Defining Prosperity

In light of current social and political events, I have found myself stumped in my prayer life. Not because I don't believe God is in control, but because I find so many fellow believers forgetting that He is.

Regardless of how different we are, I believe it is the plight of every American to prosper this country. Where we disagree is what parts of the country need prospering. As tensions rise, our focus begins to narrow more and more until every bit of our vote and opinion focuses on "what does this mean for me?" For Christians, this thinking infiltrates our prayer life under the belief that one candidate can only bring good and the other can only bring destruction. Have you seen this morph into a very unhealthy competition between you and your peers? I have. I have found myself rooting against people I love in the name of "educate yourself" or "open your eyes." This isn't educating or enlightening. It's condemnation stemming from the belief that if a certain candidate is elected he/she will take all the power, money, positioning away from me, my beliefs, and the things I find important.

We could take a deep dive into the perceived godliness of government leaders, whether we vote for the collective group or for ourselves, or whether an entire party is to blame for the strife in this country. But today, I think Christians need to start thinking beyond American politics. We need to start questioning what we believe about prosperity.

Merriam Webster describes "prosperity" as the condition of being successful or thriving especially: economic well-being. How often is "the economy" talked about today? And how often does it drill down into 100 political topics that need to change and improve before we can call something prosperous? But, friends, even in times of "prosperity" there are people dying at the hands of poverty, diseases that science can't cure, violence, and natural disasters. "Prosperity," as described by the dictionary, cannot solve these problems.

But the Bible talks about prosperity. You might have even heard a sermon or two preached on the topic. After all, a crowd favorite is Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you." So are we meant to prosper or not? The answer is yes, but not it the way we think. (And if you'd like more proof on the subject, read Jeremiah 29:1-10 first then tell me how you feel about verse 11)

  • Genesis 41:52 The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”

  • Proverbs 21:21 Whoever pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.

  • Proverbs 16:3 Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.

  • Proverbs 16:9 In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

  • Proverbs 3:6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

  • Proverbs 3:7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.

  • .Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;

  • Romans 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

  • Proverbs 28:13 Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

  • Psalms 119:50 My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.

  • 2 Timothy 2:3 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

  • Ephesians 3:13 I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.

  • Ecclesiastes 7:14 When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future.

When God's Word speaks of prosperity, "wealth," "riches," and "glory" coincides with suffering, righteousness, submission, confession, and trusting God before ourselves. As I'm sure we could think of more to add to this list, we can evaluate where we might be in our faith my comparing the two types of prosperity:

Prosperity, according to God, points us away from ourselves and makes us focus on

  1. Him

  2. Others

  3. How we can use what we have to enhance the two

Why? Because that is what God asked Jesus to do to the point of death.

Believing in earthly prosperity, positions God to have to prove Himself to us. It's a trade-off situation-- "I did this, so you do that." Most sober-minded believers would agree that God does not have to prove anything to us. But when our candidate loses, Covid shuts down our business, someone gets something they didn't deserve, or worse, we heard false prophesy from another believer, we suddenly start to look like the left side of this chart.

This brings me to my closing point of this thesis:

Godly prosperity is the means required to make us more like Jesus. Earthly prosperity is a carefully crafted distraction from godly prosperity that is rooted in greed.

What role does greed play in earthly prosperity? It's the basis for oppression, lying, corruption, dishonoring a brother's name, hoarding toilet paper during a pandemic, and a multitude of other sins. This belief that I have to get what is owed to me is entirely false because all I am owed is punishment for my sins. The gospel of Luke 12:15 says “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Our job is to remember that is not dependent on the season of life we're in.

It is my belief that Satan's plan is not to create stingy Christians that don't like to share (though this is a side effect). I believe that he is using the curse of greed to close our hearts to one another. Satan is subtle. He will use noble notions like protecting the ones we love and fighting for what's right to slowly trim and sculpt us into thinking that what we believe is always right and what they believe (whoever "they" is) is always wrong. When we believe in their absolute deficiency, we will become greedy with our love, our resources, and our prayers. Evil whispers in our ear to preserve self above all else making self the most important thing. By this point, neither side is worried about Christ-like development. Both are fully blinded by right-fighting, and the desire to grow as a human or build faith is completely dead. Both are focused on an idea, a political party, or a movement to fill a hole that only Christ can fill. Both refuse to bring the other to the foot of the cross and ask "please show me how to love this person as you love them."

I'll finish with this. The picture above was day one of our prosperity as a couple because we had to completely abandon life on our own terms. We made progress toward God by understanding Christ's suffering, realizing our limits as human beings, and reckoning with the person who planted this bomb with the intention to kill Josh. As we grew, our hearts had the capacity to carry grief, mourn with those who were mourning, become miracles for other people, and created the habit of falling on our knees before we asked God to use us. If there was any other way for God to stretch us, I don't think I want to know what it is. His power was made great in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9) and we learned that nothing on this side of heaven has all the answers, no matter how righteous it is (John 14:6). That person/idea/political party that you don't agree with can help you grow. Christ would hang on the cross all over again for the people we can't stand. Let's pray that this is the year we die to what we assume about them and desire godly prosperity for them.

Ephesians 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for God.

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