For those who read my previous post about the prosperity gospel, I must apologize. I had many points that I wanted to include in my discussion about God desiring to bless His people, but for the sake of keeping the post short and entertaining had to choose only a few. I realize now that I didn’t do justice to the argument, and probably chose the wrong points to include. So for anyone who wants to read more of my thoughts on the matter, this is a follow up post to hopefully cement a few things.
Firstly, I want to thank the anonymous reader who commented on my first post and held me accountable. They helped me to realise that I needed to follow it up with a more solid argument. I’m hoping (due to the fact that they’ve remained anonymous) that they won’t mind me using our back-and-forth debate as grounds for this post! I also want to acknowledge that this person’s comments posed some very good thoughts on the matter that should be equally considered and given weight alongside my own by those who are more inclined to agree with my thoughts. You can check them out in the comments section of the original post.
[Secondly, I want to reiterate the fact that any material blessing given to a person from God is not for their comfort and individual happiness, but for the sake of the Kingdom of God. This was stated in the first post, but it is an important fact to remember as you read through the following.]
It seems that the point was made clearly enough that healing and transforming lost, sick and broken people is God’s desire. However, more depth was definitely required when discussing the matter of material prosperity. On this, I first want to clarify that the ACC statement of faith does not explicitly claim anything about material prosperity. Hopefully those who read my posts understand that I’m not speaking on behalf of anyone, and these are my own thoughts! Prosperity can relate to many different aspects of life, including spiritual and emotional. In this day and age, when we hear the word ‘prosperity’, most people tend to think immediately of material possessions; thus explaining my focus.
Continuing on this stream of thought; let’s get to my more detailed exploration on God’s desire to materially bless His people.
Let’s look at the trajectory of history from the creation account and through the narrative of the Bible. From what we know in Genesis, God created the world as a place of life, peace, relationship and abundance. There would have been no such thing as lack in the first days. In short, it can be assumed that God created the world as a place of prosperity. Though things are obviously different, and evil runs rampant in the world, the point remains – if it was not God’s desire to provide for and bless His people, why would He have created the world, in its original state, like that? Even after sin existed and evil infected the world, we can see glimpses of God’s desire to bless His people throughout history.
For instance, God desired for Israel, His chosen people, to be a great, prosperous nation. This was a sign and result of His covenant relationship with them. No doubt it was also supposed to be a contributing factor in why other nations would turn to them and recognise their God. We know that after Israel had become as wicked as the rest of the world and continually refused God, He then took this blessing from them. But that doesn’t negate the fact that He gave it to them in the first place.
Another example is Constantine’s declaration of Christianity as the official religion of State in the Roman empire, after almost 200 years of (intermittent) brutal persecution of Christians. Like I said in the comments, I’m of the personal opinion that Christianity lost more than it gained with this turn of events, but nonetheless I would be hard pressed to argue that it was not orchestrated and controlled by God. After this, Christians for the most part went from being the bottom of the social class to the top.
But of course, there are great arguments for an opposing view – that it is not God’s desire to materially prosper His people. If there are reasonable approaches and arguments to both sides of this debate, then where has this tense disagreement stemmed from? Well, a wise teacher once helped me to understand that, like many theological debates between Christians, the disagreement is not so much on the nature of God, but rather on eschatological realisation. Allow me to explain further –
I think most of us can agree on the fact that God, in the beginning, created humankind to live in abundance in a peaceful, beautiful world. We also know that evil and sin entered this world, corrupting and enslaving it. And we also know that Jesus came to defeat this evil, and restore the world and humankind to what God had originally created them to be. Through this restoration, then, humans will once again live in peace, with no such thing as poverty, weakness, vulnerability or material lack.
So then, the majority of the debate is not whether this is true or not, but instead when it will be true. Christians who believe that God blesses us materially in these times believe that this restoration has either already come, or that it has partially come, or that it is continually being realised in more depth as the ages pass. Christians who disagree with any kind of material wealth coming from God probably believe that this final restoration either has not yet come or will not at all come until Jesus returns in all of His glory.
So, understanding now that Christians are not debating on the nature of God might (hopefully) help to relieve some of the tension. The nature and specifics of the end times, for the most part, is well within the lines of what Christians can peacefully disagree on. After all, the Bible doesn’t give us too much to go on here; and much of what it does give us can be interpreted many different ways.
With this in mind, I feel as though I have made a fairly reasonable argument as to why it is possible for Pentecostals to believe that God desires to bless us materially (for the sake of others, and consequently His glory) without being hurtfully likened to heretics for doing so. And in an attempt to solidify this, I’ll finish on one more point. As mentioned earlier, almost all Christians can agree that it is God’s will to heal, transform and restore people. Yet there is so much division on whether or not it is also God’s will to prosper people. Many points given for this argument have to do with the fact that so many Christians live in poverty, and still glorify God and give from their lack. Yet there are so many Christians who are also living with terminal illness, who have died from illnesses and injuries, and who are yet to see any healing in their lives. Despite this fact, it is never argued that it is not God’s desire to heal and set these people free.
The fact of the matter is that we cannot fully understand why God does or doesn’t do things in this life that are, according to the Bible, His will for us. It would be arrogant to assume that God never blesses people materially (the Bible shows us otherwise). It would also be arrogant to assume that God always blesses people materially (the Bible, again, shows us otherwise). It is wise and mature to decide, based on Biblical and historical evidence, which side of the argument you most agree with, and respect another Christian’s right to believe the opposite.
Personally, I take the middle ground on this debate. There is a call to suffer for the sake of God – one that has seemed to largely go unnoticed in this generation. But there are also times when God will prosper people with finance or influence, for His name’s sake.