God Wants You Wealthy: An FAQ On One of the Most Controversial Issues in the Body of Christ

 

 

 

 

The Bible teaches that God wants His children to be wealthy (not necessarily millionaires, please don’t misunderstand me—but wealthy. ie, To have an abundant supply enough to meet all their needs, and more left over).

 

Let’s begin.

 


Objection/Question

“All the first century Christians including the apostles were poor and struggled to get even the most basic of necessities.”

ANSWER:

A few things about this:

Firstly, this isn’t entirely true. There were Christians in the early church who lived in abundance  (1Tim 6:17).  Paul had his moments as well (Phil 4:18).

Secondly, I’m going to say something that I have never heard anyone else say on this subject: Aclose examination of the Bible will reveal that the only instances poverty was condoned were in connection to persecution or the preaching of the Gospel.

See, the modern Western world of Christianity is vastly different from that of first century Christianity. Back then, many believers were being put to death. They were run out of their homes and cities and forced to live in hiding. Many were stripped of all worldly possessions and thrown in prison.

Why? Because they had low paying jobs? Because of a recession? Because of a bad economy? No. It was because of their faith in Christ and the preaching of the Gospel.

So here’s the thing—If that is why a believer is struggling financially, neither I nor any prosperity teacher I know would have a beef with that type of a situation. Persecution is a mark of the Christian and the Scriptures are crystal clear on that.

But let’s get back to the original objection—- if we wanted to do a comparison between Western Christianity, and First Century Christianity, we would need to be fair and ask the question like this: If there were no persecution, and early Christians were practicing the wealth-building principles of the book of Proverbs by working hard, spending responsibly, and being charitable, would most of thembe poverty stricken?

When put in this light, a whole new perspective arises, doesn’t it?

The thing is, we really don’t have that sample to draw from when it comes to the New Testament. As previously mentioned, early believers were under severe persecution which led to severe poverty. The closest thing we would have for an accurate comparison is the Old Testament. Here, followers of Jehovah had periods of time where they were under no persecution. And when we study these instances, what we find is a pretty consistent pattern of prosperity.

 

 

Objection/Question:

“Proponents of the Prosperity Gospel are out to get money. They twist the Word of God in order to make the preaching of the Gospel a money making venture.”

ANSWER:

I can’t argue this. I have seen it many times. However, the old saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water” applies here. There will always be bad examples in Christianity for ANY doctrine. So we need to be fair and look at the idea itself, apart from any of it’s abuses.

 

 

Objection/Question:

“These teachers wouldn’t dare spread such a message in third world countries where people are severely poverty stricken.”

ANSWER:

Actually, I think you’ll find this message is often even more wide spread in these types of countries than it is here, in America. I’ve spoken to multiple missionaries who tell me this is the case.

Really, if it’s in the Bible, then it needs to be preached everywhere, regardless of outward circumstances, or popularity.

 

 

Objection/Question:

“If God wants us rich why are there so many poor, struggling Christians? And why does it seem it is only working for these Faith Teachers?”

ANSWER:

Let’s broaden this scope a bit to include anything that God wants for us. When we do, we find that most Christians are not living up to their potential in MANY areas. They are depressed, divorced, struggling with multiple sins and bad habits. None of these are God’s Will yet MOST believers find themselves still in bondage to them.  Why would we assume that the fact that God wants us rich and prosperous would somehow work automatically when these other things don’t?

As far as the, “faith teachers” who it seems to work for—- Again, you have to think of this like any other topic. How would you like to hear a pastor teach about being free from lust while he is committing adultery? Or a Bible teacher on having the joy of the Lord while he is miserable? Or someone else talk on witnessing to the lost when he has never led someone to the Lord?

We view a person as an authority in any field in which they are able to achieve an uncommon level of success. There is nothing suspicious or underhanded about leaders leading by example.

 

 

Objection/Question

“People who see you driving expensive cars and living in big houses will be motivated by the wrong reasons to get saved.”

ANSWER:

First of all, our duty is to preach the Word of God regardless of what motivates people to get saved. Secondly, one could argue that Peter was motivated by the wrong reason to follow Christ in Luke 5 after Jesus blessed His fishing business so much so that his boat almost sank. Yet, even though he had experienced, “divine prosperity” it still caused him to realize he was a sinner and needed Jesus (vs 8). Same with those who believed and followed Jesus after He multiplied the fish and loaves (John 6:26). Regardless, what some may consider, “the wrong reason” could be the only way some may realize their need for salvation and follow Jesus.

