sometimes it is injustice, but other times it's just that we haven't learned to cooperate with the laws of wisdom that God sewed into the fabric of creation.
There's all sorts of things. Read Proverbs, read Ecclesiastes, and you'll find all sorts of things where it just says, this is how you do things. If you do these things, it will go well with you. If you honor God in these things, it will go well with you.
Is it God's will for you to prosper? Yes.
Is it God's will for you to be rich? Not necessarily.
It's God's will for you to have everything you need. And along with that, he gives you wisdom in order to cooperate with the laws of wisdom that he has sewn into the fabric of creation. And sometimes injustice sweeps it all away. And other times it's just that we haven't done what we should.
But here's my concern with our fascination with prosperity. Now, I'll also say this: in the past, I have taught that the prosperity gospel is a false gospel. I still believe that it teaches false things. I don't believe that it's God's will for you to be rich. I don't believe that it is always God's will to heal you. We all die at some point. This body stops living; the ultimate sickness or whatever. God doesn't heal that. He gives us a new body. He heals it in that way. And I believe that God doesn't just want us to have this overabundance of wealth. He wants us to be content with what we have.
So in the past, I've called it a false gospel. Right now, I don't call it a false gospel. I call it an incomplete understanding-- and prosperity is not the gospel-- but I call it an incomplete understanding.
I believe, yes, God wants to prosper you. But if that's the focus of it, it is an incomplete understanding of God's wisdom that leads people into deception, that allows people to chase after things like riches that God never intended for you to chase after.
And so, "False Gospel"? Let's not talk about it that way. Let's just say it is incomplete, it is immature in its understanding of the wisdom of God.
Paul, when writing to Timothy in First Timothy, he says, "Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 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."
Hebrews 13: 5, "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have. Because God has said, 'Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.' So we say with confidence, the Lord is my helper. I will not be afraid" [of poverty, of anything]. "What can mere mortals do to me?" What can the things of this earth do to me if God is my helper?
Jesus himself said in Matthew six. "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth. [It'll rot.] But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven... For where your treasure is there, your heart will be also." He said, "No one can serve two masters. You can't serve God and money." You can't. He says, "Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you'll eat or drink or about your body, what you'll wear. Is not life more important than food and the body more important than clothes. Look at the birds of the sky. [They don't sow, they don't store away, and they're fed.] How much more valuable are you than they? Can any of you by worrying [or chasing after riches], add a single hour to your life."
He says, "You of little faith, do not worry. Pagans run after these things." After the riches, after the excess. "I wanna make sure that I have enough, I wanna store it up and everything so that I don't run out." And he says, "The Pagans run after all these things and your heavenly father already knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
Now, don't read that as if you seek his kingdom an abundance, an excess of all these things will be given to you as well. Jesus isn't saying that. He's saying, Make his kingdom, the Lord's kingdom, the center of your heart and your needs will be provided for. He will take care of you.
It doesn't mean that you'll never have hunger pangs. Of course not. It doesn't mean that you'll always have new clothes. Of course not. He will take care of you. He is your heavenly father. He knows what you need.
Now, in that, he will give you opportunity, and if you learn to cooperate with the laws of wisdom that he is sown into the fabric of creation, you will be able to prosper in ways that those who reject those laws don't.
But that prosperity is not to amass wealth. It's not to live in gaudy excess. It's simply to have your needs met.
Those who chase after riches will fall into temptation and into a trap. That never goes well.
Philippians four. "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry," Paul writes, "whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength."
"Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 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. But you, man of God, [woman of God, you who chooses to be a person of God,] flee from all this and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession."
Don't chase after riches. Be content with what you have.
Now to those of you who have cooperated with the laws of wisdom, that God sewed into the fabric of creation and you're able to cause abundance, or perhaps God has just given you a responsibility of excess so that you can help others, here's what I am obligated to say to you. Because I am told, "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." It is a joy to have what we need. "Who richly provides us with everything for our in enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way, they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life."
Like Jesus said, don't store up treasures here on earth. Store up treasures in heaven by giving it to those in need.
I heard a story recently of a prosperity teacher who was given opportunity to help get a plane for a ministry that flies supplies down into Haiti and places like that. They had lost a plane and he went to them and asked, " How much do you need for the plane?" They said, "A million dollars." And he got them a million dollars.
Now I have my issues with the teaching, because I believe there is an over attention on money. Nevertheless, I must admit that when you take that money and give it away, you are storing up treasures in heaven.
So here's my prayer. My prayer is that those of us who see differently on this wouldn't divide around it, but simply that we would press in toward God; that we would seek his kingdom and not anything about the kingdom of this earth; that we would crave his blessing and not the blessings that spring out of the earth; that we would see as our great wealth, the eternal kingdom of God, and not just the things that we call bank accounts and money and stuff; that we would actually crave his kingdom and his righteousness and be content with what we have. Be content with what we have.
And so this is my message today. Does God want you to be prosperous? Yeah. Does he want you to be rich? Not necessarily. He wants you to be content. Does he want you to desire prosperity? Yes. Does he want you to desire riches? No. Does he want you to be content with what you have? Yes, desire him. Chase after his kingdom and his righteousness, trusting that he is a good father and he will give you all you need.
Now, I welcome comments on this. Let's talk about it because it is a prevalent teaching in the church that is dividing many. And my prayer would be that we would be united around the clear teachings of Jesus, that we would be laying up treasures in heaven, not storing up treasures on earth. If God has given you an abundance, use it. Use it well to help those who don't have that abundance.
I don't know. What do you think?