Hi Friends, did Jesus die to make us rich? Is the abundant life He promised a life that is full of money, wealth and luxury? Does the Lord truly want His servants to live in opulence and luxury like the world? These are some of the questions that will be answered through this sermon.
- What is the Bible’s view on prosperity?
Psalm 35:27 (NKJV) says, ‘Let the Lord be magnified, who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.’ Friends, yes, it is the Lord’s desire that we should be blessed and not live in lack. Psalm 34:9-10 (NKJV) says ‘Oh fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. The young lions lack and suffer hunger; But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.’ Indeed, when Jabez prayed ‘Oh, that you would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your Hand would be with me and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain’; God granted him what he requested (1 Chronicles 4:10 (NKJV)). Proverbs 10:22 (NKJV) says ‘The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.’ Proverbs 22:4 (NKJV) says ‘By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honour and life.’ Scripture clearly evidences that God will take care of us because He is our Shepherd (Psalm 23:1).
However, there is something especially important that we must understand now. Whenever God gave promises of blessing in the Old Covenant there was a condition preceding it or following it. When God promised the Israelites in Exodus 23:25 (NKJV) that He will bless their bread and water and take sickness away from the midst them; there was a condition preceding that. That condition was ‘so you shall serve the Lord and your God, and He will bless your bread and water. And I will take sickness away from the midst of you.’ Under the Old Covenant God promised material blessings for the children of Israel when they walked in obedience and a curse when they disobeyed and went after other gods. What about the New Covenant?
What did Jesus and His apostles say on prosperity?
Well, what did Jesus say about prosperity? What does the new covenant tell us about prosperity?
In John 10:10 (NKJV) Jesus says, ‘I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly.’ Is Jesus talking about money? Is Jesus talking about our earthly life? What is Jesus talking about in that whole chapter? What does John 10:9 say? What does it say from John 10:11 onwards? The Lord Jesus is clearly and in detail speaking about eternal life in His message. In John 10:28 Jesus says, ‘I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.’
2 Corinthians 8:9 (NKJV) says, ‘For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.’ What is 2 Corinthians 8:9 talking about? Let me explain this verse phrase by phrase, point by point.
Paul in this chapter is writing to the Corinthian church about supporting the work of the Lord with their finances just like how the Macedonian church was doing. Verse 9 starts by saying ‘For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ’. What is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ? Romans 5:8 (NKJV) says ‘in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ Ephesians 2:8 (NKJV) ‘for by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.’ We have received unmerited favour and a free gift from God to be saved by Grace through faith in Jesus. That is Grace.
What does ‘though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor’ mean? The answer for this is Philippians 2:5-8 (NKJV) ‘Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.’
What does ‘that you through His poverty might become rich’ mean? The word ‘rich’ is used to signify all that we receive as sons and daughters of God because of Christ’s great sacrifice. What do we receive because of Christ’s great sacrifice? The book of Ephesians commences by promising us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ from God the Father. As we study the book of Ephesians, we begin to understand the riches that God has given us under the New Covenant. What are these riches?
1) Riches of His Grace (Ephesians 1:8)
2) Riches of His Glorious inheritance (Ephesians 1:18)
3) Riches in Christ (Ephesians 3:8)
4) Riches of His glory (Ephesians 3:16)
Eternal life, Redemption, Forgiveness, Righteousness, Calling, Purpose, Love, Peace, Joy, Unity, Harmony, the gift of Holy Spirit, His spiritual gifts, His fruit of the spirit, divine providence are all riches that money cannot buy. These we receive freely in Christ to prepare us for eternity with Him whilst living on earth.
Hence through 2 Corinthians 8:9, Paul under the inspiration of Holy Spirit was talking about what great a sacrifice that Christ has done for His church and what a great and eternal riches it has brought for all of us. Further in this chapter he was emphasizing to the church the following point. Since Christ has shown such great grace to you by what He has already done for you through His Sacrifice; as the church you’ll must come forward to help the growth of His work and His church. So, 2 Corinthians 8:9 does not mean, nor does it imply that Christ’s coming down as a Man makes us rich with money.
- What is the blessing of Abraham?
It is important we discuss about Abraham here since his name and his faith is quoted in the new covenant eventhough he lived way before the Law was given.
Why did God bless Abraham?