 

 

Objection/Question

“The Bible says the love of money is the root of all evil.”

ANSWER: That’s true. It’s very wrong and very destructive to pursue money or to be greedy. It’s unbiblical to elevate anything or anyone above a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and our allegiance to Him.

 

 

Objection/Question

“Jesus said don’t lay up treasures for yourself here on earth.”

ANSWER:

This passage actually presents a problem for the non Prosperity crowd more than it does Word of Faith people. Because if you’re WOF, you believe God has provided for you riches. So you’re not laying up anything. It’s a gift God has given you and you are simply RECEIVING it.  On the other hand, if you don’t believe God wants you to be rich and that you shouldn’t be storing up for yourself  treasures,  then what are you doing with a bank account?

 

 

Objection/Question

“The Bible says to be content with just food and clothing.”

ANSWER:

This is another of what I call, “self hanging” arguments. In other words, the passage challenges more than just what is known as the, “Prosperity Gospel.” Because if you live in America and have a computer, car, tv, iPhone, iPad, etc then we must ask, Are you being content with just food and clothing? And why are you saving up all that money for a vacation?

 

 

Objection/Question

“Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all he had before he could follow Him.”

ANSWER:

He also told Zacchaeus (another rich man) nothing of the sort (Lk 19:2-5). So what should we take away from these stories?  If it’s that we should not put riches before God—- I agree. If it’s that we should sell all we have and follow Jesus—-lead the way, chief.

You first.

 

 

Objection/Question

“There just isn’t any solid biblical evidence for this doctrine.”

ANSWER:

Well that depends on what you mean by, “solid biblical evidence.” All I can do is tell you what the Bible plainly says. To me, that’s solid. I get that there are other criteria many of us look at. Commentaries, digging around in the original languages, etc. Those are all fine and good (heck, what you’re reading now could technically qualify as Bible commentary) but at the end of the day, the emphasis should be on what the Bible says. Not on what we think it says. Not on what we think it means, or what others say about it, but what God Himself, actually wrote down for us.

So here are a handful of my personal favorite passages on the subject.

By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, and honor, and life

(Proverbs 22:4 KJV)

 

Through wisdom is a house built. And by understanding it is established. And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.

(Proverbs 24:3-4 KJV)

 

Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished, but he that gathers by labor shall increase.

(Proverbs 13:11 KJV)

 

“Jesus 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 TIMEhouses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.”

(Mark 10:29, 30 ESV)

 

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.

(2 Corinthians 8:9 NKJV)

 

Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us RICHLY ALL THINGS TO ENJOY

(1 Timothy 6:17 NKJV)

 

Therefore let no one boast in men. For ALL things are yours: whether  . . . THE WORLD or life or death, or THINGS PRESENT or things to come ALL are yours.

(1 Corinthians 3:21, 22 NKJV)

 

And if you’re tempted to doubt what is included when the Bible says, “ALL” in the above verses, this passage has always helped me to keep from trying to put a lid on it . . .

He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

(Romans 8:32 NKJV)

 

Conclusion

 

At this point, I’d like to open the floor to hear from you.

What are you thoughts on this subject?

Would early Christians have prospered if not for persecution?

What is your take-away from Jesus’ words to the rich young ruler?

How does one avoid laying up treasures here on earth?

Should God’s Will for prosperity be expected to work automatically when His Will in so many other areas of our lives does not?

 

14 thoughts on “God Wants You Wealthy: An FAQ On One of the Most Controversial Issues in the Body of Christ

  1. I would disagree with a couple of your responses.

    Objection/Question:

    “These teachers wouldn’t dare spread such a message in third world countries where people are severely poverty stricken.”

    YOUR ANSWER:

    Actually, I think you’ll find this message is often even more wide spread in these types of countries than it is here, in America. I’ve spoken to multiple missionaries who tell me this is the case.

    Really, if it’s in the Bible, then it needs to be preached everywhere, regardless of outward circumstances, or popularity.

    MY RESPONSE:

    I find it a tragedy that Christianity is being seen as the way to riches in many if not most of the third world countries. Pastors are becoming pastors because [a] it is a paying job and [b] the poor give unquestioningly to pastors who espouse all the WOF stuff in the hope of gaining what the pastors get (and many pastors in places like Nigeria are relatively rich while their assembly is poor). If people werren’t busy gathering riches to themselves like westerners do, they could be funding multiple small-scale businesses and not relying so much on overseas aid.

