“Health and wealth”. “Prosperity gospel”. Whatever name you call it, it usually is accompanied by a mindset that people who believe in wealth and prosperity from God are selfish, materialistic Christians who thinks God is a spiritual “Santa”, who is only loved for what He can give. These are Christians who are wrapped up in money and riches and care about nothing else.
I recently read a really sad article that hasn’t left my mind. In a nutshell, the author pleads with Christians to stop saying “blessed” when referring to a promotion, a nice home, or any other earthly blessing we might receive; the core of his argument is that by saying God has blessed us with those things, we are implying that the person who didn’t get a promotion or a nice house wasn’t blessed. So we shouldn’t say that God has blessed us at all. You know, lest someone be offended. Which is the adult, Christian version of, “Why did he get new shoes and I didn’t?!” that I’ve heard from my elementary-aged children.
This attitude actually seems to be putting MORE emphasis on “things” and money, in my opinion. If prosperity and wealth is wrong, then why should it offend someone if another person has it? If it’s wrong, then Christians shouldn’t be accepting promotions, or buying houses, or getting new cars. Right? “Sorry, I don’t believe in prosperity. I can’t accept that.” If anti-prosperity Christians are right, then that should be their response, shouldn’t it?
The funny thing is, a lot of anti-prosperity Christians live pretty comfortable lives; lives that are a direct contradiction of their firm beliefs that say wealth is bad. Or wait – maybe it’s that wealth from God is bad, but wealth in general is okay?
Back to the article, and being offended by the word “blessing”. In my experience, the only people who get offended by another person’s blessings are those who are operating in a religious spirit, or who are more led by money than they are by the Spirit of God. When I’ve shared how God has blessed me (and yes, even in material ways), it’s the unbelievers who are excited to hear all about it. They don’t have a chip on their shoulder about the possibility that we have a good God who wants to lavish us with good things. Seems a little backwards to me.
So who’s the source of the things we have, then? If it’s not God who has blessed you with a good year in business, or a good deal at the grocery store, or with a home that your family can enjoy, then who is it? There’s one of three options, as far as I can see it:
- You are responsible for the good things that have come into your life. “I’ve worked hard for the bonus I got at work this year.” God is not part of the equation here.
- The enemy has provided it for you. (This is just silly, but I’m just going through the possibilities here. We know the enemy is not capable of giving good things.) God is not part of the equation here either.
- It’s just kismet. Fate. Good luck. Again – God is not part of this equation.
Wait – so it’s not okay for me to say God blessed me with a house, but it IS okay to give myself credit for it? It IS okay to think it just happened by coincidence? It IS okay – and in fact, preferred (because watch out for prosperity teachings!) – to take God out of the equation when it comes to our earthly blessings?
There is something so, so wrong with this picture. Either God is responsible for material blessings in our lives, or He isn’t. And it saddens me that there are Christians in the camp that believes He doesn’t. Which automatically puts them in the camp of thinking it’s either due to their own hard work (giving credit to self) or simply because of fate (giving credit to something other than God).
But what does the Bible say? Well, the Bible says that Abraham was a very blessed man. In fact, he was extremely rich (Gen. 13). Super rich in material things. But it wasn’t just for him. He was blessed, so that he could turn around and bless others (Gen. 12:2). The Bible also talks about Job. He was extremely rich too. “Yes, but wasn’t all of that taken away?” Yup, it was. And then after the enemy messed with him, God blessed him with even more. Even more material things. God did that.
This reminds me of a common argument against prosperity, which is the following: “The blessings God gives us are spiritual blessings.” Well yes, He does give us spiritual blessings. And those are far greater than earthly ones! In fact, it was Kenneth Copeland himself (yes, one of those “prosperity teachers”!) who said that financial blessings are actually the lowest form of the riches God has for us. We can be rich in many ways: in our relationship with God and people, in our marriages, in our health, etc. etc. But that doesn’t mean that financial blessing is bad, or isn’t a part of the deal.
In fact, Paul talked about telling the Gentiles about the “endless treasures available to them in Christ” (Eph. 3:8). The Greek word for “treasures” in that passage is “ploutos”, a noun which means “an abundance of possessions and economic prosperity“. I didn’t say it, the Bible did.
Another common thing that Christians will do in regards to material blessings is make their own judgement about what is enough or not enough. Which means it all comes down to how you can justify the things you have. “Well, I need this van.” Actually no. You don’t need a vehicle. “I need a house to live in.” Again, no you don’t. You could live in a 100sq.ft. shanty. So really, anything above being naked and having more than $5 in your hand makes you blessed. So there – if you have a computer or mobile to read this on, you already are blessed. Blessed beyond measure! “Well, it’s okay to have a $200,000 home, but not a $400,000 home.” Who are you to say that? Either of those things are in excess when you think of the world at large. So who’s to draw the line? That is the issue with this type of thinking: You are making yourself the judge of what others have. You have decided you are the plumb line for what is “necessity” (things that are okay to have) and what is not. I know these things, because I did them. All of them.
So here’s the thing. Here’s the reason all of this matters: Taking God out of the equation when it comes to my material blessings, means I am either taking the credit for it myself, or giving it to someone else. If I think it belongs to me, I will not seek God as to what to do with it, and how He wants me to use it. I earned it, it’s mine. But if I see my wealth as coming from God, and ultimately still belonging to Him (I am just a steward of it), I will seek Him as to how to use it to further His kingdom. I will ask Him what I should be doing with it, and how I can bless others with it so they can have the same good Dad I do.
And the bigger reason all of this matters, is because Christians need to be the pipeline of God’s goodness to others, not the voice that is speaking out against it. How can we pass it on if we’re against receiving it ourselves?
It costs money to buy a car for a single mom when God tells you to.
It costs money to build an orphanage in Haiti.
It costs money to buy a new bike for the kid down the street who’s bike was stolen last week.
It costs money to put on a Christmas meal and invite homeless people.
It costs money to fly to a northern community to share the hope and love of Jesus with hurting people.
You don’t NEED money to bless people. We should be blessing any way we can! But as believers, I think we need to wrap our head around (and stop speaking against!) a God who wants to increase us and bless us, so that we can turn around and show Him to others in tangible ways. So that we can be the solution to the world’s problems that we were created to be.
We have a good, good Father, and there is a hurting world out there who is waiting for the sons and daughters of God to reveal His goodness to them. And the first step is believing in, and then receiving with gratitude, that goodness ourselves.
My heart in this is not to pass judgement. If this is where you are, I get it. I really, really do. Part of the non-material blessings I receive daily is His abundant grace, which I also extend to you. None of us have arrived, none of us know it all. This is simply a challenge to look at what we believe and why we believe it, and then to look at the effects that belief has on the ministry of the church in our dark world.