biblical prosperity, calamity, faith, false doctrine, forgiveness, God's promises, God's will, God's Word, grace, heresies, Holy Spirit, idolatry, Jesus Christ, prayer, prosperity, religion, sickness, sovereignty of God, spiritual authority, theology, tribulation, wealth
I’ve been praying over the last few days about how the Holy Spirit wanted me to conclude this series. The answer came when my pastor began his sermon last night with the following quote from Proverbs:
My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.
— Proverbs 3:1-7 NIV
So let’s summarize what it takes to be divinely prosperous based upon this passage as well as everything else we have covered thus far in this series.
As with everything else having to do with Christianity, divine prosperity begins with — and is indeed founded upon — our humble submission to the lordship of Jesus Christ over our lives and His pre-eminence in our thoughts, desires, and behaviors.
The vast majority of those who have “tried” to avail themselves of divine prosperity and “failed” have run their flesh-directed ships aground upon the Rock of Ages, Who steadfastly refuses to bless their self-lordship. I say this without a trace of self-righteousness or judgment, but with a deep compassion and godly sorrow for such folks because I used to be one of them. I am no longer numbered among them, not due to any merit, effort, or accomplishment on my part, but solely by the grace and mercy of a loving and compassionate God perfectly willing to leave the 99 to rescue the 1.
If we are unwilling to enter a place of total surrender to the Most High, nothing else I say in this article, any of my previous ones in this series, or indeed anything else I have ever written or preached will work.
Humility is crucial.
Thankfully, God is merciful with our inability to be perfectly humble before Him — indeed if that were possible, Jesus would have died needlessly.
There is an old proverb stating, “he who aims at nothing always hits it.” Once we make a quality decision aiming our hearts at humility, God in His infinite grace empowers that decision and mercifully forgives our lapses when we repent, viewing them through the blood of Jesus which washes all our screw-ups away.
This attitude of submission extends to ownership. In other words, He indeed owns us (we were bought with a price, remember!), but does He also own the possession with which He has entrusted us, specifically our dwelling(s), our vehicle(s), our clothes, our hobby equipment, and — most important of all — our money. Or do we behave more like a toddler wrestling Him for it screaming, “MINE! MINE! MINE!”
Be Obedient & Shun Evil
Hand in glove with submission to the Most High is obedience. The difference between the two is submission/humility are attitudes, whereas obedience is a choice leading to compliant behavior. A quick yardstick of how submitted/obedient we are is this: when we have a difference of opinion with God over what we’re supposed to do, who wins?
Again, perfection is elusive and absolutely unattainable. Any obedience we demonstrate is strictly by the grace of God empowering us to do so, especially when obeying in the face of adverse circumstances, such as persecution, to name but one.
Walk in Love & Be Faithful
Verse 3 concludes with the phrase, “bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.” Clearly, we can see God intends for us to far do more than give these attitudes and behaviors mere lip-service.
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. — Galatians 5:6
Faith towards God for anything we desire from Him is rendered totally ineffective if we are not consistently choosing to walk in love towards our fellow human beings.
Jesus Himself said we would be known by our love for one another (John 13:34). Notably, His discourse from which I am quoting contains a total absence of qualifying phrases or adjectives to describe those who we are commanded to love. That list of missing qualifiers includes — but is not limited to — those who are lovable, those who are desirable, those who can bless us, those who agree with us politically or doctrinally, those who have not harmed us, or those who deserve it.
Coupled with this is, insofar as it is our power do do so, removing strife from all our relationships, especially with our spouses.
Home & Family
Are we being faithful to our marriages? Not only in staying out of another’s bed, but also in our thought lives? That includes indulging in pornography. Do we have an adulterous heart, constantly imagining being with someone other than our spouses? God hates adultery, so we cannot expect God’s blessings on our checking account if we do.
If this applies to you, repent! Need help? Get it!
Are we being faithful to love our kids with abandon while disciplining them appropriately when needed?
How about our fathers and mothers (if they are still living) or our siblings (if any)?
Can our families totally depend upon us to keep our promises to them? Are we there for them when they need us?
Are we faithful financially? Are we living within our means or running up the credit cards to their limits?