    Objection/Question

    “The Bible says to be content with just food and clothing.”

    YOUR ANSWER:

    This is another of what I call, “self hanging” arguments. In other words, the passage challenges more than just what is known as the, “Prosperity Gospel.” Because if you live in America and have a computer, car, tv, iPhone, iPad, etc then we must ask, Are you being content with just food and clothing? And why are you saving up all that money for a vacation?

    MY RESPONSE:

    Even a poor person in the west may possess more than just food and clothing. It is a measure of our incredible wealth compared with both the times when Jesus walked the earth and what people in third world countries have. As we grow as Christians, we should still be more and more content with what we have. If we must, keep the luxuries but stop buying more. I cannot see any justification for owning a luxury car when if we just had a practical and reliable car instead, we could feed so many children or fund a desperately-needed Bible College in a poorer country.

    Objection/Question

    “Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all he had before he could follow Him.”

    YOUR ANSWER:

    He also told Zacchaeus (another rich man) nothing of the sort (Lk 19:2-5). So what should we take away from these stories? If it’s that we should not put riches before God—- I agree. If it’s that we should sell all we have and follow Jesus—-lead the way, chief.

    You first.

    MY RESPONSE:

    Instead of “Lead the way, chief. You first,” can’t we look at how all those with excess riches can make a huge difference?

    Objection/Question

    “Jesus said don’t lay up treasures for yourself here on earth.”

    YOUR ANSWER:

    This passage actually presents a problem for the non Prosperity crowd more than it does Word of Faith people. Because if you’re WOF, you believe God has provided for you riches. So you’re not laying up anything. It’s a gift God has given you and you are simply RECEIVING it. On the other hand, if you don’t believe God wants you to be rich and that you shouldn’t be storing up for yourself treasures, then what are you doing with a bank account?

    MY RESPONSE:

    Yes, we rely on God and we receive from Him – in that I absolutely agree. But read up on all those who really relied on God for the supply of their needs as they did God’s will (Hudson Taylor, George Mueller, Oswald Chambers, Heidi Baker, etc, etc). They were supplied with exactly what they NEEDED. If you added up what they received, often without asking for it – just praying – the amounts were indeed treasures over the years, but they were used up in spreading the gospel, caring for hundreds of thousands of orphans, etc). We should definitely not lay up treasures for ourselves here on earth. We should be so concerned about others that we are always looking at how we can stretch our finances a little bit more and save people’s lives, physically, emotionally and eternally/spiritually. If we are blessed enough to have the wealth of an average westerner, we are already exceedingly rich. To try to hold onto more when there are so many needs is surely sinful.

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    1. Cameron, great thoughts! I appreciate how thorough you were. To your first point about Christianity being viewed as a way to get rich in poor countries . . . I’m not sure how I feel about that. I mean, in one respect I completely agree. But in another, I think about how Jesus was seen as the guy who fed the five thousand. And the guy who healed the sick. It was these rumors about Him that attracted crowds. That isn’t to say we only come to Him for what He can give us, but physical and material gain is seen in multiple places as a means of motivation to seek and obey God in the Scriptures.

      Your words “If we must, keep the luxuries but stop buying more. I cannot see any justification for owning a luxury car when if we just had a practical and reliable car instead, we could feed so many children or fund a desperately-needed Bible College in a poorer country.”

      This is interesting. I guess it depends on how you see God’s provision. If you see it as something limited, then I can definitely understand that whatever you don’t give to charities, is taking away from charities. But I see God’s provision as endless. He can literally multiply what we give. So I don’t see spending money on myself as taking it away from others . . . As if there is a shortage. . . . See what I mean? I think God can give us luxuries, without taking them away from the poor. He can do both.

      As for your comments about people with excess wealth making a difference with their money—Again, I agree. I just don’t see it having to be an either/or scenario. “If you spend that money on yourself, there will be less to go around.” I don’t see it that way. I think God’s supplies are endless and He can both multiply what we give, and still much left over for us to enjoy.

      Your words: “(Hudson Taylor, George Mueller, Oswald Chambers, Heidi Baker, etc, etc). They were supplied with exactly what they NEEDED.”

      I agree. But I don’t know if that means that is all God wanted to supply them with.

