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*Frequently asked questions*
The Bible, the written word of God, is our final authority in answering all questions pertaining to our spiritual life. However we must keep in mind while reading the Bible that the Bible is not written like a book of science where each statement is exact and complete in itself, nor like a book of law where the goal is to elaborate matters in sections and sub-sections so as to avoid loopholes. The Bible is written for the heart, and can be understood in its proper sense only by those who are spiritually minded (1Co.2:14), and who desire to do the will of God once it is revealed (Jn.7:17). Those who want to argue against the word of God can always find arguments, and those who do not want to obey what God says can appear to find words of God themselves to support their stand. Please read the following with an open heart and a willingness to know God's ways and obey them.
Christians and prosperity
- Jacob Ninan
1. Does God want Christians to prosper?
Of course! He not only forgives us our sins, but He wants it to go well with us in every way. 'Redepmtion' includes bringing us back to the place that He had planned for us before sin came in. See De.28:11, Jos.1:8, Ps.1:3, Ps.25:12,13, Ps.35:27, Ps.37:11, Ps.68:6, Pr.11:25, Pr.13:21. God wants a godly man to prosper in all that he does.
2. What do you mean by 'prosperity'?
Prosperity is usually associated with economic abundance, where one has more wealth than sufficient for one's own needs. But the Bible uses 'prosperity' to mean more than this. For example, when God blesses someone so that he would prosper in all that he does, or all that he lays his hands to, it also implies success in a general sense (Ge.39:3,23).
3. Then why is it that we see so many of God's children suffering in poverty, sickness, problems, etc.?
There are two basic reasons for this. The first one is that we are still living in this sin-cursed world where not only people but also all other parts of creation are suffering the consequences of the fall (Ro.8:22). Jesus said that in this world we would have trouble (Jn.16:33). It is only when we stand finally in heaven that we would be free from this kind of suffering (Re.21:4). So while we are in this world we shall face problems, injustice, corruption at various levels, constraints of circumstances and society, physical and mental limitations, etc. I am referring to things over which, generally speaking, we can have hardly any control. On the other hand, there are factors that are basically our own responsibility. For example, lack of faith, laziness, unwillingness to take responsibility for ourselves, unwillingness to take challenges, etc., can hinder our success.
4. Are you saying that all Christians may not become prosperous?
The point is that while God desires all His children to prosper, the ultimate fulfillment will only be when we are in heaven. While we are down here, we may all experience different levels of prosperity. It is unrealistic to proclaim that all Christians will or can be prosperous in a material sense, and also wrong to think that poverty is a mark of spirituality.
5. But we do see examples like Job, Abraham, David, Solomon and Daniel who were prosperous. Why not us?
It's just like today. We see even today many Christians are wealthy, but many others are not! Also, it is not that Job, Abraham, David, Solomon and Daniel did not have problems!
6. Some people say that prosperity was only in the Old Testament and that in the New Testament the important blessing is in spirituality.
The emphasis has certainly shifted as God moved from the old covenant to the new. In the old covenant the commandments had to do mostly with external actions, and the blessings were mostly earthly. In the new covenant, God wants to transform us in our hearts, and the emphasis of the blessings is on the spiritual. (See more of it in the FAQ on "The old and the new covenants".) But this does not mean that in the new covenant our earthly lives are to be ignored or neglected. God wants to richly supply all our need (Php.4:19;1Ti.4:8). But it is clear that earthly blessings will take a secondary position in our life (Mt.6:33).
7. Some preachers say that Jesus wants to make us rich!
They are usually referring to 2Co.8:9 which says that Jesus became poor so that we might become rich. Jesus was not rich materially (Mt.8:20). He depended on a miracle to pay a small temple tax (Mt.17:27). This shows that as the godliest Man on earth, He didn't automatically enjoy prosperity. Peter and John had no money to give to a beggar (Ac.3:6). Paul was very familiar with need (Php.4:12). At the same time there were rich people too among the followers of Jesus. The fact that rich people were exhorted not to place their trust in their wealth shows that there were rich Christians (1Ti.6:17). Even now we see rich and poor believers around us. So 2Co.8:9 should be understood in terms of what Jesus has done for us spiritually.
The Bible says that poor people may be rich in faith (Jas.2:5), disproving that they are poor because they don't have much faith! Many poor people seek God because of their poverty, while many rich people neglect God because they think they don't need Him. The Bible warns us that those who want to become rich fall into many temptations and snares (1Ti.6:9). This shows that both rich and poor people have problems and also some advantages! Paul was a wise man, and he learned to find contentment in need and abundance, whichever came across his way (Php.4:11,12).
How much better and more convincing it would have been if these preachers, instead of amassing more wealth from the donations of comparatively poorer listeners, were giving more!
8. If it is not material wealth, what else could the Bible be talking about?
It includes material wealth too. Spiritual wealth includes forgiveness of sins, transformation of character to partake of the divine nature, fellowship with God and His children, fruit of the Spirit such as peace that passes all understanding (Php.4:7), joy in the midst of the storm that no one can take away (Jas.1:2;Jn.16:22), and a feast in the presence of enemies (Ps.23:5), joy in ministering to others through the gifts of the Spirit, inheritance as children of God in heaven, life in heaven through eternity, etc.
9. What about the apostle John wishing health and prosperity to Gaius?
3Jn.1:2. This is a personal letter written to Gaius in which John is expressing his wish for Gaius' general well being. We cannot take this either as an expression of God's will for everyone or even as a promise of God to Gaius!
10. Is it because I have no faith that I am not prosperous?
Some preachers answer, "You have no faith!", "You must be having some secret sin in your life!", etc., if you are not wealthy, if their prayer has not healed you or solved your problems, etc. Not so fast!
We have seen that material prosperity is not guaranteed for us in this earthly life. However lack of faith may be one reason why we don't receive what God wants us to have. Or there may be some sin that we need to deal with. At the same time, it could be that it is not our fault at all, because there are several other factors too, as we have seen earlier. Why don't we ask God, instead of just believing some preacher?
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