I think there’s a real problem with the way that we often respond to the “health and wealth” version of the gospel. We hear people teaching that being a Christian will make you wealthy, that God wants you to be rich, “name it and claim it” kind of teachings, and we know it’s wrong, and our response is, “Jesus didn’t die to make you rich. Jesus died to keep you out of hell.” Here’s a good example. (Reposted from here.)
Now I agree with most of what Dylan Justus has to say there. But it needs correction, for a couple of reasons. The fact is, Jesus absolutely did die, among other reasons, to make us rich, in material wealth. When we respond to the false teaching of the prosperity gospel, it is really easy for them to come back with a whole bunch of Bible verses that seem to support their point:
Psalm 112:1 Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, Who delights greatly in His commandments.
2 His descendants will be mighty on earth; The generation of the upright will be blessed.
3 Wealth and riches will be in his house, And his righteousness endures forever. (Psa 112:1-3 NKJ)
5 Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, And the sons of the foreigner Shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.
6 But you shall be named the priests of the LORD, They shall call you the servants of our God. You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, And in their glory you shall boast.
7 Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; Everlasting joy shall be theirs. (Isa 61:5-7 NKJ)
22 A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, But the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous. (Pro 13:22 NKJ)
NKJ Deuteronomy 28:1 “Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth.
2 “And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the LORD your God:
3 “Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country.
4 “Blessed shall be the fruit of your body, the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds, the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks. (Deu 28:1-4 NKJ)
There are many other similar passages. There are various interpretive issues in many of them, with regards to timing and the like, but the point is, the Bible frequently speaks of God’s blessings in material terms. I do not believe they can all be dismissed as figures of speech.
We are material beings. We were made to live in material abundance, and to enjoy the good creation that God gave us. Poverty is the result of the curse of sin on the world. So when the prosperity gospel preachers say that God wants us to be rich, they are exactly right.
The problem with the prosperity gospel, and this is what I think we really need to emphasize, is when we receive these blessings, and how we receive them.
When: We are promised these riches in the eternal state, not now. In the current sin-cursed world, wealth is no proof of virtue and poverty no proof of vice.
How: We are promised these riches when we have suffered, when we have endured for a little while. The way of glory is through the way of the cross.
So the prosperity gospel encourages greed by giving people the belief that they can control their own financial state by just believing, by just claiming wealth in the present. That has the effect of turning their hearts away from the poor, since they can be rich too just by believing. It encourages all kinds of self-reliant arrogant attitudes. As often as it exists to bilk poor people out of their money with false hopes of material wealth, it functions to make materialistic upper middle class people feel good about their selfish acquisitive lives.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the prosperity gospel is how badly it downgrades the promises we have received. We are going to a place where gold is so abundant they pave the roads with it, where the storehouses of heaven will be opened on us, where the fruit will grow twelve times a year, and they want us to be satisfied with a dollar-an-hour raise at work and a couple of points lower rate on the mortgage.
And they encourage a “now” orientation, a demand that God give His blessings immediately, i the present life. All this has to be resisted.
But we need to do so in the right way, recognizing that material wealth is absolutely part of the package of blessings God has for us. In the New Earth, God will give us tremendous material abundance, just as He gave Adam all the trees in the garden to eat. He calls us to trust Him, to wait, to recognize that these things come from God’s hand and in His time. So certainly, our focus in the here and now should not be on our wealth and prosperity. This present age, this present life is a time when we walk by faith, not by sight, when we do not expect to see God’s blessings in their fullest. We are in the wilderness, not in the land yet. But saying that “Jesus doesn’t want you to be rich” or that Jesus didn’t die for our material abundance truncates the gospel, and fails to grasp the whole breadth of what Jesus has really done for us. Jesus does want you to be rich, in every sense of the word.