Is Prosperity Always a Blessing?
Is wealth or having riches a blessing? Is God against His people becoming rich? According to the Bible, are there any problems with being wealthy?
Brother Barry Thompson: We welcome you to this episode of Face The Truth being taped live here at the INC Media Studios. Now today I want to first ask for a raise of hands, who here wants to be successful and have a good life? You know, none of us can turn down the idea of a successful life. But what exactly does that take? Some believe this. Let’s take a look.
Voice over: Success means money. No questions about that. That is the mantra of the Gen X workforce who are doing shifts and overtime to add a hefty pay packet and then maybe something extra. There is a general belief that if your bank account is healthy, you may desire everything. And most are achievable. No, I firmly believe that money can’t buy love, but it can and does buy most of the things.
Does having wealth mean a good life?
Brother Barry: You know, people want a good life. They want health, prosperity and happiness, and are willing to do just about anything to get it. And the common belief of many is that wealth, which consists of the abundance of material things, is the true measure of success.
Even in the religious circles, there’s a popular belief that God’s servants are supposed to be wealthy or have an abundance in this life. And for them, wealth is a manifestation of God’s blessings. In other words, if one is wealthy, then they’re blessed. If not, then there’s something wrong with their faith, or there’s something that they still need to do to enjoy God’s blessings of wealth and so many preachers have capitalized on this natural human desire to be wealthy. And they use this to gain a large following, promising their believers wealth for faith. Take, for example, this famous preacher.
News Host: Those who listen to you, you know, there’s a line that you’ve said, that resonates with a lot of folks. “God doesn’t want us to be broke.” What do you mean by that?
Joel Osteen: Well, I don’t know about–. I may have said it like that. But I believe that we’re not supposed to be– growing up there was a part of Christianity that says you got to be poor and defeated to show that you’re humble and we’re supposed to suffer. I don’t see God like that. I think we’re supposed to excel that He’s put gifts in each one of us that you know that we’re supposed to rise higher.
And I say that coming from the background that my father was very, very poor. They got the Christmas basket. They were so poor, they didn’t have food growing up. And he rose up out of that. And I don’t, I don’t think it’s God’s best. I don’t think you can live life, not having the funds to send your kids to college and to fulfill your dreams. And so it’s just a mindset. Sometimes people have this poverty mindset, “I’m a Christian, and I’m supposed to suffer and this is God’s will.” It’s just not how I see it.
Who does wealth come from?
Brother Barry: You know, on the other hand, there are those who take the opposite stand and view wealth as something that is evil. And that’s why this topic becomes confusing for some, or what is the Bible’s true teaching concerning wealth or prosperity? Is there anything wrong with aspiring to become rich? Well, let’s read what is written in the book of First Chronicles. The chapter is 29 and the verse is 12.
And this is what is stated:
Both riches and honor come from You, And You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; In Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.
[1 Chronicles 29:12 New King James Version]
Brother Barry: So there’s nothing wrong with becoming wealthy. Because the Bible teaches that both riches and honor come from [Whom]? From God. And the Bible also mentioned servants of God, who were blessed with an abundance of material things. One such person was Solomon, a servant of God. He was not only very wealthy, he was also very wise and he even taught the fundamental requirement for a person to gain wealth. This is what we can read in Proverbs, chapter 10 and the verse is 4:
He who has a slack hand becomes poor, But the hand of the diligent makes rich.
[Proverbs 10:4 New King James Version]
The problem that wealth can bring
Brother Barry: So notice Solomon says diligent hands bring wealth. Thus hard work is a prerequisite for wealth. Now we know that there are many people who inherited wealth from their parents, but we also know of people who were born into poverty. But through hard work and diligence, [they] were able to lift themselves out of it, and gain a wealthy status. So again, the Lord God is not against wealth. Now for those who are asking, is wealth a blessing from God? Yes, God can and does bless His servants with wealth. However, having wealth can come with some problems or side effects. What is one of these problems? Listen to what is written here in the book of Proverbs again, Chapter 18 and the verse is 11:
Rich people, however, imagine that their wealth protects them like high, strong walls around a city.
[Proverbs 18:11 Good News Bible]
Brother Barry: One of the problems that having wealth may bring is that it gives people a false sense of total security. The Bible mentions that rich people imagine that their wealth protects them like a high, strong wall around the city. Now we know this to be true. You know, when you have a lot of money, you can do a lot of things. You can buy the things you want, you can live where you want to live, travel to the places you want to visit. Take care of all the needs of your family, send your children to the best schools and so much more. It could mean the difference between living in a shelter versus living in a mansion in Beverly Hills.
