“All the first century Christians including the apostles were poor and struggled to get even the most basic of necessities.”
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.
“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.”
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.
“These teachers wouldn’t dare spread such a message in third world countries where people are severely poverty stricken.”
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.
“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?”
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.
“People who see you driving expensive cars and living in big houses will be motivated by the wrong reasons to get saved.”
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.
“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.
“Jesus said don’t lay up treasures for yourself here on earth.”
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?
“The Bible says to be content with just food and clothing.”
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?
“Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all he had before he could follow Him.”
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.
“There just isn’t any solid biblical evidence for this doctrine.”
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 TIME, houses 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)
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?