Abraham was already fairly wealthy when he left his hometown (Genesis 12:4,16, 13:2). The Lord did bless Abraham after that as well (Genesis 24:1,35) but God’s main purpose for Abraham was not financial prosperity but to give birth to His chosen nation through him.
Genesis 12:2 (ESV) ‘And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.’
Genesis 17:4-8 (ESV) ‘Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.’
There is also one more reason why God blessed Abraham with wealth after entering into a covenant with him. Abraham was to be the father of a new nation and the wealth that Abraham, Issac and Jacob possessed would be the initial investment into that nation. Israel went to Egypt with enough wealth to build up a nation in Goshen (Genesis 46:5-7) and even when they came out after being slaves, they had the economic capacity to build up a nation, an economy, and a country for themselves (Genesis 47:27, Exodus 1:7, 12:35-36). God had a purpose in mind for blessing Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and his sons. It was a purpose which went beyond Abraham’s lifetime.
What did Abraham’s faith accomplish for him?
Abraham did not use faith to become financially prosperous. In fact, never once did Abraham ask God to financially prosper him. The faith of Abraham in fact wrought for him something great. His faith prophetically announced what God was going to accomplish for us through His Son’s death and resurrection. Genesis 15:6 (ESV) ‘And he believed the Lord, and He counted it to him as righteousness.’ Romans 4:3 (ESV) ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’ Abraham was justified as righteous by his faith in God.
How are we justified as righteous under the New Covenant? Romans 5:1-2 (ESV) ‘Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.’
The promise of justification by faith was given through Abraham thousands of years before the Law was even given. Galatians 3:8 (ESV) ‘And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.’ Abraham himself prophetically stated God Himself will provide a Lamb (Genesis 22:8). Jesus Christ was the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Grace preceded the Law because Grace was God’s predestinated plan for salvation (Ephesians 1:4-14). The Law was given to show us what sin was (Romans 5:13, 7:7) but the Law could not save us from sin (Hebrews 10:1). Hence God gave us Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb for our sin and through His death and resurrection we are redeemed from the curse of sin and death (Romans 8:1-4, Hebrews 10:10, 14).
How do we receive this redemption into our life? By faith. By faith in the finished work of Calvary. By believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. John 3:16 (ESV) ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.’ Abraham believed God and he was justified as righteous. We believed in Jesus Christ and we have been justified as righteous.
Through Christ we are a part of Abraham’s lineage. Galatians 3:29 (ESV) says ‘And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.’ How is that possible? We are now part of Abraham’s seed because we are justified by faith as righteous just as he was. Galatians 3:7 (ESV) ‘Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.’
Since we are a part of Abraham’s seed, we inherit the blessings promised to him. Galatians 3:9 & 14 (ESV) says, ‘So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. So that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.’
What is this blessing? What does it mean to be blessed along with Abraham? Does this mean we will be financially blessed like Abraham? Is that the promise of Abraham which we receive?
Galatians chapter 4:1-7 clearly explains what the blessing of Abraham is or what it means to be blessed along with Abraham? What does it mean? The blessing promised to us is Sonship. Being part of the chosen. The Elect. We through faith in Christ Jesus, are adopted as sons and made heirs to the Kingdom of Heaven. Abraham was a nobody who became a somebody because of the Grace God showed him by faith. Similarly, we who are sinners become saints because of the Grace we receive through Christ Jesus by faith.
Abraham was not looking for earthly possessions. Hebrews 11:10, 13-16 (ESV) speaking of Abraham says ‘For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.’ Under the New Covenant are we not also instructed to set our minds on things above and not on things below? Colossians 3:1-4 (ESV) ‘If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.’
A careful study of scripture gives us the true revelation which the Lord has put in His Word. The problem today is that many look at scripture with a carnal mind. Hence whenever they see words like blessing, riches, inheritance their carnal minds jump to the conclusion that it is money that is being promised. That is what the carnal mind associates with these words. The spiritual mind however associates these words with ‘every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places’ spoken of in Ephesians 1:3.
Solomon was also blessed by God with great wealth despite him not even asking for it. Why was that? There was a purpose. Solomon had to build the most glorious and beautiful temple for the Lord, and he built it without even borrowing a cent. He paid for every item. Even for the logs Hiram king of Tyre sent, Solomon annually sent a huge amount of food supply to Tyre (1 Kings 5:12).
If God blesses us with wealth there is a purpose for it. That purpose is for us to be a blessing to His kingdom and other people. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 (NKJV) says ‘Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.’
