When most people hear the word prosperity, they automatically associate it with financial riches and material wealth. In uncertain economic times, our yearnings for true prosperity take on greater significance than they might otherwise during times of material abundance. A few years ago, the banking empire Citicorp ran a series of billboard campaigns: “Money changes hands—just be sure it doesn’t change the rest of you!” and “If people say you’re made of money, you should work on your personality!” These ads gave a refreshingly new perspective on riches. But what is true prosperity? Is it something that can be enjoyed by only a select and “chosen” few?
The world’s definition of prosperity is achieving financial success. However, that is not God’s definition of prosperity. God has a surprising spin on wealth. From His perspective, you can be “well off” when it comes to worldly treasures and yet be in dire poverty in your soul. Or you can be poor by earthly standards and be lavishly rich by God’s standards. Yet, the Christian world has fallen for the deception that prosperity means obtaining great financial wealth. Now Christians are trying to become millionaires instead of being content and seeking true spiritual riches. It is the true spiritual riches that the Bible speaks of which we need to seek. What is the God’s definition of prosperity? It has nothing to do with money, though for some, money may be one manifestation of Biblical prosperity – but certainly not in every case.
The biblical definition for success is seeking to fulfill the will of God for our lives. While prosperity can include finances, the issue of what causes us to truly prosper is a matter of the heart. It is what goes on inside of us that causes us to truly prosper or succeed in life. In order to truly reach the level of prosperous living God intends for us, we must become whole in our souls. Biblical prosperity is simple. Biblical prosperity means living within the very will of God for your life so that you are being blessed by God.
God wants you to prosper but He does not necessarily want you financially rich. If some Christians were to become financially rich, it could destroy their true riches, that is to say their spiritual riches if they were not well established in the things of God first. There are many that teach prosperity to mean “having good success” and “without lack”, which is correct, but then they go on to talk about money which is not exactly correct. God doesn’t want you to stay in poverty, that’s for sure, but He may not necessarily want you financially wealthy for that could destroy your relationship with Him if you are not a mature Christian. God is not stupid by any stretch of the imagination. We know that many financially wealthy people tend to make poor Christians. Why? Because of the great temptation to rely on and place their faith in their money instead of God and the temptation to put money first.
The distorting power of wealth reminds me of the story of the rich young ruler. After a discussion about eternal life, Jesus asked him to sell his possessions, give to the poor, and follow Him. Unfortunately, the man “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” – Mark 10:22. This prompted Jesus’ lesson to the disciples: “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” (v.23).
For believers, wealth is a blessing from God to be used for His purposes. It is not something to be coveted, it is not a reward for obedience, and it is not something we should expect. There is nothing specifically wrong with being wealthy, but as Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21 “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
It’s not that Jesus is against wealth. It’s just that He is grieved by anything that we value more than Him. We can work hard and make lots of money, but prosperity is granted according to what He knows to be best for us, both in what form the prosperity comes and also in the timing in which it is granted. When we see worldly prosperity as the solution to our problems, bills, living conditions, and even a means to our happiness when money, things and wealth are the main pursuit of life, then Jesus is not. Placing Him first and foremost making Him paramount in our lives is the key to true prosperity.
Don’t let money, riches, or wealth —or the pursuit of those things needed to accomplish worldly prosperity— derail your pursuit of Jesus.