In short, money gives you power, and many more choices in life which you would not have if you were poor, for some money gives them a feeling of invincibility.
And more money equals more power. And this strong desire to be rich is really more intense in our time because people have instant access to view and know lifestyles of others through social media, as well as YouTube. And you don’t need to know the rich and famous personally because you get a personal view of their glamorous lifestyles.
But we must remember what was mentioned in the Bible. The verse we read that says that the rich imagine that their wealth protects them. Now it’s just a delusion.
Sure, wealth comes with really nice benefits and even some security but it also has some severe limitations. Especially if one puts his or her trust in it. And the Lord Jesus Christ mentions this very issue in a parable. Allow me to read was written in the book of Luke chapter 12. The verses are 16 to 21. What our Lord Jesus Christ mentions here:
Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’
But God said to him, ‘Fool!’ This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
[Luke 12:16-21 New King James Version]
Brother Barry: Now what we just read is a parable of Christ about a rich man.
What wrong thinking or belief did this rich man have? He said, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” So what could we notice? He trusted in his wealth, which he thought was all he needed in life.
Riches in life vs. Riches in heaven
Brother Barry: Now isn’t this the very mindset of so many people today that having riches is the be-all and end-all of man’s earthly existence and the epitome of a good life? And that’s why people will do all sorts of things to get rich even resorting to criminal activities.
There is something extremely important that this rich man mentioned in the parable. And so many people forget. The parable God said to him, fool, this night your soul will be required of you, then whose will those things be for which you have provided. The rich fool in the parable had forgotten about God, and Who really owns his life. This narrative also illustrates the vanity of wealth and it’s obvious limitations, especially when faced with death. Because death has no respect for social or economic status. Both the billionaire and the poor [will] be confronted with it.
So to clear up the delusion that money can buy anything, we’ll just say this: money can only buy the things that money can buy. But it most certainly cannot stop a person from death when God decides to take away our life. That’s why Christ warned against this kind of thinking where one becomes so obsessed with gaining earthly wealth. It says this in Matthew 6, 19, and 20. Let’s listen to the Lord Jesus Christ again:
“Do not lay up for yourselves, treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
[Matthew 6:19-20 New King James Version]
Brother Barry: Christ warned against focusing on earthly wealth. He said, Do not lay up treasures for yourselves on Earth, but make up for yourselves treasures in heaven. Why? Because the wealth on earth won’t last, but treasures in heaven will.
So if a person is going to work hard at something that won’t last, wouldn’t it make more sense to work even harder for that which will last or the true wealth? And which is the true wealth that people should seek? Let’s allow the Bible to answer us here in the book of Proverbs chapter 13. The verses are 7 and 8:
There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing; And one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches. The ransom of a man’s life is his riches, But the poor does not hear rebuke.
[Proverbs 13:7-8 New King James Version]
Brother Barry: Now when we talk about being rich or wealthy, it is usually defined by a person’s net worth, right? How much money that person may have in the bank, the type of house that they live in, the cars that they drive. But the Bible defines the true wealth as the ransom or redemption of a man’s soul or who are the people whose lives have been ransom, or redeemed, and does have the true wealth? Colossians chapter 1, the verses are 13 and 14:
He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
[Colossians 1:13-14 New King James Version]
What is the kingdom of the Son?
Brother Barry: Those whose lives have been ransom are the ones who are delivered from darkness and transferred into the kingdom of the Son or the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. And so it goes without saying that earthly wealth…it’s enticing. And it comes with many privileges on Earth, but a rich person still has to face death, and his riches can’t help him there. Whereas a person who has the ransom or redemption of his life gains eternal privileges; wealth that lasts forever. And this is something that we have to think about seriously, which deserves more of our attention, striving for something temporary or that which is eternal? Well, which is this kingdom where redemption is found? Let’s let the Bible give us the answer here in the book of Acts. The chapter is 20, the verse is 28:
Take heed therefore to yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit is appointed you overseers, to feed the church of Christ which he has purchased with his blood.
[Acts 20:28 Lamsa Bible]
Brother Barry: So according to the verse we read, the Church of Christ was redeemed by Christ with His blood. And so the Church of Christ is the kingdom of the Son being referred to. Thus those who become Church of Christ members are truly fortunate. They possess a treasure, no amount of material wealth can match: redemption or forgiveness through Christ’s blood. So true servants of God value their faith and membership in the Church, above all else, including earthly wealth.