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      1. In faith, Jesus and the disciples fed the 5000, just as we hear from missionaries of God multiplying food amongst starving people to this day (Heidi Baker is one such person who has often seen provisions multiplied). What I was saying was that I know of Christians in poor countries who have literally nothing themselves yet are saving multiple lives and bringing people to the Lord on nothing but faith. This is not prosperity doctrine! On the other hand, the WOF missionaries you quote come back with new that Nigeria is full of the prosperity doctrine. Yes, true, but you will find pastors who are millionaires on the back of preaching to the extremely poor that they must give to the church (read, pastor) in order to start receiving. Nigeria would have been far better without such corruption from the west.
        You do make a good point about God’s provision being endless, and it is, but our heart should be praying and yearning to make a little more so that more can be done amongst those most in need. Just going by memory, but George Mueller raised about $100 million in today’s money. He never asked for a cent. He and those who God sent him did nothing but pray for what was needed. They sold their clothes and furniture to get started. Whatever they received went into caring for more orphans. Tens of thousands of orphans were led to Christ, fed, clothed and educated. If they had ever stopped for a year in order to become dollar rich, I suspect that they would have lost momentum. As a side note, our materialistic society just focuses on this financial aspect of George Mueller’s story, but he studied the Bible intensively and sought to apply every Biblical principle with the utmost faith. With regard to Mueller, Taylor, etc being supplied with what they needed, you suggest that God did not provide them with what he wanted to supply them with. The thing is that there was no shortfall. Taylor brought the gospel to inland China and retired in a cottage. Mueller did not even factor in a margin, choosing instead to help in faith the absolute maximum number of orphans at all times. I believe that God supplied both what was needed and what God wanted to supply.

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      2. I couldn’t argue any of that. I’ve read much about Mueller and you are correct. But I think their stories come very close to the first Objection/Question in the article. Which are people who are poor for the sake of their faith in Christ (persecution) or simply because they have sacrificed all to preach the Gospel.

        These are extraordinary circumstances, to the, “average’ Christian who is just poor due to the economy or a low paying job.

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  2. I’m not being idealistic, SJ. I was talking about the alternative to the prosperity doctrine for ALL Christians today. It’s not going to be helpful to put forward the biblical approach for Christians like Mueller and then have the prosperity doctrine for the “average” Christian. The biblical approach can apply beautifully to the “average” Christian on a low-paying job in a poor economy: They can absolutely rely in prayer for the supply of all that they need. Once they see God supplying exactly what is needed week after week, they can expand the tent pegs and believe that God can also supply what is needed for their ministry or to help others around them. However, the focus has to come away from storing up personal wealth and move to loving others. I know that there are retirement considerations, but we can trust in God for that too.

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    1. Cameron,

      I agree the focus should not be on making money. I pointed this out in the article.

      You mention “the biblical approach.”

      Please, using scripture, can you give an explanation of what that is?

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      1. There’s a lot more to the Biblical approach than the following, but here’s a bit of a rough summary with Scriptural references as requested. I don’t think these principles are too controversial, but the trick is actually applying them in a society that is all about instant gratification, materialism, competitiveness, ambition and narcissistic pride…

        First of all, it’s not about the money, but it is about loving people and learning to give to people in need. Christian stewardship recognises that everything we have and everything in the world belongs to God. It is not ours. The notion that God is entitled to 10 percent and we own the rest is false. We are stewards of resources for only a short time. What will we do with what we have received? We must seek God about what He wants us to do with this money. Christian stewardship is all that we do with all that God has given us. If we just buy luxuries and disregard people, this makes God angry (Rev 18), but if we give selflessly without drawing attention to ourselves, we can be filled with the joy that comes from furthering God’s kingdom on earth and walking in God’s will. When we give, we are remembering the poor (Gal 2:10); showing that money does not have a hold over us; and making the greatest two commandments our top priority (Mt 22:36-40; Jn 13:34,35).

        We are relying on God to meet our needs (Mt 6:25-33) and we are proceeding in faith (Lk 12:22,23). That does not mean that we fail to plan and prepare. We just pray for the correct strategies, methods and processes to fulfil our God-given vision. We need to calculate costs and set financial goals (Lk 14:28-30). We may also need to seek professional guidance (Pr 15:22).

        But again, God is sovereign and owns it all. If we or others lose money, we do not blame God or presume failure as a Christian. When God took away his wealth, Job had the correct attitude, saying, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).

        The great revivals and missionary movements of the past have always been associated with going against the ways of the world (Ac 4:36,37; Phil 4:14-18). So before revivals and missionary movements, there was great giving instead of greed; prayer instead of self-reliance; listening to God’s word rather than our own learning, experts and understanding; and humility instead of pride, status and ambition. Without spiritual giving, there simply is no spiritual health (Lk 12:21; James 2:16,17).

