Monday, April 4, 2011

I Believe in the Prosperity Gospel

For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.
-Jeremiah 29:11

There are alot of believers in the prosperity gospel, and alot of criticisms of the prosperity gospel. I used to fall into the latter category, but lately I have become an all-out believer in the message that God wants to prosper his children. I can't read my favorite verse above and not believe that.

However, I have come to have a different understanding of prosperity.

I have heard so many people say things like, "It's so nice to know that when I do everything right, that God will bless me in so many ways." 

This comment usually comes from someone with whom everything in life seems to be falling right into place, with no major problems or difficulties.

However, life is not easy all the time. The problem comes when people face difficult situations like sickness, job loss, personal criticism, death, or a multitude of other difficulties life tends to throw our way. It's usually during these times you will hear the same person say something like, "I don't understand what I've done to deserve this. What did I do to upset God so much that He would stop blessing me? I've been doing everything just right like the Bible teaches me."

The prosperity gospel, that everything will go just right if you do everything you are supposed to do, can be damaging to believers leading to disappointment in God, loss of faith and trust in Him, and worst of all, the loss of their entire faith in God and the Bible altogether.

I'm sure everyone has heard someone say, "I don't believe in God because why would He let my loved one suffer through such a painful sickness without healing them. We prayed, we had faith, we believed, but He still let them die a painful death. He must not be real."

The problem with the prosperity gospel is not the message, but the defintion of prosperity. As human beings we see and understand everything upside-down compared to how God created. God says to gain everything, you must lose everything. God says, the last will be first and the first will be last.

We don't understand, in our human finiteness, how God's message works.

It's like Lightning McQueen in the movie Cars. The older, wiser race car tells McQueen that when he is driving on dirt, he must turn left if he wants to go right. McQueen mocks and scoffs at the older race car calling him crazy. But in the end, he understands that indeed, turning left to go right, will work when he is driving on dirt, just as the older race car had taught  him.

God tells us quite often, that if we want to go right, we must turn left. We laugh in his face and make fun of the backwards, upside-down concept, and then drive off  leaving our dust in his face. And we keep doing what we've always done, turning right to go right, with the same result as before... failure, disappointment, and ultimately a messy wreck.

Let's look at the world's definition of prosperity.

Prosperity-n. The condition of prospering; condition or wealth. (source

Some synonyms for the word prosperity include riches, wealth, ease, fortune, luxury, well-being, good-fortune, the good-life, plenty, and affluance.

This is what the preachers of the prosperity gospel tell us God wants for us. But I believe we need to look to the Bible for God's definition of prosperity.

The Hebrew word used in Jeremiah 29:11 for the word prosper is Shalom.

Shalom- completeness, soundness, welfare, peace, quiet, tranquility, contentment, friendship, welfare, health, of human relationships, and (my personal favorite definition) with God especially in covenant relationship. (source or Strong's #07965)

In people terms, Shalom means completeness, contentment, welfare, or peace in human relationships and with God, especially in covenant relationship.

This is the kind of prosperity God desires for His people, for all people. He desires to have a covenantal relationship with each human being, lasting for all eternity. This is true prosperity.

Stick with me for a few more posts and a deeper look into God's definition of prosperity and what the Bible teaches is prosperous in the Christian life.
*Hint, it doesn't include money, possessions or anything else we consider "blessings".

May God bless you today with prosperity, or peace and completeness in your relationship with Him, and with others!