To answer this question, let us first explain how the “prosperity gospel” is commonly described.
Taking the following from the Wikipedia Encyclopedia, we read the following (emphasis added):
“Prosperity theology (sometimes referred to as the prosperity gospel, the health and wealth gospel, the gospel of success or seed faith) is a religious belief among some Christians, who hold that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for them…
“Prosperity theology teaches that Christians are entitled to well-being… Christians have been given power over creation… The Bible is seen as a faith contract between God and believers; God is understood to be faithful and just, so believers must fulfill their end of the contract to receive God’s promises. This leads to a belief in positive confession, the doctrine that believers may claim whatever they desire from God, simply by speaking it… if Christians take dominion over aspects of society, the Earth will experience ‘peace and prosperity’…”
Much more could be said and has been said about the “prosperity gospel,” but instead of dealing with labels, let us see what the Bible says about wealth, riches, prosperity, the desire to become rich, the pitfalls of wealth, contentment and poverty. In doing so, it will become clear that we do not believe in and teach a “prosperity gospel,” as defined above.
We will not be addressing health and healing in this Q&A; you will find much information on that topic in our free booklet, titled, “Sickness and Healing—What the Bible Tells Us.”
Regarding wealth, riches and prosperity, we find many passages describing God’s involvement pertaining to the welfare of His people, and it is true that individual conduct and righteous behavior is a necessary requirement for God’s physical blessing. We actually do not find that God blesses unrighteous people with riches and prosperity. On the other hand, we do not find that the reason for someone’s poverty must be his or her unrighteousness; and we do find many cautionary remarks regarding (the desire for and trust in) wealth and riches.
Abraham was a righteous person. He is called the father of the faithful and a friend of God. This did not make him perfect or sinless. Still, we read in Genesis 13:2: “Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold.”
Genesis 24:34-35 tells us WHY Abram, whose name was later changed to Abraham, had become very rich:
“So he said, ‘I am Abraham’s servant. The LORD has blessed my master greatly, and he has become great; and He has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female servants, and camels and donkeys.”
We also read that Abraham’s son Isaac became rich and prosperous because God blessed him. Genesis 26:12 says: “Then Isaac sowed in that land, and reaped in the same year a hundredfold; and the LORD blessed him.”
Solomon was greatly blessed by God with wealth and riches, and it is interesting that he had not asked God for such a blessing.
In our Q&A, “How Much Wealth Did Solomon Possess,” we state the following:
“In 1 Kings 3:5, God appears to Solomon in a dream and asks him what he wishes to receive from God. In verse 9, Solomon answers and asks for an ‘understanding heart’ so he may judge the people of Israel righteously and that he ‘may discern between good and evil.’ Solomon didn’t ask for riches and a long life or the death of his enemies, and this pleased God (verse 10-11). In verse 12, God granted him what he wished for and gave him wisdom, more than any man has ever had or will ever have (excluding of course Jesus Christ, who, even as a human being, was much wiser than Solomon). But God also GAVE him what he did not ask for. We read in the next verse that Solomon received riches and honor, so that there wouldn’t be any king like him in all his days. Even though Solomon was the son of David and did inherit riches from him, God was the one who granted him more riches than any man in his time. God also granted him a long life but only IF he kept His commandments, just as his father David did (verse 14)…
“Solomon’s great wealth is expounded upon in 1 Kings 10:14-15… King Solomon ‘surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom’ (verse 23)… this was God’s doing. He made Solomon the wisest human who ever lived and as a bonus, He gave him wealth and fortune. But Solomon had a weakness which made him turn from God so that he did ‘evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not fully follow the LORD’ (1 Kings 11:6)…
“Solomon speaks about his life and his experiences in the book of Ecclesiastes. He pointed out that without God, man is lost, no matter how many precious physical gifts and riches he might have… Solomon’s riches and his human wisdom did not prevent him from sinning, but it appears that he repented deeply at the end of his life…”
Job had been greatly blessed by God with riches and wealth, but Job was suffering from the sin of self-righteousness, and so God, wanting Job to realize his sin, allowed Satan to take all his possessions away from him. But after Job had recognized and repented of his problem and after he had really gotten to know God, “the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys” (Job 42:12).
There are many biblical passages telling us that it is GOD who blesses His righteous servants with prosperity and riches.
Psalm 112:1-3 reads:
“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, And his righteousness endures forever.”
Deuteronomy 8:18 says: “And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”
Deuteronomy 28:12 states: “The LORD will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand. You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow.” By contrast, note Proverbs 22:7, stating that “the borrower is servant to the lender.”
We are also told that God can and does take away from righteous people what He might have given them, if they cease living a righteous life.
Notice Hosea 2:8-9, explaining what will happen when we DO forget God and the source of our prosperity: “For she did not know That I gave her grain, new wine, and oil, And multiplied her silver and gold–Which they prepared for Baal. Therefore I will return and take away My grain in its time And My new wine in its season, And will take back My wool and My linen, Given to cover her nakedness.”
Compare also Hosea 13:6-8 where God says:
“When they had pasture, they were filled; They were filled and their heart was exalted; Therefore they forgot Me. So I will be to them like a lion; Like a leopard by the road I will lurk; I will meet them like a bear deprived of her cubs; I will tear open their rib cage, And there I will devour them like a lion. The wild beast shall tear them.”
The book of Proverbs includes many additional statements showing that God’s people may become prosperous and wealthy because of God’s blessing.
Proverbs 3:16, in addressing God’s wisdom, states: “Length of days is in her right hand, In her left hand riches and honor.” Again, in Proverbs 8:18: “Riches and honor are with me, Enduring riches and righteousness.”
Proverbs 10:22 says: “The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, And He adds no sorrow with it.”
Proverbs 15:6 points out: “In the house of the righteous there is much treasure, But in the revenue of the wicked is trouble.”
Proverbs 22:4 adds: “By humility and the fear of the LORD Are riches and honor and life.”
On the other hand, God expects of us that we do our part by acting diligently and wisely in financial matters; and we are also told that our wrong or unwise conduct could lead to poverty.
Proverbs 10:3-4 emphases: “The LORD will not allow the righteous soul to famish, But He casts away the desire of the wicked. He who has a slack hand becomes poor, But the hand of the diligent makes rich.”
And notice Proverbs 27:23-24: “Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, And attend to your herds; For riches are not forever, Nor does a crown endure to all generations.”
Proverbs 21:17 adds: “He who loves pleasure will be a poor man; He who loves wine and oil will not be rich.”
Proverbs 13:18 says: “Poverty and shame will come to him who disdains correction, But he who regards a rebuke will be honored.” Disdaining correction can also include rejection of sound financial advice.
(To Be Continued)
Lead Writer: Norbert Link