When God does bless us, He also wants us to be content with what He gives us. 1 Timothy 6:6 (NKJV) says, ‘godliness with contentment is great gain.’ He warns us against being greedy and covetous. In Luke 12:15 (NKJV) the Lord says, ‘take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.’ 1 Timothy 6:9-10 warns us not to have the love of money. The Lord hates greed. He wants His children to be content at every stage of life as He blesses them. Hebrews 13:5 (NKJV) ‘Let your conduct be without covetousness: be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you.’
Through Solomon’s life we also see the dangers of having wealth, fame, and prosperity. It can lead us away from God and into a life of sin and death. 1 Timothy 6:8-9 (NKJV) warns us saying ‘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.’ So be watchful and careful. Always keep your focus on the Lord even when He blesses and lifts you up in life.
One more important point about Abraham’s faith
Abraham’s faith was not merely empty words but proven faith by action.
- Hebrews 11:8 (NKJV) ‘by faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out’ – Abraham obeyed the Lord always 100% all the times.
- Hebrews 11:9,10 (NKJV) ‘by faith he dwelt in the land of promise, for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God’ – the land of promise in Abraham’s time was nothing more than desert and wilderness and he lived in tents. In fact, Abraham gave Lot the best land in the plain of Jordan and settled in the not so nice part of the land. Abraham was patient, persevering and faithful to God placing his hope in what God had promised, trusting in the fact that God knows best. Abraham never questioned God nor did he demand anything from God.
- Hebrews 11:17 (NKJV) ‘By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac’ – Abraham was willing to sacrifice anything and everything for God. Of course, his faith made him know that God was able to raise his son up even from the dead (Hebrews 11:19). Abraham endured the testing and did not waver nor go back. Even when he did not see the fulfilment of the promise given that he would have a son; Abraham did not waver through unbelief but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform (Romans 4:20-21).
This leads us to another important discussion point. This point is about the connection between the words we speak and faith. Basically, a discussion about the topic of positive confessions of faith.
- Is Positive Confession biblical?
First let us look at what scripture tells us about the words we speak.
Proverbs 18:21 (NKJV) ‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.’
Matthew 12:37 (NKJV) ‘For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.’
Mark 11:22-23 (NKJV) ‘Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, be removed and be cast into the sea, and does not doubt in this heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore, I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.’
John 14:14-15 (NKJV) ‘And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.’
Matthew 18:18-19 (NKJV) ‘Assuredly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.’
James 5:15 (NKJV) ‘and the prayer of faith will save the sick.’
According to the above verses, words of faith do carry power because we speak them in faith and with the authority granted to us by Christ. Jesus cast out demons with one word. He healed the sick with one word. So, words of faith and the prayer of faith are effective in bringing to pass what we believe. That is a biblical truth. Now this gives rise to the following questions.
Does this mean that when we speak in faith, God is obligated or mandated to act and do whatever we ask? Does this mean we can ask God whatever we want, and He has to do it and He cannot say no to our requests? Does that mean God is not Sovereign but is subject to the words of faith spoken by man? The best possible to way to answer these questions is through scripture.
In the Word of God, there have been instances where God has heard the voice of man and done what man has requested from Him. In Joshua 10:12-14 (NKJV) when Joshua commanded the sun and the moon to stand still, it happened just as he commanded. Verse 14 says ‘and there has been no day like that, before it or after it, that the Lord heeded the voice of a man; for the Lord fought for Israel.’ When Moses pleaded with the Lord not to judge Israel, God heard him and relented from judgement (Exodus 32:14). When Gideon and Hezekiah asked for a sign; the Lord agreed and gave them signs (Judges 6:17-18, 2 Kings 20:8-11). There are more examples like this from Elijah and Elisha where the Lord heard the voice of His prophets. So, there are instances in scripture where God has answered or listened to His servant’s request and done what they requested of Him. Now this does not mean we can jump to a conclusion and say God always does what man asks, because there is more. Yes, God answered prayers in the above instances. Yes, He listened to the voice of His servants in the above instances. Yet there have been instances of God not answering or refusing to answer as well.
