Sunday, January 27, 2013

God Wants You Rich: The Prosperity Syndrome


Matthew 6:19-34:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!  “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.  “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?  “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” NKJV

In trying to prepare this message, I made a little research and I want you to share out of my discoveries

  1. The word Prosper occurs  49 times in the Bible – 48 in the Old Testament and only once in the New Testament (Third John 2)
  2. The word Prospered occurs 13 times in the Bible – 12 in the Old Testament and only once in the New Testament (First Corinthians 16:2)
  3. The word Prospereth (prospers) occurs 4 times in the Bible – 3 in the Old testament and once in the New Testament (Third John 2)
  4. The word Prosperity occurs 17 times in the Bible all in the Old Testament and none in the New Testament. Twice, it points the negative (Proverbs 1:32 – prosperity kills when in the hand of fools and Jeremiah 22:21 – it caused Israel to abandon God.)
  5. The word Prosperous occurs 8 times in the Bible – 7 in the Old Testament and once in the New Testament – Romans 1:10
  6. The word Prosperously occurs twice in the Bible and all in the Old Testament.
I am aware that this is not a statistics class; I am only trying to establish a basis for a few assumptions.

empty walletA woman I know very well attended a Church service where the preacher urged all to empty their purses and wallets into the offering bag, raise their purses and wallets up for God to refill their now empty purses and wallets many times over. Of course, all who did it went home empty handed. What happened? Why didn’t God refill their purses and wallets? It is because God did not promise to do so. It is fraudulent and God does not practice fraud. 

Perhaps somebody here would say – Hey Silas, you have not read your Bible well. Did God not say; “Give and you shall be given”? Did Paul not say in Second Corinthians 9:6 – Sow and you shall reap”? But where do we sow? Read again verses 7-8. It was not sowing in a project; it was sowing in destitute people – the saints in need. It was not sowing grudgingly or by compulsion but sowing willingly. 
Along with the call for giving, Paul gave a practical advice in First Corinthians 16:2 – No one is to go into debt in order to give. Give what you can.

There is however an incentive for Giving – the principle of reaping what is sown. Certainly then, it cannot be wrong to expect God’s blessing when we give. But is God obligated to reward our giving with material abundance? Has God promised to make us wealthy? In many of our Churches today, you will hear them say; He is and He has! They will buttress their answer with “You are limited only by your lack of faith. You can have whatever you want if you believe it.” There are a few examples in the Bible for us to follow:

Jesus stated the state of His own economy in these words: “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” He further cautioned; “where your treasure is, there your heart is also. You cannot serve God and Mammon.” Luke 9:58; Matthew 6:19-34)

Peter and John entering the temple in Jerusalem said: “Silver and gold, have I none” (Acts 3:6) were they lying or were they stating the fact? The fact is that Old Testament Scripture depicts God’s blessing on Israel to be directly related to the number of man’s sons, and to the size of his flocks and herds. The New Testament saints are more often depicted as robed in adversity. Even those who started out rich ended up poor. Peter, James and John gave their all. If giving always pays off in material gain, they should have been millionaires and more.

What of Paul – what does he say of himself in Second Corinthians 11:23-33; 12:10: “Are they ministers of Christ? — I speak as a fool — I am more: in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fasting often, in cold and nakedness —  besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?  If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. In Damascus the governor, under Aretas the king, was guarding the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desiring to arrest me; but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped from his hands.”
Second Corinthians 12:10:  “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

If material blessing were in direct proportion to one’s giving or one’s faith, wealth would be a slide rule for measuring Spirituality. But if we attempt to use such a gauge, we come up with some staggering contradictions. The doctrine that equates Christianity with rag-to-riches is seeded with deception. It is not of God. The Bible does not teach it; it does not also teach that poverty is synonymous with spirituality. It teaches neither of the extremes. It teaches a balance.

Where then is the balance? What does the Bible teach?

Not all the Children of God are dressed in suits and ties or fancy dresses or designer’s jeans. Let us understand the position of “But others”  in Hebrews 11:36-40: “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were Luke stoned; they were sawn in two, were tempted, and were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented — of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.” 

prosperity gospel dropouts

Let us correctly interpret First Timothy 6:9-10: “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”  

And Matthew 6:19-21: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;   but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  

Let us turn to Agur in Proverbs 30:7-9: “Two things I request of You (Deprive me not before I die): Remove falsehood and lies far from me; Give me neither poverty nor riches — Feed me with the food allotted to me; Lest I be full and deny You, And say, “Who is the LORD?” Or lest I be poor and steal, And profane the name of my God.”  And then relate it to Jesus’ teaching – “Give us this day, our daily bread.” (Matthew 6:11)

The emphasis in the Scripture and particularly in the New Testament is Spiritual Blessing and NOT material blessing – Luke 6:38 has been misinterpreted and misapplied. Read it again: “Give and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”  
"Name it and claim it" is not of God. It is full of deception. Let us remember Demas – he loved the world and went astray.
Poser: Before we say Good night today, let us look at the result of my research at the beginning of our talk. What does it suggest to you about God’s emphasis on prosperity? I leave it to you.
God bless you all.

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