In the body of Christ today there is a great divide on many levels, not only is 11am on Sunday morning still the most segregated hour of our week as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr once said, but we are divided on the issue of money. There are those who subscribed to what is commonly known as the "prosperity gospel” and there are those who vehemently reject it as another gospel and heretical. Both views claim scripture as their foundations and on a surface level provide valid points. I am someone who has vacillated between these two worlds. As one who feels a call from God to build bridges and tear down walls in the body of Christ. I consistently interact with people on both sides of the aisle. As a pastor of a local church which is growing rapidly I full well understand the value of teaching on this issue and the need for understanding. I also have first hand experience dealing with budgets and the great need for money to facilitate ministry. As a missionary who has traveled the world and served the poorest of the poor, I have seen the discrepancy with what we understand in America as the goal for our lives, with what scripture actually teaches and is practiced by true believers world wide. In prayer I felt the Lord speak to me, more so teach me, a lesson on this subject and so I’d like to give you all a few thoughts to consider. As a working title for these thoughts I’ve chosen this theme; The difference between luxury and prosperity”. May the Lord give you understanding in all things. Please read the full text.
(please excuse any typos, I didn’t have time to proof-read)
Luxury is defined as “The state of great comfort and extravagant living, a non-essential item which is expensive of highest quality and hard to obtain.”
When we think of luxury, we may think of palaces adorned with silver and gold fixtures, the best of the best.. and if we’ll be honest, we all have an appetite for the “finer things in life”. Luxury also speaks to us of a place of extreme comfort or a quality of life, wherein we experience a care- free existence. In America, luxury is often the goal of our entire lives. We are told from childhood to work hard so that we can attain to the “dream”, which simply put is a life of luxury. And if we’ll be honest with ourselves, we've all chased it. Can we fault ourselves or blame another for desiring the best this world has to offer? In a society where hard-work is rewarded, why should luxury be frowned upon? For most, it isn’t, in fact it is celebrated. Those with the most money and who live the most luxurious lives, often have the most influence in our culture. From hollywood to the Whitehouse, the American society is shaped by those who live in luxury. WWJD, the question of the hour!
Luxury speaks to us of all that this world has to offer and if we read the bible carefully and listen to the teachings of Jesus, it seems as though luxury should not be the goal. Everything about the person of Christ, speaks to us of a life lived of discomfort, servanthood, and self-denial, yet in the church of this generation, it appears that many have embraced the goal of luxury right along the rest of the American society. For some, this has caused great debates and division, for others, this created what I would like to call a hybrid gospel. I chose the word “ hybrid” because the word hybrid speaks to us of a combination. The word hybrid is defined in the dictionary as “ A thing made by combining two different elements, a mixture”. In the biblical sense this would qualify for “lukewarm” as was the case with the Laodicean church, it would also be classified as “profane” fire, it could also be referred to as another gospel. The gospel was never meant as a message to create luxury in this life, but quite often the opposite. Again, luxury is defined as "The state of great comfort and extravagant living, a non-essential item which is expensive of highest quality and hard to obtain.” When we look to the life and words of Jesus we find alignment. Not only did Jesus call His disciples to “Deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me”, He did that very thing. He denied himself, as God wrapped in human flesh, disguised, unknown and uncomfortable, yet willing to drink the cup of the Father’s wrath against a world enslaved by sinners and death, He took His cross to Mt. Calvary and there He stretched out His arms, dying in selfless, love. This model has been the template every follower of Christ and it has not changed. Despite our ever evolving morals and ethics in these days, Jesus still says, “If any many would be my disciple, he must first deny himself, take up his cross and follow me”.
Alignment in the life and example of Jesus Christ: The agreement between the words of Jesus and example of Jesus is the basis for spiritually authority. In Philipians 2, we learn that Jesus "...became obedient unto death, even the death on the cross, wherefore God has highly exalted Him and given him a name, which is better than any other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God our father in heaven.” In the same way that Jesus was promoted because of His willingness to be demoted, so must we follow the divine blueprint for blessing and authority. The problem with luxury in the life of a believer is that it usurps the process toward prosperity. The term “Prosperity Gospel” has been treated like a curse word in nearly every Christian circle because of the emphasis on luxury, but what we must understand is that luxury and prosperity are not synonymous. Prosperity is defined as "a successful, flourishing, or thriving condition, especially in financial respects”. Many believers have committed the fallacy of equivocation which is "the misleading use of a term with more than one meaning”. I believe that many believers are guilty of equivocation in regards to the issue of prosperity. This has caused large numbers of people to misunderstand the purpose of prosperity. While it is obvious, or perhaps undeniable that luxury for the sake of luxury is incompatible with following Christ, it is equally undeniable that prosperity is essential for the fulfillment of the purposes of God. Again, remember that prosperity defined is "a successful, flourishing, or thriving condition, especially in financial respects”. For so many reasons, God desires that we prosper. The bible contains a litany of verses and examples of men and women who were blessed with abundance of financial wealth, in fact Jesus himself, though he became poor for our sakes, is no longer poor! He embraced a low status in hope to destroy that which created sickness and poverty, namely sin! His resurrection from the dead, signals not only victory over death but over all the effects of sin, include sickness and poverty. For many Christians, the idea that God is not impoverished is hard to accept, and so they accept poverty as if there is some virtue in it. I declare to you, being poor does not glorify God. There are many who are poor who are just as vile a sinner as those who are rich. There is no lack in God’s kingdom, and in every place where God’s kingdom is advancing there will be no lack! That includes your life and whatever ministry God has called you to. The early church had no sick among them and everyones needs were met. Why was this so? Because they were following the teachings of scripture which position us to be blessed by God in every way.