In one instance God listened to Moses but there was another instance where He flatly said no. Since he disobeyed the Lord; the Lord said Moses will not be going into the Promised Land. In Deuteronomy 3:25-26 (NKJV) we see Moses telling the people how he pleaded with the Lord to allow him to cross over but the Lord replied and said ‘Enough of that! Speak no more to Me of this matter.’ With respect to the nation of Israel, in Jeremiah 14:11 (NKJV) the Lord strongly replies to Jeremiah saying ‘Do not pray for this people, for their good. When they fast, I will not hear their cry.’ In the instance when David sinned, and judgement was pronounced by God; when David repented, he was forgiven but the judgement was not removed. David fasted, wept, and prayed for the child to be healed but the child died. God did not answer David the man who was known as a man after God’s own heart. Behind each of the instances where God said no there were justified reasons for His answer of ‘No’. What were the reasons for the No?
- Unrighteousness, sin, disobedience – Isaiah 59:1-2 (NKJV) says ‘Behold the Lord’s Hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God: and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.’ Sin separates us from God. Now you might say what about us who live under the New Covenant who have been reconciled to God through the blood of Jesus. Well continuous and habitual sin will have the same result for us, and Hebrews 10:26-31 has some harsh words for us on the matter. So, whilst living in sin and unrighteousness we cannot speak words of faith and expect God to honour them. God will not answer. Repentance and turning away from sin will make Him relent. For example, Ahab was wicked yet when he repented God relented from judging during his lifetime (1 Kings 21:29). Ninevah lived in sin yet when they repented at Jonah’s preaching the Lord relented from judging at that time (Jonah 3:10). However, years later since Ninevah went back into sin and continued in it; the Lord spoke judgement over the city through the prophet Nahum and brought it to pass as well (Nahum 2:13).
- It is not His will – Righteousness does not guarantee a Yes answer all the time. God does hear the prayers of the righteous (James 5:16, 1 Peter 3:12, Proverbs 15:29, Psalm 34:17). However, whatever we ask must be in accordance with His Will as well (1 John 5:14). If it is not His Will, He will not give it to you. Also, what we ask should glorify His Name (John 14:13). If what you ask will put His Holy Name to shame; He will not answer. Furthermore, the Lord has His time and season to fulfil His purposes here on earth (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Hence there are times He will not answer our prayer but ask us to wait till His appointed time for us comes.
- God has a purpose to fulfill and He gives you grace to endure – The Lord did not answer Paul’s prayer to remove his thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:8). Why did God say no? Well, the answer that Paul gives is ‘So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.’ (2 Corinthians 12:7 (ESV)). God did not remove the thorn, but He replied saying ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV)). God’s grace strengthened Paul to endure and go through and bear up his thorn in the flesh. We all will go through seasons where our faith will be tested. Everyone who walks with God will go through trials and tribulations in life. Sometimes God permits certain things in our life to strengthen our faith and make us rely solely on His Grace to carry us through it. James 1:2-4 (ESV) ‘Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.’
- Ungodly purposes – If God does not approve of the purpose, He will not answer. James 4:3 ‘You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.’
- God is sovereign. He is the final decision maker – The most important point of them all. God is sovereign. He is above all. All power and authority are with Him. He is the Creator. All else are creation. Creation is subject to the creator. Hence, we cannot tell Him what to do. He tells us what to do. Psalm 115:3 (ESV) ‘Our God is in the heavens; He does all that he pleases.’ Romans 9:20-21 (ESV) ‘But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?’ Positive confession does not override the Sovereignty of God Almighty.
Now just to remind you of another important point. If you grumble, complain, and remain negative all the time like the children of Israel did in the wilderness, that too will also be a block to your blessing. That is why scripture says ‘in everything give thanks for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus’ (1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV)). So, giving thanks to God always is important. Even when He say No to your prayers, give thanks because God is sovereign, He loves you, He is your Father, and He knows what is best for you. Ephesians 5:20 (ESV) ‘giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.’
- New Covenant’s definition of prosperity.
Based on all that we have discussed thus far, it is fair to say that the prosperity that our Lord speaks of in His New covenant is 99.9% heavenly and spiritual prosperity. The focus of Christ and the New covenant He instituted revolves around being rich toward God, storing treasures in Heaven, seeking first the Kingdom, self-denial and taking up the cross, setting your mind on things above and not on things on earth, hating the world and the things of the world, being content with what we have received and receiving spiritual gifts from Holy Spirit. Basically, it is 99.9% a spiritual focused covenant. When it comes to our earthly life the Lord in Matthew 6:25-34 simply says, do not worry about your life, I will take care of it all, what you eat, what you wear, all your needs I know it before hand and just like I take care of the birds and the flowers I will take care of you and you shall lack nothing. That is, it.
