Beyond the prosperity gospel


The Bible affirms that those who are generous with their assets will tend to prosper. One striking statement of this principle is given in Malachi 3:10:

“Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”

Purveyors of the “prosperity gospel” have been known to quote this verse, promising people that they will get rich when they send in their contributions. But these preachers have only part of the story.

The Bible also teaches that the most important blessings resulting from generous giving are spiritual rather than material. We see this, for example, in 2 Corinthians 9, where the apostle Paul urged Christians in Corinth to follow through on their pledge to donate to Jewish believers in Judea who were enduring a time of famine.

This was a project that was important to Paul. He believed that Gentile Christians should show honor to their Jewish brethren. After all, the gifts of the Messiah and the Scriptures had come to them through the people of Israel (see Romans 9:4-5; 11:18).

Paul began his appeal by referring in verses 6-7 to Proverbs 22:8-9, another passage that links generosity and blessing. Translated from the Greek Septuagint, this passage says, in part, “The one who sows what is worthless will reap evil things, and he will achieve a beating for his deeds. God blesses a cheerful and giving man … The one who shows mercy to the needy will be sustained, for he has given some of his own bread to the poor.”

Unlike the prosperity preacher, however, Paul did not propose that the Corinthians be generous in order to accumulate wealth. Instead, he said that God would make sure that they always had enough so that they could give even more (verse 8).

If they were giving continually, Paul added, they would be emulating God (verse 9). He went on to say that God, the source of all good things, “will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness ” (verse 10). Again, God would supply the giver with more so that the giver could give more.

Furthermore, Paul stated, when they gave more, the recipients of their generosity would thank and praise God because of them, and would go on to pray for them (verses 11-14).

To summarize, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 that when we give to others, (1) God will make sure that we have enough; (2) so that our giving will increase; (3) so that people will thank God because of us; (4) and pray for us.

Spiritually speaking, this is an even better deal than the one promised by the prosperity preacher. The full teaching of Scripture goes far beyond the prosperity gospel.

Doug Ward is an elder at Church of the Messiah in Xenia and an avid reader.

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