Many people, including Christians, discount the prosperity gospel. They believe that we should not think after people become Christians they will only experience earthly blessings, favor, and peace. This prosperity gospel, they say, contradicts what the apostle Peter tells us. Peter says, “Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you. But rejoice, because you are partakers of Christ’s sufferings” (1). The apostle Peter warns Christians of difficult times. He says that these difficult times are opportunities to rejoice because Jesus went through similar suffering. Peter’s message suggests that every Christian will go through a trial, but a Christian should not despair.
Another Prosperity Gospel
Peter’s message, however, does not negate the prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel in Scripture, though, differs from the prosperity gospel we hear today. Today we hear that Christians will be leaders, owners, entrepreneurs, authors, presidents, and CEOs. We hear that Christians should become rich, favored among people, and influential. Christians, to this view, should never get sick and believe that they must recover from all diseases and not die before their time. Such prosperity is conditional and earthly. It is earthly and conditional because it depends on earthly events instead of God. God, however, tells us about another and better prosperity gospel.
God promises that Christians will prosper. But this prosperity differs from how the world defines it. Jesus’ prosperity gospel said, “the kingdom of God is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and cast into his garden, and it grew and grew into a great tree” (2). Jesus also said, “It is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till it leavened the whole” (3). Jesus talks about increase and abundance, but we should remember that Jesus says His illustration is a metaphor, not a reality. We should not believe that His illustration is literal. We should, however, think of what the metaphor points to. It points to the invisible kingdom of God.
The prosperity gospel is this: When we become Christians and follow God’s commandments, we will prosper spiritually. God tells us that “the righteous” will get “stronger and stronger” (4). He says that the “righteous shall flourish and grow” (5). God says that our way of life “shines more and more unto the perfect day” (6). This prosperity, however, happens within. Prosperity, for Christians, is the state of being spiritually successful, being rich in good deeds, and being leaders of our spiritual lives. Such prosperity is inward—like the mustard seed planted in the ground and like the leaven hid in the measure of meal. Such inwardness shows that prosperity is an “in thing” instead of an outward, material, or temporal thing.
The next time we hear a prosperity gospel that focuses on temporal blessings, richness, leadership, healing, or favor, we should replace the temporal with the spiritual. God promises all who believe in him spiritual blessings, wealth, leadership in our spiritual lives, healing, and favor (7).
(1) 1 Peter 4:12-13.
(2) Luke 13:19.
(3) Luke 13:21.
(4) Job 17:9.
(5) Psalm 92:12-14.
(6) Proverbs 4:18.
(7) Luke 6:38; Philippians 4:19; Deuteronomy 28:13; Isaiah 53:5; Proverbs 3:4.