A Thought on Prosperity Theology

God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.

This is a phrases that has helped many begin a conversation about who God is and what Jesus’s death on a cross means for their life with others. The evangelistic parachurch Cru used the Gospel tract “The Four Spiritual Laws” for years which opens with this very line. I am thankful for the ministry of Cru in my own life and I pray that if my kids go to University that Cru is still alive and well and knocks on their freshman dorm room door. I DO believe that God does love me, and you, and that He has wonderful plans for our lives. I think He wants to work amazingly in each of us that we may become more and more Christlike as we grow deeper and deeper in our relationship with Him. And I think that many of those who have used this phrase in the past would agree with me.

And yet, there is an anthem that is declared using this same phrase that says something very different. In this anthem God’s love and His wonderful plan are expressed to us through financial blessings and physical well-being. This is often called the Prosperity Gospel. And, while these ideas are clearly in scripture:

7 He holds success in store for the upright,
he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
8 for he guards the course of the just
and protects the way of his faithful ones.

Proverbs 2:7-8

they are not the final word in all of the scriptures. The Proverbs and Deuteronomy both have the flavor that “if you do good things then God will bless you with health and finances.” But books like Ecclesiastes with its:

2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.”

Ecclesiastes 1:2

speak against the Prosperity Gospel being the final word in how God relates to our world. The Bible speaks to itself and says, “your good deeds don’t always end in blessings in this world.” The Biblical authors wrote down their struggles understanding how both God blesses those who do good deeds in this world and this world tends to beat people down. Whether it was Isaiah declaring that was God sitting on the throne in the year the king died, or Job’s answer from God as to why pain had come his way, “I am God and you are not,” the Bible says that prosperity is not always the result of living faithfully in this world…

And then the God of everything stepped into the world and spoke words of peace to His followers:

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

We are going to have trouble in this world, but Jesus has overcome the world. We are going to have relational difficulties, financial hard times, bumps and bruises, our health will fail us in different ways at different times, and the world is going to beat us down. But in the end a blessing beyond our wildest imagination will be ours through Christ Jesus.

No matter what you are going through right now, I offer you these verses from Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus which have encouraged me to praise God in all kinds of circumstances.

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

Ephesians 1:2-3

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