Now, this does not mean that true servants of God detest wealthy people, or the detest wealth per se. Just like we learned earlier, wealth and riches per se are not evil, and there’s nothing wrong with having an abundance of material things. But what matters is that one does not trust in those things, nor even love them. In fact, true servants of God are even willing to give up earthly wealth if necessary for their faith. You know, Apostle Paul was one of the many examples in the Bible who considered his faith and calling the Church more valuable than what he could gain in this life. He mentioned this in Philippians, chapters 3, the verses are 7, and 8. This is what he says:
But all those things that I might count as profit I now reckon, as loss for Christ’s sake. Not only those things; I reckon everything as complete loss for the sake of what is so much more valuable, the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.
For His sake I have thrown everything away; I consider it all as mere garbage, so that I may gain Christ
[Philippians 3:7-8 Good News Bible]
Brother Barry: What did Apostle Paul truly value in his life? His right to know Christ, which he received by means of his calling in the Church, this was the most valuable thing in his life. Now how important was that to him? No matter how great the material gain if it meant the forfeiture of his membership in the church, that material gain he counted as a loss. Why? Because for him, what was truly valuable is to have Christ in his life. Apostle Paul knew where his priorities were.
And you know, for true servants of God, gaining wealth and material things are not priorities in life, nor do they serve God because they desire material wealth. And what Apostle Paul taught opposes the so-called prosperity gospel followed by some in which they serve God because they’re after material gain. Let’s take a look at another prosperity preacher.
[On-screen text graphics]
Trump’s faith adviser now works in the White House….White is a believer in the ‘prosperity gospel,’ which says God rewards believers with financial success and those who donate more will have more success.
Paula White: There is a Department of Treasury in heaven, God is watching over everything you do, and you are storing up eternal treasure that will go so far beyond I think that we can even begin to imagine.
You need in $3500, you need to send in $35,000, you need to send in that $100,000 check. If you do not write that P. O. box, and you do not call that toll-free number, and you do not become a ministry of sustainer, you will never see sustainment in your life and your dream will die, your call will die.
Brother Barry: Well, you know some will ask, “Is it wrong to devote our attention to both faith and material wealth?” Let’s allow our Lord Jesus Christ to answer that question here in the book of Luke 16, 13 to 15. Listen carefully to what Christ says:
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” The Pharisees who love money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.
[Luke 16:13-15 New International Version]
Brother Barry: So according to our Lord Jesus Christ, what is it that people cannot do? People cannot serve both God and money. Why? Because they will hate one and love the other. How did those who heard Christ’s statement react? And they were mocking Jesus because they love their money, and they wrongly suppose that our Lord Jesus Christ condemned money or those who had lots of money, and anyone who desired to have it. But what did our Lord Jesus Christ say to them? You are the ones who justify yourself in the eyes of men, but God sees what is in your hearts and therefore God knows what we value in our life, because He sees what is in our hearts.
So if a person is truly going to serve God, they must be willing if necessary to give up certain things in life. Now, we are not saying that people have to automatically give up their wealth to serve God, but there are instances where it may be necessary. If a person loves his riches, he may not be able to do so. And you know, this actually happened during the Ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ. So we can read that in the book of Mark chapter 10. The verses are 17 to 23. This is written:
As Jesus was starting on his way again, a man ran up, knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to receive eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked him. “No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not accuse anyone falsely; do not cheat; respect your father and your mother.’”
“Teacher,” the man said, “ever since I was young, I have obeyed all these commandments.”
Jesus looked straight at him with love and said, “You need only one thing. Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me.”
When the man heard this, gloom spread over his face, and he went away sad, because he was very rich.
Jesus looked around at his disciples and said to them, “How hard it will be for rich people to enter the kingdom of God!”
[Mark 10:17-23 Good News Bible]
Brother Barry: Now in this instance, a rich man approached our Lord Jesus Christ, and seemed eager to receive eternal life by asking our Lord Jesus Christ, “What must I do to receive eternal life?” After Christ told him the commandments which he needed to obey, to which he replied that he had already been doing these things since he was young. Christ told him that there was still one more thing that he needed to do. What was that? He was told, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven, then come and follow me. Now, was this rich man able to obey this? No. The Bible said when the man heard this, gloom spread over his face, and he was very sad, because he was very, what? Rich. And he went away.
But what is it that we can learn from this incident? The rich man was able to follow the other commandments, but he was not able to give up his wealth. His love for his earthly wealth was holding him back from receiving the true riches in heaven. So what did Christ state? He said to them how hard it will be for rich people to enter the kingdom of God.
Now we want to repeat, wealth per se is not evil. Because riches come from God. What is evil is the wrong attitude people may have towards wealth—if a person values wealth so much that they trust in it, then that person is in danger of his soul being condemned for eternity and not being among those who received the true wealth of eternal life.
