Christian Living

Understanding Prosperity According to Biblical Teachings: Distinguishing Between Prosperity and Materialism

prosperity, wealth, contentment

The Controversy Surrounding Prosperity

The topic of prosperity within the Christian community has become a contentious subject, often sparking diverse opinions. Many shy away from discussing it publicly due to associations with the label ‘prosperity preacher,’ concern over loyalty among their followers, or fear of contradicting themselves.

Among critics, there’s a notable distinction between disdain for prosperity and objection to materialism. Often, differing perspectives convey similar concepts, but the lack of patience to understand leads to misunderstandings and divisions. It’s crucial to discern genuine teachings from heretical or extreme doctrines within the subject of prosperity.

The Role of True Teaching and Listening in Understanding Prosperity

Let us consider the scripture below:

“And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.
This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.
And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them , and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.
And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace:
For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ.”

– Acts 18:24-28 KJV

From the Scriptures, we see that Apollos did not know much at first, but what he knew, he taught it sincerely. He, no doubt was a teacher, and he knew it, and yet was willing to be taught. This was why Aquila and Priscilla took him aside and explained the doctrine to him more perfectly. They did not impose themselves on him.

He (Apollos) in turn became a great teacher afterward, even becoming a partner in the ministry with the Apostle Paul. (1Cor. 3:4-6), so much so that when he came to Achaia by the couple’s recommendation, he was of much help.

Teachers of the Word should recognize the need for continuous learning and listen to other anointed teachers. A pastor, or teacher needs other pastors, and teachers to be edified as well. Dexterity in teaching is in listening and learning. The essence of true teaching lies in imparting knowledge and understanding, devoid of personal gain or self-scripted motives.

Differentiating Prosperity from Materialism

The skepticism surrounding prosperity in the body of Christ arises from” influential” individuals using it for personal gain, corrupting its meaning. The erroneous teachings promoting covetousness have distorted the true essence of prosperity, reducing it to mere materialism.

The distinction between prosperity and materialism hinges on teachings rooted in godliness versus those fostering covetousness. The Apostle Paul addresses teachings deviating from godliness, emphasizing that gain should not be equated with godliness, exposing false doctrines that breed envy and strife.

“If any man teaches otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness;
He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmising,
Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.”

1 Timothy 6:3-5 KJV

True prosperity, as highlighted in the Scriptures, embodies godliness coupled with contentment. It calls for a focus on eternal values, giving generously, and sharing with those in need without coveting or idolizing wealth.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

1 Timothy 6:6-10 KJV

Now let us dive deeper into the subject of prosperity in the same conversation:

“Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”

1 Timothy 6:17-19 KJV

The word charge is from the Greek ‘paragello’, and means “to give a message to.” Hence there is a message for the rich and they that seek wealth and riches, and the elements of this message are outlined from Scriptures below:

1. That they be not high-minded.
2. Nor trust in uncertain riches.
3. That they stay their faith in God, even in their riches.
4. That they do good i.e., be rich in good works
5. Ready to distribute (give), willing to communicate.
6. That they mind eternal things i.e., the things of the Spirit.

Therefore, it is not the riches that defines materialism or even prosperity, it is the obedience or disobedience to the message.

Anyone who obeys the message is in prosperity, otherwise, they are being materialistic.

Scriptural Examples of Materialism and True Prosperity

Several biblical accounts illustrate the contrast between materialism and prosperity:

  1. The rich young ruler exemplifies materialism by clinging to possessions rather than following Jesus’s instruction to give and embrace eternal treasures (Mark 10:17-24 KJV).
  2. Another example of materialism is the foolish rich man in Luke 12:16-21 . Accumulating wealth for yourself without being spiritually rich towards God is materialism. It highlights the folly of prioritizing earthly possessions over spiritual wealth.
  3. Conversely, Acts 4 depicts true prosperity within the early Christian community, where believers willingly shared their possessions to meet others’ needs, reflecting a heart of generosity and spiritual richness. (Acts 4:33-37 KJV)

Note that they were not giving so they could have more (even if there is a blessing for that see Luke 6:38, 2Cor. 9:6-7, Prov. 19:17), they gave instead to meet needs, so others can have.

True prosperity will always reflect in how we adhere to the message of Christ concerning wealth and possessions.

Biblical Insights into Prosperity

  • Prosperity as the Ability to Have and Succeed: Scripture highlights prosperity as the ability to succeed by adhering to God’s word, leading to prosperity in all aspects of life (Josh. 1:8).
    As believers, what should lead us even as we search for wealth and riches is the word of God, not our emotions or the world around us (Roms. 12:1-2).
  • Prosperity as the Ability to Give: True prosperity manifests in one’s ability to give generously and selflessly without being possessed by possessions. Giving is an extension of abundance, it reflects godly character and trust in God rather than in wealth. (1 Tim. 6:17-19)

In Conclusion:

True prosperity aligns with godliness, contentment, and a heart ready to give generously without being ensnared by possessions. It’s essential to discern between prosperity rooted in godliness and materialism driven by covetousness.

Embracing true prosperity involves obedience to godly teachings and reflecting a heart willing to share and contribute to others’ well-being.

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