        We cannot serve both God and money (Mt 6:24). The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil and it can lead to spiritual barriers or decline (1 Ti 6:10). We might say that it is okay to have money as long as we don’t love money, but Jesus said “it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” for a reason (Mt 19:23). Do we love the nice house that money/debt has purchased? Do we love the nice car? Do we love the comforts or freedom that comes with money? Greed is a sin, and we should live simply and frugally (Lk 12:15). We need to fight love of possessions on a daily basis, with our main desire being to help those who have far less than us. Rather than changing our actions, we should change our heart and then the right actions will follow (Mt 12:34).

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      2. I don’t really know of anything you said here that contradicts the article, or would be anything I disagreed with.

        Other than maybe the reference to Job. It almost sounded like you were implying that God could just decide to take everything away and make us poor. Unless it were a result of persecution, or preaching of the Gospel, I don’t know of any New Testament validation for such an idea.

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  3. God can decide to take everything away. It is His and He is sovereign. It may, for example, also be an act of love to bring us closer to Him (e.g. the many afflictions God placed on Israel over the years, whenever they strayed or had an evil king – the motive being a changed focus and restoration).

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    1. Okay. But would you agree that if there were passages that promised the believer these things, if God were to take them away, it would be a violation of His Covenant?

      Because if we can’t trust God not to take away things He has given us . . . Then what assurance do we have of anything, including our own salvation?

      BTW, I don’t see much application on this topic from the OT because it was clear that the promises they received were conditional upon their performance whereas NT is conditional upon faith, grace, and the finished work of Christ.

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  4. Luke 6:20-26

    Looking at his disciples, he said:

    Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
    Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
    Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
    Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil,
    because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

    But woe to you who are rich, or you have already received your comfort.
    Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.
    Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
    Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

    Speaking for me and my wife, we don’t want to be rich in this life. We want to be rich in the next life. God has blessed me with a very, very good paying job. My wife and I choose to live a very humble lifestyle. We live in a lower, middle-class neighborhood in a house built in 1954. We drive used vehicles. We wear cheap clothes. Where does our money go? We give it away. To the poor. To the church. To charities who help others. This is how Jesus wants his followers to live. He gave up his riches so we could become rich. We must live like Jesus. Therefore, we take the riches God gives us and we give them up so others can be rich. In doing so, we gain the same reward that Jesus gained by his obedience to the Father. God exalts those who humble themselves before Him.

    I don’t want to receive my comfort in this life. I want to receive it in the next life. What about you?

    Like

    1. Thanks for the feedback.

      I agree with everything you said right up until you said, “this is how Jesus wants His followers to live.” While giving is certainly biblical, giving a certain amount IS NOT. So to claim that the way you live is the way Jesus wants everyone to live simply can’t be supported with Scripture.

      The other questionable thing you said is that by giving away your riches, you gain the same reward Jesus gained? Feel free to expound on that with references from the Bible.

      Out of curiosity, did you read through the FAQ?

      Like

  5. As much as I like the idea and you have supported it well with scripture, I’m still uncomfortable with it because of just how much this idea is misused, unintentionally and intentionally. Unintentionally, some preachers have a good heart, want Christians to know God provides in abundance but doesn’t warn that they should not come to love money and so many think God should always, always give them what they want. Which I’m not saying that its wrong to ask for things from God, as just like any good Father, God wants to give us good gifts but thinking God is a “yes dispenser” is wrong. Intentionally, well there are many examples of preachers asking for money, money, money and not giving it away.

    The temptation to give into the love of money could be strong for many who have never experienced large abundance and so the chance for people to easily fall to it would be high. Also, many Christians in the Western World are lukewarm and wealth is one reason for it. I truly wish this could be true but I’m cautious as I don’t want me nor any Christian to fall to the allure of money and lose sight of our true purpose, to be in a loving relationship with Jesus and glorify God.

    Like

    1. Hey, brother

      I pretty much agree with everything you said. About the only thing I might take issue with is the remark about the portrayal of people thinking God is a “yes dispenser.” I don’t think anyone would describe it that way. That said, the argument in Romans 8:32 is pretty powerful.

      Great point about the pitfalls that surround wealth. Having experienced this personally, I understand it all to well. These prosperity teachers should be teaching a lot more about the temptation of becoming lovers of money. They often only speak about how to get it, not necessarily how it can change you once you do.

      Like

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