When Peter said to the Lord ‘See, we have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus in response said ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.’ This passage taken from the Gospel of Mark (10:29-30) adds the word ‘with persecutions’. Hebrews 10:34 speaking of some of the persecution the early church faced adds the line ‘and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.’ Whatever property they may have had was taken by force by the ruling authorities as punishment for following Christ. Also, in the early church the practice existed of ‘selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need’ (Acts 2:45). In the early church the focus was never on accumulation of wealth rather a willingness to give it up.
Never look down on someone who is not financially as prosperous as you are because James 2:5 (NKJV) says, ‘Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him.’ Does this mean we should live in poverty? Is it God’s will for me to be poor?
It is not God’s will for His children to continuously suffer without food, clothing or money. That would go against what He taught in Matthew chapter 6. Poverty is not God’s will because scripture is clear that He will take care of our needs. There might be seasons where our faith is tested through tough situations with regards to finances. For the sake of the gospel, we suffer through loss of finances because of persecution. God trains us to trust in Him no matter what the circumstances by taking us through a season of poverty. However, in all such situations we will always come through as overcomers, victorious and stronger in faith. Paul explains this beautifully in Philippians 4:12-19 (NLT) as follows:
‘I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty. As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this. Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once. I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness. At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God. And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.’
In this world there will always be people with different income levels. One reason is because we are living in a fallen world which has created income inequality. Another reason is for maintaining a balance of everything. What does this mean? If everyone is going to be a CEO then who will be the employees in an organization. If all are going to be Directors, then who will be the middle management and factory workers. These are facts of life in a world that is in a fallen state because of sin.
The most important reason which is applicable to us who are in the Lord is that for each person God has a plan and purpose in line with their calling in life. Some He calls into full time ministry and makes them trust Him for providence. Others He blesses them and raises them to support those who are in full-time work for Him.
To preach and teach saying that all are going to be filthy rich is not biblically sound teaching. Preaching and teaching that God will bless you in accordance with His plan and purpose for your life and all your needs will be met and you will lack nothing is sound biblical teaching keeping with what Christ has said in His Word. Remember that Satan can bless people with money too as evidenced by the countless numbers of unbelievers and atheists who have accumulated vast supply of wealth for themselves.
Satan offered Jesus all the glories of this world, in return for Jesus’ sworn allegiance to him. In Luke 4:5-8 (NKJV) the devil showed all the kingdoms of the world and their glory and said to Jesus ‘all this authority I will give You and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.’ Jesus replied and said to the devil ‘Get behind me satan, for it is written, you shall worship the Lord your God and Him only you shall serve.’ Get behind me satan! Jesus put the devil, the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life behind Him and put the Lord our God and Him only as His one and only focus and totally submitted to God His Father. This is exactly what we should do as well.
The earthly prosperity that Jesus promises us is one of divine providence by Him our Shepherd. This what Jesus also experienced. Luke 8:3 says many provided for the Lord from what they had. So, He was never in lack. All His needs were met. This is exactly what we also will experience as we walk with God. Luke 22:35 (ESV) ‘And He said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.’ We will not become filthy rich, but neither will we be desperately poverty stricken. We will be well taken care of by our loving Shepherd. ‘The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want’ (Psalm 23:1 (ESV)).
- Tithes and offerings and prosperity
The subject of giving has become the most abused subject matter in the Bible. Indeed, giving of our tithes and offerings is an instruction from God’s Word. Sadly, however man has brought in his own twists to make this a money-making scheme for himself. Here are some popular statements you hear often which some believers have thought are biblical.
1) ‘If you sow now God has to bless you. He has no choice’ – God is not obligated to do anything for you as we discussed before. God is sovereign. He is not subject to our will or our words. You cannot force Him, trick Him, bribe Him, or do anything to get God to move to your will. The giving of offerings is an instruction in God’s Word, and it is an act of thanksgiving for His blessing and means of supplying the needs of the church and the people (2 Corinthians 6:12-13).
