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Do you believe in the Prosperity Gospel? (Part 2)

Please notice the biblical principle of giving liberally in Proverbs 11:24-25: “There is one who scatters, yet increases more; And there is one who withholds more than is right, But it leads to poverty. The generous soul will be made rich, And he who waters will also be watered himself.” Compare Proverbs 21:26.

The principle of giving liberally is also strongly emphasized in God’s commandment to tithe to Him. The Bible leaves no doubt that the lack of tithing leads to curses, while diligently tithing to God leads to His blessing.

We read in Proverbs 3:9-10: “Honor the LORD with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase; So your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine.”

Malachi 3:8-11 adds:

“‘Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, “In what way have we robbed You?” In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,’ Says the LORD of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,’ Says the LORD of hosts…”

However, the act of tithing, all by itself, may not be enough to find God’s approval and lead to financial blessing. It is true, of course, that God promises us physical blessings if we pay His tithe to His Church. We cannot expect being physically blessed by God, if we refuse to obey His commandment to tithe (verse 9). In other words, one is under a curse who refuses to pay God’s tithe to God’s Church. But even if a person tithes diligently–like the Pharisees did in Christ’s time–he still can’t expect that God will bless him financially, if he violates other laws of God. These could be laws regulating sound financial principles, as well as spiritual laws. God’s law is a package, and can’t be looked upon in an isolated fashion. James tells us that when we violate one of God’s commandments, even though we keep the rest, we have still violated God’s entire law (James 2:8-13). When we do that, we cannot expect God’s financial blessing.

So far, we have quoted exclusively from the Old Testament in regards to God’s physical blessings. Some say that God’s promises of wealth, riches and prosperity only apply to the ancient nation of Israel, but that they have no relevance or application for God’s disciples in New Testament times or today. Apart from the fact that God had also blessed individuals, such as Abraham, Isaac or Job, let us note that Jesus Christ came “that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). And John adds in 3 John 2: “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.”

Some claim that Jesus was poor. They use 2 Corinthians 8:9 to prove this assertion, which states: “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.”

In our Q&A on the life of Jesus Christ, we state the following:

“[In 2 Corinthians 8:9] Paul is using a comparison between the richness of the immortal God who owns everything, and, in contrast, the poverty of man whose insignificant riches might be here today and gone tomorrow…

“There are numerous passages indicating that Jesus owned His own house—or perhaps even more than one… We read that Jesus said that foxes have holes and birds have nests but that the Son of Man had no place to lay His head. Some commentaries claim that this proves that Jesus could not have owned a house—and that He was pretty much homeless.

“However, we must look at the context. While Matthew 8:20 is not as specific as to the timing, the parallel passage in Luke 9:58 is given in the context of when He was on a journey with His disciples, and the Samaritans refused to grant them shelter (compare Luke 9:51-56; note verse 57: ‘NOW it happened as they journeyed on the road…’). There were times when Christ and His disciples did not encounter hospitality, while they were on their missionary journeys, and it was that fact which Jesus stressed when He spoke about the sacrifices one must be willing to make when he or she wants to follow Christ (compare verses 57-58)…

“We should also recognize that the soldiers did not want to cut Jesus’ garments and clothing, when He was hanging on the cross (or better, stake), but they cast lots to determine who should receive them (Matthew 27:35). Even though their conduct was in fulfillment of a prophecy, it is also worthwhile to mention that His garments and clothing were apparently not ‘cheap,’ but of such a quality and value that the soldiers were willing to cast lots for them…

“Jesus was not a homeless vagabond or a hippie. He was a living example of God’s Way of Life, and the Bible tells us that God wants us to prosper in all things (3 John 2). Scriptures also tell us that when we obey God (and Christ always obeyed Him, not sinning once), God would bless us financially (compare Malachi 3:8-10). David even said that he was young and grew old, and he never saw the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread (Psalm 37:25)…

“We know that terrible and ‘expensive’ times are ahead of us, but we also know that when we seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, God will give us all the physical things that we need, including food, clothing and shelter. God the Father did most certainly do this for Christ—the prime example of someone who did seek first in His life God’s Kingdom and His righteousness…”

Some claim that wealth, prosperity and riches would disqualify us from entering the Kingdom of God. Such a claim is not correct even though there are most certainly dangers involved, of which we must be aware.

Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 6:9-11:

“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things…”

This passage does not condemn riches and wealth per se, but it includes a warning for those who “desire” to be rich because of their “love of money” and “greediness.”