In the Workplace
As we covered in the article on Proverbs in this series, God will not bless a bad work ethic. If we are performing sloppy work, undependable, chronically tardy, lazy, unproductive, dishonest with supervisors and/or clients/customers, stealing office supplies, cheating on expense reports, embezzling funds, gossiping at the water fountain, hitting on our opposite-sex coworkers, etc., etc, ad infinitude ad nauseam, don’t expect God to bless that. It ain’ta gonna happen!
Instead, we must make Jesus Lord of our work life. We can and should depend upon the Holy Spirit for insight to solve business problems, design new product features, create new business initiatives, find and fix software bugs, and solve personnel problems, just to name a few. I punch way above my weight as a software developer because the Holy Spirit is vitally involved with my day-to-day work. As I’ve often joked: if the Apostle Paul wrote code, he would totally “get” my development process.
By the way, I advise against running in to our bosses and proclaiming, “Thus saith the Lord, we need to ____________!” and fill in the blank, but humbly suggest and champion it. If it’s adopted and once it’s successful and people start trying to give us the credit, that’s our opportunity to say, “Thank you, but I must give the credit where it belongs: Jesus.”
Are we faithful in supporting our local church with our time, talents, and substance? If not such a member, what is preventing us from doing so? Are we members of a local church at all? If not, why the disobedience? Christianity is a team sport, so we cannot expect God to bless our finances while rebelliously refusing to join the team of His choice — not ours, by the way!
God is faithful and our Bibles are filled with verses where He expresses how He encourages and prizes that same quality in us.
He who has a slack hand becomes poor, But the hand of the diligent makes rich. — Proverbs 10:4
Any living thing is either growing or dying. By definition, anything growing is changing for the better. Therefore, if we are not changing for the better, we are dying.
I’ve said it before, but it always bears repeating: avoid hardening of the categories! If we are not constantly examining our Christian beliefs under the searing light of God’s Word, adjusting them as He sees fit, we have entered into the most perilous geographic region on this planet for a believer: a comfort zone.
We Don’t Have All the Answers
Implicit in being both humble and teachable is a frank recognition that, no matter how well we may know God, His Word, and His Spirit, there are always going to be things outside our spiritual and intellectual grasp, period, end of story. God reserves some knowledge to Himself and it is a wise believer who acknowledges that fact and accepts his or her own limitations. There are simply situations where we in faith have to throw ourselves on the mercy and the grace of God, believing He is a good God, He is for us and not against us, He has our best interests at heart, and He’s got our backs no matter how bad things may appear.
Check Your Motives
Do we desire to prosper financially:
- To advance the Kingdom of God in the earth, allowing God to bless us along the way, or;
- To own the luxury or supercar(s) of our dreams, have all the expensive toys our little hearts desire, and live in mansions?
If we want the latter, don’t expect God to prosper us. We are asking amiss so we can spend it on our own pleasures (James 4:3).
The most important question concerning financial prosperity is the matter of control: are we controlling our money or is it controlling us?
Those allowing money to control them have entered into the sin of idolatry and both testaments of the Bible are replete with God’s feelings, commandments, and judgments for that sin. There is no combination of persons, places, cultures, or other factors which will ever excuse our violating the first 2 of the 10 Commandments, period.
Stand in Faith & Be Generous
These two principles are inextricably linked and, if we want to prosper financially under God’s plan, we need to be doing both. I left these until the very last for a very specific reason: the principles I’ve just enumerated earlier are foundational to these two.
For we walk by faith, not by sight. — 2 Corinthians 5:7
Now faith is the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen [the conviction of their reality — faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses]. — Hebrews 11:1 AMP
Such faith is not our kinda sorta hoping something is true, but a confident reliance on His great and precious promises. Along with selfless love for others, it is one of the major distinctions differentiating us as believers from the other inhabitants of our world system who have no such relationship. Our faith is founded upon our personal relationship with an almighty, gracious, merciful, and loving God who is faithful to keep His Word.
Contrast this to man’s religion. Man’s religion is a religious economy based upon if I do this, don’t do that, cut this off, grow this out, eat this, don’t eat that, observe this holiday, light this candle, pray X number of times per day to appease whatever false deity I worship, then perhaps he/she/it will bless me, my family, my crops, etc. and/or not smite me and my loved ones with sickness, calamity, or death.
