Last night, my wife and I were reading the Bible in bed. (yeah, we do that) We work our way through Luke were at Chapter 11: And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! Luke 11:9-13.
That is a wonderful passage about asking, receiving, and the incredible generosity of Father God. Having just read it to my wife, she turned to me – ever-wise – and asked “So then, why don’t we follow the prosperity Gospel?”
That was a good question! Why, in light of the truth that God gives to those whatever they ask out of his generosity, do we not believe that we should have whatever we want? Prosperity Gospel is shorthand for the belief that: 1) blessing = financial/material blessing, 2) God blesses those with faith, and so therefore 3) faith = $$$. Given what Jesus – Jesus Himself, mind you – says about asking, receiving, and God’s giving in Luke 11, doesn’t it follow that we should pray for whatever we want and get it? Well no… But why not? Reflecting upon this, a few other truths
1) Greed Ain’t Good. The Bible has other stuff to say about wealth other than ask and receive. We flipped ahead and read 1 Timothy 6:5-10 where Paul, talking about false teachers says that they are: imagining that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. That is pretty heavy duty and kind of settles it. False teaching will advocate material greed. We ought to be content and not be greedy for wealth. Desire to be rich is called a snare. And the love of money leads to all kind of evil. It is even a path out of true faith in Jesus. The Bible is an entire revelation from God and many parts balance out others. While many passages seem as though we can pray for whatever we want and ought to get it, others check us in our desires. Greed ain’t good and any ‘gospel’ which encourages it shouldn’t be followed.
2) But Money Ain’t All Bad. Nevertheless, we shouldn’t be ashamed that God is a wonderful provider. Money isn’t ‘the root of all evil’, the ‘love of it’ is. Money arriving in your life, especially in unexpected and unusual ways, can be a great spiritual encouragement. Money is needed to further God’s work in the world – both of mercy and proclamation. And perhaps most of all, the God-Who-Is-Loving-Father ought to seen as One who provides wonderfully for those who seek Him. There have been many times in my life where God has provided for me in amazing ways. There have also been times where He has taught me to get over myself and ask Him for real, material things as I have found myself needing them. “Father, I need some money, give me some money” has been a prayer that he has been pleased to answer several times in my life. The Father receives glory when we seek Him for our needs and when we can testify that He has come through. I have known some who, in scrambling to avoid name-it-and-claim-it type distortions, fall off on the wrong side of the horse. And they forget the simplicity of Jesus’ teaching. Need. Ask. Receive. There’s a Father who loves you and is taking care of you. We ought not to flinch from what Jesus teaches. It is possible to ask God for $ without falling into the trap of: more faith = more $ = we should have lots of $$$.
3) There Is A Greater Treasure. A final reason why we’re not into the Prosperity Gospel is worth mentioning. Jesus teaches us that God gives us the desires of our hearts and where our treasure is our heart will be also. And in Luke 11, he tells us what the greatest provision of Father God is. He, being a good Father, will not withhold Holy Spirit to those who ask. A Prosperity “Gospel” implicitly teaches us that wealth is the greatest thing, and so to be truly rich is to have more money. The Gospel teaches us no such thing. The greatest treasure is God Himself – Holy Spirit = God = Him. When we have more of Him, it may actually lessen our desires for the comforts and padding of material things. The greatest treasure (and our greatest desire) ought not to be what God gives but God Himself. And that is Good News.