In previous posts, we explored the false teachings of today’s prosperity gospel preachers. Now, let’s ask: What is a biblically faithful attitude toward wealth and health?
We should be content with what we have.
Paul experiences many hardships in his ministry – beatings, shipwreck, hunger, cold, imprisonment, and much more. Yet he writes that he has “learned” to be content (see Phil. 4:11-12). Further, he reminds Timothy that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6).
We should be indifferent toward wealth.
Prosperity is neither good nor evil. But our attitude toward wealth reveals a great deal about us (see 1 Tim. 6:6-10, 17-19).
Agur’s request of the Lord in Prov. 30:8b-9 expresses a proper attitude toward worldly gain: “Give me neither poverty nor wealth; feed me with the food I need. Otherwise, I might have too much and deny You, saying, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or I might have nothing and steal, profaning the name of my God.”
Jesus specifically warns us against laying up treasures on earth (Matt. 6:19-21) and reminds us that we cannot be slaves to both God and money (Matt. 6:24).
We should see poverty and sickness in light of the Fall.
Sin and its consequences affect all people. Our mortal bodies are subject to the ravages of the curse. We get sick, contract diseases, suffer injuries, grow old, and ultimately die.
Poverty may afflict us if we are slothful, disadvantaged, or oppressed. Jesus’ story of Lazarus and the rich man tells us that the wicked sometimes prosper and the righteous sometimes suffer, but in the end God, who sees the heart, sets everything right (Luke 16:19-31).
We also should remember that God sometimes uses sickness and death as acts of divine discipline (see Acts 5:1-11; 1 Cor. 11:27-32).
Signs, wonders, and miracles accompany Paul’s ministry (Rom. 15:19; 2 Cor. 12:12). Yet neither he nor his associates experience health at all times. “And never is their sickness attributed to lack of faith, nor their recovery to great faith,” writes Gordon D. Fee in The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospels.
We should look ahead.
For Christians, a day is coming when God wipes away every tear from our eyes. Death exists no longer. Grief, crying, and pain are gone “because the previous things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4).
A day of health and prosperity is coming for all who call upon the Lord. As adopted children of God and joint-heirs with Jesus, we will dwell in the heavenly city that knows nothing of darkness or doom. The Father and the Lamb light the New Jerusalem with their presence, and nothing profane will ever enter it.
While faithful saints on this side of heaven may endure torture, mocking, scourging, bonds, imprisonment, stoning, death by the saw and sword, destitution, affliction, mistreatment, sheepskins for clothing, living in caves and holes in the ground, they are “approved through their faith” and in heaven one day will walk the streets of gold (see Heb. 11:35-40; Rev. 21-22).
We should understand that God deals harshly with false teachers.
Prosperity preachers will give an account before God one day for the degree to which they fleeced the flock rather than fed it.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns us of false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. “You’ll recognize them by their fruit,” He says; that is, their unbiblical doctrine will expose their true nature.
Jesus describes their day of reckoning: “On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers’” (Matt. 7:15-22).
It’s not too late for false prophets to repent and for faithful teachers to remain true to the Lord. Peter exhorts elders of the Dispersion to “shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but freely, according to God’s will; not for the money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory” (1 Peter 5:2-4).