In our Q&A, “Is It Impossible for a Rich Man to Enter the Kingdom of God?”  we state the following:

“In Matthew 19:16-26, Mark 10:17-27 and Luke 18:18-27, we are introduced to a young rich ruler who came to Christ and asked Him what he must do to inherit eternal life. Christ told him that he had to keep the commandments and He added the need for him to sell what he had, and to follow Him. However, the rich man was unwilling to depart from his riches…

“Christ did not say that it was impossible for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God, but that it would be very difficult. We know that Abraham was very rich, and so was David, and both will be in God’s Kingdom. But it is true that riches CAN prevent us from fully turning to God…

“Christ warned us that we cannot serve two masters—God and mammon. He explained that we must not lay up for ourselves treasures on earth (living a way of life which is manifested by our love of money, riches and physical possessions), but that we are to lay up spiritual treasures in heaven. He continued: ‘For where your treasure is, there your HEART will be also. No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon’ (Matthew 6:19-21, 24).

“Christ makes the same point that Paul is making [in 1 Timothy 6:10]: Either we love God and His way of life with all our heart, including our desire to be spiritually rich before God, or we love foremost mammon or material possessions, including our desire to be physically rich in this world. Christ continued to explain the incongruity between both ways in Matthew 6:25-34, when He compared the physical worries in this life with what must be our main priority: ‘But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness’ (verse 33).

“As Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:11, we must ‘flee’ the physical desires to be rich, which are so important in this world, and rather ‘pursue righteousness.’ John explained that the love of God is not in us when we love the world or the things in the world (1 John 2:15-17)…

“There are reasons why Christ warned us that it would be very difficult for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God (Matthew 19:23-24). The main problem is that a rich person may love his riches too much, and he may be unwilling to give them up, if necessary, in order to follow Christ without reservation…

“Again and again, the Bible tells us not to give in to the love of ‘money’ or materialism, and not to work for, as our main focus, the physical riches or possessions in this life… In the parable of the rich fool, Christ warned all of us: ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses’ (Luke 12:15). After telling the rich fool who had heaped up treasures for himself that he would die that very night, He concluded, ‘So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God’ (verse 21).

“And so, Paul admonishes us today—and especially those who are rich in this world—to get our priorities straight: ‘Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor TRUST in UNCERTAIN riches but in the living GOD, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do GOOD, that they be rich in good works, READY TO GIVE, WILLING TO SHARE, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life’ (1 Timothy 6:17-19).”

“It is with this background that we must understand Christ’s warning that ‘it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God’ (Matthew 19:24; compare Mark 10:25 and Luke 18:25). Christ was pointing out here that it is HUMANLY impossible that a camel would go through the eye of a needle…

“To emphasize the point even more, Christ said that it was EASIER for such an impossibility to occur (a camel going through the eye of a needle) than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God. He introduced His parable by saying: ‘It is HARD for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven’ (Matthew 19:23; compare Mark 10:23 and Luke 18:24). But Mark 10:24 adds an important point, quoting Christ as elaborating: ‘Children, how hard it is for those WHO TRUST IN RICHES to enter the kingdom of God.’

“The disciples recognized the humanly impossible situation, as presented by Christ, and so they asked: ‘Who then can be saved?’ (Matthew 19:25; compare Mark 10:26 and Luke 18:26). Jesus’ answer makes His teaching very clear: ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’ (Matthew 19:26). Mark 10:27 quotes Jesus in this way: ‘With man it is impossible but not with God; for with God all things are possible.’ And Luke 18:27 states: ‘The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.’ (Compare also Luke 1:37; Mark 14:36; Jeremiah 32:17, 27; Genesis 18:14.)

“Returning to the question… whether it is impossible for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God, the answer is: No, it is not impossible, but it requires a miracle from God. This is true for all of us. It is God who must call us and open our minds to His truth; it is God who must offer us repentance and faith in Him and His Son’s Sacrifice and the Gospel of the Kingdom of God; it is God who must offer us His gift of righteousness and, upon repentance, belief and baptism, the gift of the Holy Spirit—but we need to respond. The rich man was offered an opportunity to qualify for the Kingdom of God at that time, but he did not respond properly, because he did not want to give up his riches. Others may have other excuses with which they may want to justify their refusal to accept God’s calling (compare Luke 14:15-24).

“… Especially rich people will have to come to the realization that they must not trust in their riches, but that they must be willing to give up their riches, if need be, and to share their riches with others. For most rich people, this is VERY hard to do. But God can change man’s heart and mind; so it is NOT impossible for Him to convert even a rich person, IF that person wants to be converted.”

(To Be Continued)

Lead Writer: Norbert Link