2) ‘Sowing is the only way you can get God to bless you. There is no other way.’ – Sowing is one of the ways in which we are blessed. Faith and Obedience brought blessings to Abraham. Love and loyalty to the Lord brought blessing to David. Prayer brought blessing to Jabez. A righteous life brought blessing to Enoch and Noah. Faithfulness brought blessing to Ruth. It is by the mercies of God that we are blessed. It is by His Grace that He rewards the righteous. Psalm 34:8,9,10 (NKJV) ‘Blessed is the man who trusts in Him. There is no want to those who fear Him. Those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.’
3) ‘This is the season. Now is the time. If you do not give now, you will never get blessed’- There is no good time or bad time with the Lord. Luke 6:38 (NKJV) ‘Give and it will be given to you.’ Whenever you give there will in return be a blessing for you. Give cheerfully and liberally not reluctantly or under compulsion. Give what you have decided in your heart. If you give bountifully, you will reap bountifully. These are the principles of giving laid down for us in 2 Cor 9:6-11 (ESV) and the 3 blessings we receive for giving are mentioned there in this passage well. The 3 blessings are:
- ‘God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you abound in every good work’ – Abundance of His Grace to be a witness for Him in this world in every way possible.
- ‘multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.’ – An increase of material and spiritual blessings to bless the work of God more.
- ‘You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way.’ – Blessed to be a greater blessing to others. More than accumulation of wealth for one’s personal gain, the emphasis here is once more of being ready to give it away and bless others.
4) ‘Go get your credit card and give now. Even if you do not have money in your account use your credit card, borrow, pledge – give now.’ – Does the Bible tell us to borrow and give tithes and offerings? The Old Testament is very clear that the tithe and offering comes from your income be it what you harvest from the land or livestock or anything you earn or from the increase of your earnings. What about the New Testament? Paul instructs the church in Corinth with regards to collections/offerings in 1 Corinthians 16:2 (NKJV) ‘On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper.’ In the gospels we see the widow put all that she had into the offering box in the temple. When Moses called for people to bring their offerings to build the tabernacle people brought what they had their gold and other valuables. Proverbs 22:7 says the borrower is a slave to the lender. Scriptural giving is giving from whatever you earn – salary, harvest, sale of something etc. The Old covenants says 10% whilst the New Covenant says prepare your gift beforehand as a matter of generosity not a grudging obligation (2 Cor 9:6-7).
5) If you do not give God is going to curse you – Malachi 3:9 is the verse used to justify this statement which says a curse will come for not giving of the 10% tithe in the Old Covenant. The Law placed an obligation upon man to give 10% of one’s income. The New Covenant however is all about sacrificial giving with a cheerful heart what we have purposed in our heart. Giving is a covenant between you and God and not a binding order between you and your pastor. Nobody has the authority to demand you to give to them. Scripture speaks about a willing heart (Exodus 35:5) in the Old Covenant and a cheerful heart (2 Cor 9:7) in the New Covenant when giving. Giving should not become an obligation nor should you give because someone is forcing you or manipulating you. Give because you want to give, and you love to give. This is what Paul says to the Corinthian church. We can encourage people to give to the work of God by stating that there is a blessing in giving to God. However, as servants of God we cannot use verses from scripture as a scare tactic to make people to give. If you scare people into giving and they give out of fear, then they will not be blessed because the Lord wants people with willing hearts and cheerful hearts to give. As servants of God, we must not abuse our authority given to us in the Lord. In 2 Corinthians 10:8 (NKJV) Paul says, ‘our authority which the Lord gave us for edification not for your destruction’. He also says, ‘that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel’ (1 Cor 9:18 (NKJV)). Never abuse scripture for personal gain.
Giving brings great blessing. I encourage you to be liberal givers but give according to what scripture instructs and sow on good ground. Then you will be greatly blessed by the Lord.
- Should servants of God live lives of luxury?
As I study the life of our loving Lord Jesus and the lives of His prophets and apostles, I arrive at one conclusion only. A life of simplicity, humility and faithful obedience is the way of the Master. Lead a comfortable life not a carnal life. A comfortable life is a life of contentment, thanksgiving and no lack because of faith in God. A carnal life is one that wants what the world has and seeks to imitate it.
Trust God to supply your needs and the desires of your hearts in accordance with His will. Focus on building spiritual wealth and growing and maturing in the Lord. Strive to walk in righteousness and enter through the narrow gate. The greatest treasure we have here on earth is our Lord Jesus and His Spirit living in us. That should be more than enough for us always than any earthly wealth or treasure.