by Dale Armstrong
As we continue to grow and increase in the knowledge of God the Bible declares that grace and peace will be multiplied toward us. Confusion often surrounds the topic of prosperity and the place money holds in the life of a Christian. Money can be a blessing (Proverbs 3:13-16; Psalms 112:1-3) or a curse, (1 Timothy 6:9,10). When we acquire an accurate knowledge of God, and of His purposes for the use of money, then we will abound in grace and peace in the realm of our finances.
Most are aware that finances in the Christian life can be a breeding ground of frustration, pressure and even strife. Many families have been torn apart by the pressure of financial lack or mismanagement. God does not desire for any of His children to go through these things. Jesus said He came to give us a more abundant life, but He also declared that a man’s life does not consist in the things that He possesses. There is a balance.
Stress and pressure thrive under the lack of finances, but there is also an area of stress and pressure in the desire to become rich. Greed and covetousness are quick to rise up. Some jump, as it were, out of the frying pan and into the fire. Our motive is to be rich toward God. The handling of our money is done in the light of our being stewards of God and responsible for all of our possessions.
Keep the Word of God first and foremost in your life. When the Word of God is the highest priority in your life there is no way for the deceitfulness of riches to sway your priorities. For instance, the Word teaches us to give bountifully (meaning, in abundance) and we will receive bountifully, (2 Corinthians 9:6-9). If we continue to keep God’s Word first in our life and actions we will remain pure in our motives. The principles of sowing and reaping are God’s failsafe way to protect our heart. By our lifestyle of giving, we are declaring that greed and covetousness have no hold on us. You simply cannot remain selfish and give at the same time!
It is true that some are trying to use biblical principles to become rich in a selfish manner, and it is true that some people enter into sin when they begin to prosper. I remember one woman who prayed for prosperity. Her boss offered her overtime if she worked on Sundays. She took this as an answer to prayer, dropped the priority of the Word of God, and began to “prosper” according to her selfish definition. As you can imagine, it wasn’t long before her spiritual life began to suffer, decline, and then nearly disappear. That was never God’s intent. Paul revealed to us that the love of money is the root of all evil. But should we throw out the baby with the bathwater? Just because some abuse the gospel benefits does not mean that we should abandon them entirely.
The Bible records an incident where ten lepers came to Jesus. They stood far off and cried for the mercy of healing. Following Jesus’ instructions they went to show themselves to the priests. One turned back to give God the praise. He fell at Jesus’ feet and worshipped Him. Jesus then asked a painful question, “But where are the other nine? Weren’t there ten healed?”
Healing is another of the gospel benefits that many abuse. In the face of God’s healing power there are some who will give glory to God and some who will never grace the doors of a church again. I am continually amazed at the ingratitude of many, who upon being healed or delivered have no time for God in their life. That doesn’t mean God isn’t going to heal anymore. Jesus continued healing all that came to Him in the face of this obvious ingratitude, and often in the face of persecution and religious resistance.
In the same way, God is not going to stop prospering people because some abuse it. We often hear people speak of this or that minister who has abused the finances in his ministry. Even Jesus had a thief on his ministry staff, one who was continually taking from the treasury for his own selfish gain! People tend to magnify the negative aspect of an issue as an excuse to ward off the responsibility that the positive side would bring into their life. After all, it is easier to be poor. One just has to be lazy, (Proverbs 6:10,11). It takes diligence to be rich, (Proverbs 21:5) and that requires time and effort.
God is not going to stop healing any more than He is going to stop prospering because of the purpose that lies behind both of these great gospel benefits. The purpose of prosperity is the same as the purpose of healing – it is a revelation of the character and heart of God. We can see this clearly in Peter’s case. On one occasion, Jesus prospered him through a great catch of fish. The boat was actually sinking, and it required his partners help to bring in the multitude of fish. Peter fell at Jesus’ feet crying, “Depart from me! For I am a sinful man, O Lord!” Through one act of supernatural provision Peter came to see clearly who Jesus was and who he was in Jesus’ presence.
Obviously, the purpose of prosperity involves more than simply meeting man’s need. Eventually, Peter abandoned his boat load of fish and gave up everything to follow Jesus. If the purpose was to meet Peter’s need, why was there such an over-abundance of fish? In this case, prosperity went far beyond the need. If the purpose was to meet a need, why did Peter leave the fish in the boats, beached on the shore, in order to follow Jesus?
The purpose of prosperity is to reveal the goodness of God. Romans declares that it is “the goodness of God that leads men to repentance,” (Romans 2:4). Some teach that people will turn to God through crisis. Some have gone so far as to say that God causes the crises to get a person’s attention. This is not Bible truth. The word repent means “to turn” and according to this verse, it is the goodness of God that causes us to “turn” to Him. It is true that many have turned to God when facing difficult circumstances. It was so in my own life; but I turned to Him for deliverance, not for more of the same!
But just as some have turned to God in the crisis, I have seen others turn away from God, become bitter, and fall into greater defeat and discouragement. Many, when God blesses, will turn and serve Him. Many, when God blesses, will serve themselves even more. It depends on their personal character, and on their understanding of the character of God. The purpose of prosperity is to reveal the heart of the Father, and it is the heart of the Father to prosper you! (Ps 35:27)