Many people struggle with the idea that part of what Jesus provided for believers on the cross is their own prosperity. A large swath of Christianity sees being poor somehow as more holy or spiritually superior to being wealthy. Often they can be quick to condemn any Christian who has more stuff than they feel is appropriate.
Most people think it all works on a needs based system. It doesn’t seem to matter whether they are inside the church or unbelievers.
It’s incredibly common to hear someone say, “No one really needs ______.” Fill in the blank with whatever particular lifestyle fetish happens to offend the person speaking.
With large ministries here in the States it often comes up around the topic of airplanes. “No one really needs a multimillion dollar jet plane.” Of course the people who say that almost never have any idea what the particular plane in question is actually used for or how practical it might actually be.
But even talking about the potential practicality misses the point, really. Most people are just plain ignorant of the fact that God does not bless people based on their need.
Instead God blesses folks based on His love for them intersecting their belief and willingness to receive from Him.
That said, I can sort of see why some have that perspective. It doesn’t help that there are far too many preachers out there who use manipulation and worldly approaches to raise funds for their ministries.
However, in spite of all the examples of ungodly fundraising we can point to, the truth is neither wealth nor poverty is more holy. Yet many folks point to a particular preacher’s personal wealth as de facto proof that they use manipulation or ungodly means to gain their income irregardless of whether that is actually true or not.
Unfortunately trashing preachers is a big time sport for a huge portion of Christianity.
Blessings vs Curses
Let’s set those issues aside for now and look at what the Bible actually says about God prospering his people. Turns out there’s a wealth of information there just waiting for us to explore. (Horrible pun, I know.)
The first thing to sort out is whether the Bible portrays wealth as a blessing or a curse. Even a cursory reading of scripture obviously reveals that wealth is considered a blessing.
Deuteronomy chapter 28 is a good example. That chapter starts with 14 verses of blessing for those who obey the law. Those blessing verses include several about wealth being increased as a blessing.
Starting in verse 15 through to the end of the chapter we see a full 54 verses explaining the curses associated with the Israelites not following the law. Read through those verses and you won’t find anything like this: you will be cursed with excess wealth, so much so that your neighbors are envious of all you have.
Instead those cursing verses from the second part of Deuteronomy 28 talk about wealth going away and the people being cursed with poverty.
Jesus Fulfilled the Law For Us
Jesus said he came to fulfill the law.
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. — Matthew 5:17 (NKJV)
Basically a substitution took place in the spiritual realm. Jesus fulfilled the law on our behalf and took all the punishment we deserved on the cross. In exchange we are now spiritually entitled to all the blessings he earned by fulfilling the law. Here’s how Paul explained that transaction:
But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham, so that we who are believers might receive the promised Holy Spirit through faith. — Galatians 3:13-14 (NLT)
Therefore, because that exchange has taken place in the spiritual realm we are now legally entitled to all the blessings that come from fulfilling the law. Those blessings include financial blessings.
Jesus also said he came so we could have an abundant life. (John 10:10) Here’s how the Amplified Bible translates it:
I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows).
Notice that Jesus didn’t say he came so we could struggle through life with barely enough to get by.
Jesus came to bless all mankind (1 John 2:2). The primary way God blesses people through other people. He blesses believers so that they in turn have the ability to bless others. We are blessed to be a blessing. That’s God’s plan to bless all of humanity.
When we equate our own personal suffering with righteousness we’re basically saying that what Jesus did on the cross wasn’t enough. We need to add more suffering of our own to that on our end to really be holy.
Did Jesus pay it all? Or did he only pay for part of it?
Salvation is a gift made freely available to all mankind. Like all gifts, the only way to enjoy the benefits of that gift is to receive it. To reject the gift is to reject the benefits of that gift.
For someone who doesn’t accept the gift of salvation, God honors that choice and allows them to choose hell and eternal separation from him.
At the same time salvation includes different sub-components including entrance into heaven at death, healing from sickness and diseases, deliverance from demonization, and material prosperity. God loves us so much that we still have the right to reject these gifts from within salvation too.
We can be on our way to heaven and free from demonic oppression and still be sick and impoverished because we reject those sub-gifts of the gift of salvation. When we reject the gift or even just a part of the overall gift, we fail to experience the benefits from what we are unwilling to receive.
The choice is yours. Receive all that God has provided for you or reject part of it. Personally I’d rather not have to explain to God why I chose to reject something good he provided for me.