The prosperity gospel is a popular movement in the modern-day Christian church. It is essentially a belief that God wants everyone to be rich here on earth. The underlying theme behind this message is, “Money makes us happy, and God wants us to be happy. So, nothing is wrong with accumulating wealth”. However, when we take a closer look at this message, we find that it is not consistent with what the Bible says about money. It also does not align to our primary mission as Christ-followers which is to make disciples.
Yes, God wants us to be rich, and many verses in the Bible support this truth. But we have to remember that God’s economy is much different than the world’s economy. Therefore, we need to challenge the idea that money will make us happy. When we look to scripture, we discover many warnings about pursuing wealth.
Jesus instructed us to avoid accumulating treasures here on earth because our hearts will become attached to the things of temporary value instead of things of eternal value. Paul reemphasizes this truth where he states, “If anyone is in Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3).
God is eternal, and His riches possess an eternal value. All of the riches in this world can’t even begin to measure up to the eternal riches we have in Jesus Christ. If we believe this to be true, we must confront ourselves with the following question:
Why would God want us to accumulate worldly wealth that can only be enjoyed for a few short years instead of telling others about the goodness of God and the eternal treasures He has already prepared for those who love Him?
Most professed believers intellectually understand that heaven’s treasures are better than earthly treasures, yet they continue to accumulate wealth here on earth because they don’t view this as harmful. In essence, they attempt to have the “best of both worlds”. But Jesus states that it is impossible to serve both God and money. “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Luke 16:23).
TAKING A CLOSER LOOK AT THE TERM “WEALTHY”
Most people will argue they aren’t wealthy, but this is typically based on personal opinion. Yet, it is possible to measure wealth objectively. In my book, ‘American Pharisee: Overcoming the Beliefs That Deceive’, I provided some eye-opening statistics from the website I Remember the Poor. Here are just a few examples:
A person with non-cash assets of $2,200 ranks in the top 50% of the world’s wealthiest individuals
A person who earns $1,500 or more annually is in the top 20% of the world’s income earners
A person who earns $25,000 or more annually is in the top 10% of the world’s income earners
A person who earns $50,000 or more annually is in the top 1% of the world’s income earners
A person who has sufficient food, decent clothes, lives in a house or apartment, and has a reasonably reliable means of transportation, is in the top 15% of the world’s wealthiest people
We should also remember that being labeled as “rich” does not bode well for those attempting to make it to heaven. Jesus states that, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:25).
Many people interpret this scripture to mean that one must become financially destitute to enter into heaven. But I don’t think that is the point Jesus is trying to make here. Money is amoral. Money has no personality and contains no decision-making power. It is a medium that can only transact by the one who holds the money. Therefore, it is the love of money that corrupts a person’s heart (I Timothy 6:10).
From this, we can conclude that it is not necessary to give up wealth in order to follow Christ, but it is a requirement if wealth creates a barrier between the believer and God.
INDICATIONS THAT WEALTH IS CREATING A BARRIER BETWEEN THE BELIEVER AND GOD
This isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are just a few of the signs that you might be preferring wealth over God:
You spend more time and effort accumulating wealth than accumulating eternal riches Jesus commands and Paul emphasizes
You take more time thinking about how to spend money when compared to thinking about how to give away money
You prefer making wealth over making disciples
You are more excited about a pay raise or bonus than spending quality time with God in scripture or prayer
Your first thought of using your pay raise/bonus is to use it for yourself or your family instead of using it to advance the Kingdom
You give less than 10% of your gross income to your home church
So, what is the solution to breaking free from wealth?
Recognizing that money is getting in the way of your relationship with God is a huge first step to overcoming the idol of wealth. Yet, most people attempt to resolve this issue on their own without involving God. Three major flaws exist in this approach:
The person is still in control of determining how much to give
The person will typically give out of his/her wealth instead of giving sacrificially
The person is not allowing God to direct his/her decisions about money
Whenever a person attempts to overcome a sin through personal motivation, self-discipline, and effort, the results will only be as good as the person’s will power. Some people possess a great deal of will power, but even the best laid plans and heart felt intentions will eventually fail. If Christ is not in us or we are ignoring God, we will always succumb to our own desires. Absent of Christ changing us, we just become less greedy instead of more generous.
In order to gain victory over wealth (or any sin for that matter), the Bible is clear that we need to repent (turn away) from it, turn toward God, and humbly ask God to change our attitudes. Then, we must obey what He asks us to do next.
Accumulating wealth is rarely seen as a sin simply because it is viewed as harmless and socially acceptable—especially in America. James, the half-brother of Jesus, stated that, “The rich glory in their humiliation” (James 1:10). This is a peculiar statement when it appears as though the rich rule the world, but when put into the context of eternity, James’ statement makes perfect sense—Only a fool gives up that which he could never lose in order to gain what he cannot keep.*
Kevin Hover is a Christian Author and Life Coach. His new book, 'American Pharisee: Overcoming the Beliefs that Deceive' is a true story of how the pursuit of the American Dream negatively influences a person’s pursuit of God. Like his Facebook page at @kevinhoverauthor and check out more blogs from Kevin at kevinhover.com
*This is a re-wording from the famous quote by Jim Elliott: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”