Now, let’s be very realistic at this point. You know, most people prefer instant
gratification, right? Things that they can get their hands on right now, the nice house, a nice car, money in the bank. And people are not even thinking about eternal life—it seems so far away.
But what about you who are here? What will you choose?
For the true servants of God, they may be rich, or they may be poor. Their social status is not what is most important. What really matters is that they are rich in faith.
And so the Apostle James gave these encouraging words to the members of the Church then, saying this, written in the book of James, the chapter is 2 and the verse is 5:
Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which He promised those who love Him?
[James 2:5 New King James Version]
Brother Barry: The Apostle James said clearly, “Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom?” So no one should be surprised if some or even many of God’s true servants are poor, or come from the lower levels of society. And the poor servants of God should not be pitied, and people who are rich also should not be envied. The quality of one’s faith is not based on material possessions. People should not serve God because they want to become rich.
What matters most is: do you have the true faith? Are you rich in faith? For if you are rich in faith, then you are truly wealthy.
We’d like to thank you for joining us for this live taping of Face the Truth. And we have a series of Bible study sessions available for you to attend to help you explore this life-changing subject even further, and learn what God has to say about your life, and what He wants you to do. Topics such as “How can I know God’s purpose for my life?” and “How can I get my prayers answered?” and so many others. Now, our ushers are passing on a quick feedback form and we’d really appreciate your thoughts on today’s program, and what other topics would be of interest to you?
However, here’s a quick video from individuals who have been able to find the biblical answers they have been looking for after years of searching. Take a look:
Brother Fred Reed: For a long time in my life, I had lots of questions.
Sister Sol Velasquez: So I kept looking into all the churches, all the religions, and still my questions were not answered. And sooner or later I just left because I was disappointed.
Voiceover: This might sound familiar to you. In fact, chances are, you’ve walked out of your own religion for the very same reasons.
Sister Sol: I didn’t go to a church so long because they were all the same.
Voiceover: It’s nothing to be ashamed of. We all want answers, real ones. Ones that are backed up with more than just someone’s story. But what would it mean to you if you actually got answers to your questions? Like, really got the answers?
Brother Fred: You don’t have to wonder or imagine, that type of deal. A lot of hocus pocus stuff goes on in some churches…
Brother Nicolas Victorio: And I think once you get to a Bible study and you hear the lessons, that’s the first, that’s the biggest hurdle. And once you can get to a Bible lesson, you just kind of get addicted, I think, that you want to learn more.
Brother Bob Pellien: Well, here in First Corinthians chapter six,
Apostle Paul is the one who makes mention of that here…
Voiceover: You see, this place does exist, a place where questions about the Bible are answered, well, by the Bible.
Brother Nicolas: Any question I had was answered. They explained it to me using the Bible, and not using their own interpretation of it. So, coming from a Mormon church, it wasn’t like that. When you asked questions, you got different answers all the time.
Brother Fred: All of a sudden, there’s actually the church that actually teaches what’s in the Bible.
Minister: At one time when you were far away from God and were His enemies because of the evil things you did and thought. How does the Lord our God regard…
Voiceover: And the good thing is, we don’t have to look for it anymore. You just have to take a few minutes to set up a time to sit down with one of the ministers of the Church Of Christ and ask your questions.
Brother Nicolas: You know, once I started hearing the gospel and the way we teach the Bible, it was a no brainer for me to really know that this was the true Church.
Voiceover: They did it. They found their answers, isn’t it time to find yours?
Sister: So I went to the Bible study and they’re treating me like family. Okay, so I sit in and I learned, I learned a lot in that Bible study.
Brother Fred: But I always gained something from every minister. I have not seen anything like this in my entire life where you can walk up to any one of them and they can answer any question you can. But they are not going to give you their opinion. They are never going to give you their opinion.
All they’ll do is to reach over, pull out the Word of God, “well let’s see what it says right here in the Word of God,” and they’ll find a scripture. And yes, it does answer the question.
Brother Nicolas: And the unity of Iglesia Ni Cristo is what I love, because you truly see the same answer that you asked from one minister to the other. Seeing that we just use the Bible, and we just believe what the Bible says, is truly the only truth I could believe in.
Voiceover: So ask yourself, what do you want to do next? What are the Bible questions you waited so long to ask? And when you’re ready, we’ll be right here waiting for you.
Brother Barry: Again, thank you so much for joining us today on this live taping of Face the Truth.
I’ll be here along with other ministers of the Church of Christ ready to answer any questions you may have or even just to talk. No matter where you are on your journey in search of purpose and direction, may tonight’s event bring you one step closer to the truth you’re looking for. As the Bible says in John 8:32:
You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
[John 8:32 Contemporary English Version]
I’m Brother Barry Thompson. God bless.