Which Prosperity – God’s, Ours Or “The American Dream”

Deuteronomy 29:5 records part of the prosperity God bestowed on the Israelites who were travelling in the wilderness after leaving Egypt, involved having their shoes and clothes miraculously not wear out for 40 years: “And I have led you forty years in the wilderness. Your clothes have not worn out on you, and your sandals have not worn out on your feet.” But Exodus 15:22-17:7, Numbers 11:1-35, 20:1-21 and 21:1-35 show that while these Israelites were travelling in the wilderness, they were tested with a lack of food and water and other hardships for short periods of time. In Deuteronomy 2:7, God declared that these Israelites who were tested in these ways did not lack anything according to His view of their situation: “For the Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hand. He knows your trudging through this great wilderness. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing.”

Does our version of Biblical prosperity teaching include both the shoes and clothes miracle and the short testing periods of say lack of food and water and other problems and then God providing our needs and delivering us? Or do we only read those Bible verses which appeal to our flesh?

Numbers 11:4-6 reveals the Israelites were prospered by having only manna to eat instead of fish, garlics, onions, leeks, melons and cucumbers. The Israelites began to complain about God’s version of prosperity for them. They preferred their own definition of prosperity. As a result, they complained greatly against Him.

Numbers 11:10 shows God became exceedingly angry about their insistence on their own version of prosperity instead of His: “Now Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, everyone at the door of his tent; and the anger of the Lord was greatly aroused…”

Numbers 21:4-6 reveals the Israelites later again did not like the type of prosperity God gave them: “Then they journeyed from Mount Hor by the Way of the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became very discouraged on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses: ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread’. So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died.”

Are you willing to accept God’s type of prosperity for your life? Many Christians are not willing to do this. Their flesh is greatly attracted to the very materialistic, total ease and comfort definitions of prosperity taught by some American hyper-prosperity preachers. Then when they have any lack or testing in their lives, they backslide. They blame God for not prospering them according to the theories of these hyper-prosperity preachers who talk more in terms of the “American Dream” than in Biblical terms.

The American Dream is the idea every poor person can become multi-millionaires if they follow certain principles of success. Hyper-prosperity refers to extremist Biblically unsound versions of the wonderful Biblical teachings on God prospering people. Hyper-prosperity views are sinful because they take many verses out of context, ignore very large numbers of Bible verses which teach contrary to their claims, change giving into a form of selfishness instead of love for God and people, lead churchgoers to idolise the rich and look down on the poor and justify some preachers becoming multi-millionaires partly from the gifts of widows and other needy Christians.

Or some naÔve Christians wrongly condemn themselves for not supposedly having enough faith to believe for the great riches and luxuries some hyper-prosperity have. Because these gullible believers cannot afford to stay in first class hotels, to travel first class on planes and to be very rich like some hyper-prosperity preachers, these believers begin to think falsely that God favours these preachers more than them.

I do not know about you but I want to be a Holy Spirit-filled Biblically sound type of Pentecostal/Charismatic and not a self-centred Charismaniac belonging to a commercial enterprise type of church.

 

Simplistic extremists condemning believers without great wealth

 

These days, some narrow-minded churchgoers condemn those who are not always very wealthy. These “Biblical dinosaurs” claim the latter are not very rich because of the latter’s supposed little faith. But such an extremist claim is contrary to Hebrews 11:37-39: “They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented – of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise.”

Hebrews 11:37 here shows that sometimes God permits some believers to suffer periods of enormous lack. This verse says they were destitute. In the original Greek, the word “destitute” in this verse is a form of the word “hustereo” which means “lack, be lacking, go without, come short of”. [1]

Note Hebrews 11:39 says these believers who were destitute or in poverty for a period of time were commended for their faith. Some preachers would criticise such people for a lack of faith. But here the Word of God praises them greatly.

A form of “hustereo” is also used in Philippians 4:12 when it states Paul suffered great need or lack at times. Philippians 4:11-13 shows Paul, the man of great faith experienced both abundance and a lack of material possessions. For example, in 2 Corinthians 11:9, Paul referred to himself experiencing lack or need until the brothers from Macedonia arrived and supplied his needs. In Greek, this verse also uses a form of the word “hustereo”.

Psalm 34:19 reveals all believers will experience great trials and God will ultimately deliver them: “many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”

The people of Israel in Moses’ time are a classic example of how God deals with most believers. Exodus 15:22-17:7, Numbers 11:1-34 and 21:4-9 record God tested these Israelites a number of times by allowing them for short periods to be without water and food and to suffer other natural hardships. But observe in each case after a certain time, God prospered them greatly by providing food, water and deliverance from their hardships. 1 Thessalonians 2:4 speaks of God testing believer’s hearts: “…but God who tests our hearts.”

 

Great faith in tough times

Habakkuk is a book of great faith. Habakkuk 2:4 contains the wonderful words about faith quoted in Romans 1:17 by Paul. These words are “the just shall live by faith”.

As a general principle, it was God’s will to prosper Mosaic Covenant believers. But if we had been born as Jews living under the Mosaic Covenant, how would we have responded if we went through a short testing period of having little money or food? Would we have responded as the godly prophet Habakkuk says he would in Habakkuk 3:17-18?: “Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls – yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”

 


 


[1] Bauer, page 849.

 

 


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