So why the confusion? This is a question, I have often asked and what I believe it boils down to is definition, motive, and our purpose. Let me explain.
Definition: The way in which we define the word “prosperity” will greatly influence whether or not we become prosperous. If the word prosperity scares you because you define it as evil, more than likely you will be impoverished all your life. If you understand that prosperity is NOT synonymous with luxury, and if you understand that God desires that we “prosper and be in health, even as our soul prospers”, then by faith, you will experience blessings available through Jesus Christ in all areas of your life. So we see that definition is very important in this matter. There are many people who define “Christianity” as a religion of rules which is restrictive and which stifles your enjoyment in life, and for those people, because of a mis-definition, they run the risk of perishing without Christ and going to hell for eternity, all because they never understood.
Next, is the issue of “Motive”. The word motive speaks to us of the reason behind our actions or beliefs. For those who are followers of Christ Jesus, the entire focus of our lives has been shifted and transformed by the power of God to now live for the glory of God. This carries over into every area of our life. The places we work, live, find entertainment, the type of person we marry, the clothing we wear, our manner of speech and conduct, the way we spend or give our money, our entire value system must be shaped by the motive of giving glory to God. It has been said that “money changes people”, but I would suggest that money, doesn’t change people it simply reveals our motives. Money is much like a magnifying glass, it exposes that which is invisible to the naked eye. There are many people who believe themselves to be honest, charitable, generous, and kind, but the moment they begin to prosper monetarily speaking, the greed, lust, and selfishness begins to show. The truth is that the money has not changed them, it has revealed their motives. Often, God will not allow a person to prosper because PROSPERITY is never a priority, but character is. God will allow our lives to hard at times to teach valuable lessons in integrity, commitment, honor, faithfulness, and responsibility. He would be a bad father if He continued blessing us without teaching us. Often times people are discouraged because they aren’t experiencing the benefits of a blessed life and so they begin to doubt the truth of scripture or become jealous of those who are, all this does is reveal the problem. God is much more concerned with the type of people we become then the accomplishments of our lives. It is the mercy of God that has kept some people in a stable 9-5 job and not allowing their entrepreneurial plans to prosper. Again, as a father, the Lord does not want to put you in a position that you can not handle. Some will say “I know I’m ready to be blessed, if i had this much money, I would give so much away and help others..” But the Lord sees your faithfulness with your little that you do have. If you mismanage 100, you won’t be faithful with 1,000, let alone 1 million. In His Sovereign will the Lord determines the extent of our prosperity potential in accordance with His will. We cannot manipulate him, nor the principles of scripture for selfish gain. And as a side note, satan blessed people too. It’s a snare!
Lastly is the issue of “Purpose”. There are many who are not prospering because their desire for prosperity is not with the purpose of God in mind. As followers of Christ, luxury is not our purpose for prosperity. As the the Apostle Paul said “To live is Christ to die is gain”. If we cannot echo those sentiments, then we have not understood the purpose for prosperity. It will take billions to finance the great commission. It will take millions to evangelize and restore the lives of people. Through the word of God we have time-tested and unchanging principles which can position us for the necessary blessings to accomplish God’s purpose. it has been said that “God pays for what He orders”. If that be true, then the reverse is true, God does not pay for what He does not order! I have seen countless ministries start and stop, rise and fall, due to financial pressures. I often ask, how…. The answer may be complicated or it may be simple. it may be complicated in that many ministries start with pure definitions, motives, and purpose but through negligence, a lack of prayer, or sinful practices, the anointing lifts off of them and they are left to their own wisdom. I assure you, nothing began in the spirit can be continued in the flesh! However, It may be simple. There are many great preachers who are terrible at money management. This is why in the book of Timothy, the Apostle Paul advised young Timothy to appoint elders in the church who were above reproach, who were of “Good report” inside and outside the church walls. If a man cannot manage his own house, how can he manage the house of God? So we see that many churches and ministries fail for this reason. The lord will de-fund your ministry to conform your soul. He cares more for you, then what you do for Him! Apostle Paul, had seasons of abundance and seasons of leanness, however, he learned that in all things he could be content in Christ.
As we conclude, I want to challenge the reader to understand that the pursuit of LUXURY as defined by the dictionary is incompatible with Christian living. Again, the words of scripture affirm this. Apostle Paul again says to young Timothy "Now godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:6-9)
I also want the reader to understand that PROSPERITY is not an evil thing or a curse word. We need men and women who are prosperous to facilitate the greatest rescue mission of all, the souls of men. It will not be easy, it will require billions of dollars in addition to prayer, fasting, and the power of the Holy Spirit. However, God is not looking to make us prosperous for selfish motives or for impure purposes. He is looking for men and women he can trust with the riches of this world, to invest in the purpose of saving souls and building His church, so that true riches that do not perish can be the inheritance of all men. I leave you with this scripture. "Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. 18 Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, 19 storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19)