Faith believes God’s Word despite what we can:
- Perceive with our 5 senses (sight, smell, touch, taste, hearing)
- Comprehend with our intellect or intuition
- Feel with our emotions
- Consider to be factual, relevant, normal, socially acceptable, or politically correct in this natural realm
I’ve already explored the topic of faith in my series on prayer as well as how faith grows through overcoming trials and tribulations and how to develop it within ourselves elsewhere here at Miscellaneous Ramblings, so I will not rehash that information here.
We must study to show ourselves approved on this topic. The Scripture passages quoted in this series are merely the beginning of your journey. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you, guiding you to the promises He wants you to stand upon in faith.
Then stand — and stand firm, nothing wavering!
I personally believe based upon my reading of God’s Word — as well as hard, cold experience — the curse of poverty was redeemed at the Cross alongside our sins and physical sicknesses. Our deliverance from the consequences and power of sin, redemption from sickness, and deliverance from poverty are bundled together in an act of grace imparted to us by the New Birth through the blood of Jesus and the finished work of the Cross. We cannot earn or deserve healing or financial provision any more than we can earn or deserve forgiveness for our past, present, and future transgressions.
But prosperity? That leads us to my final point.
There is a minor controversy within evangelical circles concerning the tithe (giving 10% of our profit). Some adamantly believe tithing is binding upon all believers, though there is no unequivocal scriptural evidence to support the practice in the NT, only the giving of offerings. The underlying assumption for such teaching is tithing carries over from the OT in the same way worship does. That is a scripturally valid viewpoint. Others teach tithing is legalistic, that Christians are to give according to our various abilities, with loving generosity being our motive as the Spirit leads. That, too, is a valid position.
Because financial giving is a peripheral doctrine having no bearing on our eternal destiny, either viewpoint is a matter of personal conscience and we can agree to disagree while remaining in Christian fellowship with those who hold the opposite position.
Either way, for us to prosper financially, it is never a single event of giving some amount and then voilá! we have more than just enough to get by, though I have heard some amazing testimonies of miraculous provision after a single gift. But that is the exception, not the rule and we cannot predict when and where an who God will bless in this manner. Rather, there must be a quality decision for generosity to become our lifestyle. If married, this must be a decision of total agreement between us and our spouses.
Here’s how that works out in practice: we walk through this life obeying His Word and listening to the Holy Spirit. As we walk with Him, whenever He directs us to give something or some amount away, we respond in faith and obedience. Over time, both our faith and our finances will grow. Anything else, frankly, is a lie and trap of our adversary.
God always meets us where we are, so there is no demand for us to go do stupid things to prove to God or anyone else we have faith for prosperity. It is a growth process — just like any other aspect of our Christian life! We cannot rush things along, only slow them down through impatience, unbelief, or disobedience. God knows when we are ready to take the next step and He also knows when it is safe to reward us.
Generosity does not replace fiscal responsibility and never will. God is not going to bless us financially when the hemorrhage from our bank account has not been staunched. If we are over our heads in debt, there are faith-based services out there who will help us get some relief without having to file bankruptcy. One of the best things which ever happened to me was a period of my life when my net worth was whatever I could find in my wallet at any given time and had watch every penny while depending on God to keep it filled.
Unless you are a minister of the Gospel, don’t expect to have anonymous checks appearing in your mailbox, though that is certainly possible. Instead, expect God to inspire you and promote you within your workplace as you are both faithful and faith-filled. My wife has been promoted twice for these selfsame reasons. God will open doors and opportunities which will require steps of faith, but His reward is sure. Just don’t start limiting God as to how and when He can bless you — whenever we do, He will change things up to refocus us on Him and His Word, rather than the means He uses to bless us. He is solely in charge of methods and timing.
Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before unknown men. — Proverbs 22:29
In the opening passage I quoted, we see the results promises by our fulfilling the conditions specified there:
- Our lives will be prolonged by many years.
- We will have peace.
- We will have prosperity.
- We will win favor.
- We will win a good name.
- Our paths will be straight.
Nice batch of results, huh!
So in closing, let me quote some famous words from pop culture which sums them up:
Live long and prosper! — Spock from Star Trek
Thanks for reading!