Back in the 80’s when I first preached a series of prosperity message, a concerned church member asked if the message was relevant to their situation. She believed that prosperity teaching was not applicable in poverty stricken areas such as the remote rural provinces of the Philippines. She explained that the people there earned their income on seasonal basis. Because majority of them were poor farmers, therefore they could only bring their tithes and offerings after the harvest season. She pointed out that not every Sunday service they had cash on their pockets to give as tithes and offerings. At times the church general fund didn’t have as much cash to receive, but vegetables, fruits, rice, oil, milk, food and etc.
Her main concern was, they don’t plant seeds (money) on a regular basis. And she had some guilt and felt condemned in her heart.
I was surprised when she told me that there was the “American Version” and the “Biblical Version” of prosperity gospel. That was new to me. To her, the American Version of prosperity message dealt more of having multiple luxury vehicles to drive, nice suits and shoes and expensive watch to wear, owning houses, to live like a Mafia Boss, having a lot of cash in his/her pocket. In short, the American Version focuses more on becoming look alike and acts like a CEO in a corporate world. And all these things were possible by “saying it and claiming it” kind of a thing. It was as if a brand new Benz was floating somewhere in the spiritual world and then grabbing that Benz to breakthrough into the physical world by some kind of a “confession of faith,” and then the Benz would pop up in someone’s front yard.
On the other hand, the Biblical Version of prosperity deals more on putting your hands to work, by sweating your brows for food, by using your faith to give, by believing that God will bless the works of your hands. And because you are not lazy, and you are honest and have integrity in your business dealings, and you have the fear of the Lord and the wisdom of God, blessings of the Lord is with you. Biblical Version of prosperity emphasizes not on the material things that one could get, but the things a believer could do and give to those who are in need.
As we went along and finally completed the series, she finally understood that as a child of God, God will prosper you through the works of your hand. There’s no magic wand or a big pie in the sky that’s ready to fall on you when you confess this or that. No way. You have to find a job and be the best employee ever; or be the best business man on the planet as you trust and obey God’s Word and apply the principle of giving and doing good.
Now a day, when a preacher speaks about prosperity, majority of his audience suspect him of being materialism, and lover of money. Before ending his sermon, his listeners had already formed an opinion and already found him guilty of greed and manipulation. They looked at him as spiritual manipulative, smooth talker, and the only thing that he really wanted and concerned with was the audience’s money.
Prosperity message has been abused and misused inside and outside of the Body of Christ. Second to sexual immorality, prosperity message has caused so much offense to the decency of the majority of the world population – people of character, with high degree of moral standard. Now, how sad was that? Yes Jesus is rich and wealthy but He never went around the seashore of Galilee to show off and prove that He was wearing expensive seamless clothing. No, no, no. The Bible said that He went about doing good, and never asked for love offerings or whatever financial demands to His listeners. Jesus gave and will continue to give.
One of the reasons prosperity message has lost its integrity is the very greed amongst its advocates. They sounded the message as if it is the only message of the Bible, from cover to cover – that God wants you to have “the money” and that’s all. The core of their message is “easy money” and that money will come supernaturally into your wallet when you give to their ministry or give whatever amount they were asking you to give, and they call it the seed faith.
Most of the advocates of the prosperity gospel are misusing the Old Testament scriptures. They have abused the words “anointing,” “covenant,” and “sowing and reaping,” to convince their listeners to prosper materially. They failed to discern in their spirits that the devil had used them with subtlety to pervert and distort the real Biblical version of prosperity. It was a spiritual blunder.
It is Biblical that God’s will for the Body of Christ is to prosper in all aspects of believer’s life. But, how do we prosper? The answer to this question will reveal the motives of those who preach it. The Apostle Paul has said that some think that godliness is a means for profit.
“Anyone who teaches something different is arrogant and lacks understanding. Such a person has an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words. …Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy” (1 Timothy 6:4-5 NLT).
Prosperity Gospel shall be interpreted in the light of the new covenant and not in the old covenant. We have a new and better covenant given to us as children of God in Christ. The life and ministry of the apostle Paul is our model and guide to Biblical Version of prosperity.
Paul’s writings give us the specifics and the details on how to handle money. If you read carefully and investigate thoroughly the writings of Paul regarding money, they were always related to work. You have to work to receive something in exchange. For Paul, he did not consider the preaching of the gospel as work. Paul had other work to do while preaching the good news. Preaching the Gospel is a privilege, a calling from God, a Divine appointment and a blessed role in the Body of Christ. However, it was not an exemption from the workforce. You have to earn your personal money and not to become a burden to anyone, and not to fall into temptations of greed.
First of all, Paul had to work to support his ministry to avoid becoming a burden to anyone. Even in the Old Testament times, the people of God had to put their hands into work to be blessed. They toiled the field and raised herds and dig wells. They used their hands and their strength and their sweat to be blessed with abundant blessings from God. There’s no such short cut to prosperity. The Book of Genesis, which is the beginnings, God ordained that man has to work in the sweat of his brows. This truth is still effective. If you want to live and enjoy life, you have to sweat it.
The following incidents were Paul’s insight to Biblical Version of prosperity based on the new covenant:
“We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so we would not be a burden to any of you. We certainly had the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow. Even while we were with you, we gave this command: “Those unwilling to work will not get to eat” (1 Thessalonians 3:8-10 NLT).
You see, Paul had the right to be fed by the Thessalonians believers but elected to refuse it in order to set an example. Sometimes you have to sacrifice things to set examples to your students or followers. The most effective tool for teaching is setting your life as an example.
“Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:11-13 NLT).
Paul shared the secret for being on top of the world whatever situation he was in. Paul had nothing to prove to the devil. Paul had no time to tell the devil that Paul is prosperous. The devil is not worth to spend a time with. Paul had better things to do for the Lord. Paul knew that secret – It is the Lord who gives, not men. You see, when you put your eyes to men as the source of your strength, you will fail big time. Trust Paul’s word!
“Since we have planted spiritual seed among you, aren’t we entitled to harvest of physical food and drink? … But we have never used this right. We would rather put up with anything than be an obstacle to the Good News about Christ. … In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it. Yet I have never used any of these rights. … I would rather die than lose my right to boast about preaching without charge” (1 Corinthians 9:11-16 NLT).
You see, Paul rather boast in preaching the Good News free of charge! If you think that preaching the Bible is a good business for making money, you are in a wrong tract. You need to repent now and get a real job. The WORD is not for sale.
“… Remember that three years I was with you … I have never coveted anyone’s silver or gold or fine clothes. You know that these hands of mine have worked to supply my own needs of those who were with me. And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard…” (Acts 20:31-35 NLT).
Paul spent three years with the brethren but he was never a burden to anyone. As a matter of fact, he was a blessing to them spiritually and financially.
Prosperity Gospel is not asking for anything to be blessed. Prosperity Gospel is God blesses you through the works of your hands. You don’t drop a coin and receive thousands in return. God is not a slot machine. As a child of God, we never beg for anything. If you are a preacher or a benchwarmer who habitually asks for money, that is considered begging. And when you beg, you are misrepresenting God who owns the heavens and the earth and all that contains it.
King David testified to the children of Israel before he died:
“I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his descendants begging for bread” (Psalm 37:25 NKJ).
It is a disgrace every time I see someone who claims to be a child of God and yet asking for financial support for the work of the Lord. Jesus has never asked any favor to anyone for the sake of His ministry. As a matter of fact, Jesus ordered things to be done. He never asked. He tells what to do because He has all the resources to accomplish things for the kingdom of God.
Learn from the father of faith Abraham when he said, “God shall provide.” Trust me, He will.