Pentecostal Scholar, Gordon Fee, cautions us about two extreme viewpoints regarding wealth: first, a rejection, and second, an excessive accommodation of it. In some Churches, the false promise is made that God will bless you if you proportion an exuberant amount to the central man of God. God’s grace for salvation seems to be free, but his supposed economy is not. The sad reality is that the “man of God” appears to become the catalyst for all of God’s benefits and blessings. God’s ‘economy’ of sowing and reaping’ is the principle all believers should adhere to eradicate any form of lack.
We can all agree that poverty is no blessing, but an overemphasis on prosperity can be equally deceptive. Jesus deliberately speaks and contrasts the wealthy with the poor, showing that riches can be more misleading than poverty. There are two ways in which Prosperity Teachers frame their teaching, Egocentric and then Cosmic.
- Egocentric focus because it centers on the personality of the Prophet/Evangelist and the welfare of his Ministry.
- Cosmic focus because it promises prosperity and success from God to those who know the spiritual laws that govern the universe or the ‘economy of god’ as some of them will say.
There is a prevailing mentality that stems from Churches with an over occupation with wealth. It is the idea that your wealth reflects how God favors you, and if you honored God’s ‘economy,’ He will afford you blessings. In other words, rich with presence equals rich with cash. Jesus did not condemn possessions; he instead showed the folly of it, especially in greed. Luke the Physician records Jesus saying:
“Then Jesus said to them, “Watch out! Guard yourself against all kinds of greed. After all, one’s life isn’t determined by one’s possessions, even when someone is very wealthy.” (Luke 12:15).
Yes, but Jesus said in verse 21;
“This is the way it will be for those who hoard things for themselves and aren’t rich toward God.”
I have heard Ministers say; “At our Church, we are teaching people the Godlife and the good life.” Well, Jesus also said;
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matt.6:20-24).
Honestly, what we see more and more in Churches is simply a pursuit of greed covered in Christianese. Frankly, in Africa, Pastors struggle to advance economically in an already impoverished environment. The exuberant teachings on ‘sowing’, ‘tithing’, and ‘abundant giving’, is but one of many ways in which ministers try to solicit a response from the pockets of their listeners. There is no such thing as Jesus mentioned;
“As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. Do not carry any gold or silver or copper in your belts.…” (Matt.10:7-9).
In their estimation, Jesus came to be the answer to all of their financial needs and wants. But Biblically we can clearly recognize that Jesus Christ did not come to bring financial prosperity, but eternal prosperity. Phillip Yancey says poignantly;
“We do not serve God because we think He will make it worth our whiles, we serve Him because we love Him.”
The Hyper Prosperity Gospel distorts the Gospel in three ways
- It subverts the demands of the cross for self-denial.
- It reduces God to a means to an end.
- It inevitably makes prosperity the primary sign of God’s approval.
But wasn’t Jesus abundantly rich and extremely wealthy? No, and there is a simple reason for this. Luke.2:22-24 shows Mary sacrifices two turtle doves which is a poor household sacrifice (Lev.12:2-8). Also, Matthew affirms (8:19-20):
“Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”
In 2 Cor.8:9 Paul states of Jesus
“being rich, yet for your sakes, he became poor, so that through his poverty you might become rich”.
There is no doubt that Jesus preached about the dangers of wealth and the problems with our occupation with it. You might say; “But we need finances to preach the Gospel!” Jesus says in Luke 22:35-36;
“And He said to them, “When I sent you without money bag, knapsack, and sandals, did you lack anything?” So, they said, “Nothing.” Then He said to them, “But now, he who has a money bag, let him take it, and likewise a knapsack; and he who has no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.”
Why did Jesus say;
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20)
But what about the Apostles? The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 4:11-12:
“To the present hour we both hunger and thirst and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. “
Acts 3:6: Then Peter said,
“Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.”
I dread to think that the Disciples lost the secrets of wealth management Jesus must have taught them. But even Paul accounts in Acts 20:33-35:
“I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel”, Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, and for those who were with me. “I have shown you in every way, by labouring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”
The apostles did not confess with their mouths but they worked with their hands. Paul warns Timothy in 1 Tim 6:3-12:
“If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wrangling of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself. Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 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 and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”
In Conclusion, Jesus spoke lots about money, but he does so in light of the dangers and preoccupation some might have with it. The Master and His Disciples preached Divine Contentment. Our Churches must preach the same and not be overly occupied with the assured understanding that authentic followership translates directly into wealthy living. Money has its place, but that place should not be on the thrones of our hearts. Neither should we promote principles that manipulate and twist the arm of innocent believers. We should faithfully give, but our left hand should not know what our right hand is doing, neither should we give to make our good works known, expecting God to give back to us (Matt.6:1-3). That reveals the idol of our hearts, pride, and the desire to be seen. Another resource that could provide clear guidance on the Prosperity Teaching can be accessed by clicking on the following document: A Statement on the Prosperity Gospel.