Is Prosperity ‘Right’?

by Lester Young

Today we’re going to talk about a really fun topic, one that often tends to evoke strong, passionate feelings with regard to the Church – from those both outside and inside of it, oddly enough. What topic am I referring to? Why that faithful old standby and whipping-boy known as Prosperity, of course.

Now did you notice I didn’t call it “money”? There’s a reason for that. Contrary to the popular belief of many, the two terms are not interchangeable. Prosperity fully encompasses money but the reverse is not so: money cannot fully encompass prosperity. That’s because the Biblical definition of the word ‘prosper’ (both Old and New testaments) can be paraphrased thusly: “to push forward, progress well or succeed in something desirable – including, but not limited to, business affairs.” It’s just as possible to prosper in good health or sound wisdom or favor as it is to prosper financially (Genesis 39:2; 3 John 2). However, when throwing that word around, our modern Westernized culture has for the most part dropped – or at least ignored – any other connotation beyond the ‘money’ one. And when dealing with God’s Word you can probably surmise that dropping and/or ignoring stuff is never a good idea. However, for our purposes here and now, we’ll keep our prosperity “focus” pretty narrow.

Many people – both outside and inside the Church, oddly enough – seem to think that prosperity (the financial kind) and spirituality are somehow “mutually exclusive”: in other words, you shouldn’t (or can’t) have them both at the same time. Why would they think that? Well, the world is easily duped, so incorrect thinking on their part should come as no huge surprise. After all, they’re still misquoting 1 Timothy 6:10, saying that “money is the root of all evil” when in fact the verse doesn’t say that at all. It actually states that “the love of money is the root of all evil”; and that one small change makes all the difference. Indeed, that simple, subtle deviation alters the very subject of the entire sentence to the point that it’s not really even talking about money anymore: it’s referring to a person’s greatest affection being placed anywhere other than on God (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37-38). In fact, you could vary that passage to read, “The love of sweet potato pies (or anything else) is the root of all evil”: because placing anything higher in your heart than you place God is plain and simple covetousness, which is nothing more than idolatry by another name (Colossians 3:5)… and that’s never a good idea, either.

On the other hand, people in the Church – actual members of the Body of Christ – will often give a much more “profound” answer about money and spirituality not mixing, such as Proverbs 1:32, which declares that “the prosperity of fools will destroy them.” Unfortunately, they don’t discern that this verse is not an indictment of prosperity: it’s actually an indictment of being a fool. I’m sure that if you chose to put your mind to it and be a fool about it, there are plenty of ways you could find to destroy yourself with a loaf of banana nut bread, too.

We can get a definite sense of God’s fundamental attitude toward prosperity by studying just a couple of Hebrew words. First, let’s consider the term yashar: Using Strong’s Concordance we find this Hebrew root word is translated in Scripture into the English words ‘direct,’ ‘fit,’ to ‘seem good’ (i.e., be ‘meet’), to ‘please,’ to ‘be right,’ to ‘bring straight’ (regarding a pathway), or to ‘be upright’; and its primary definition is “to be straight or even,” along with a figurative connotation of “being right, pleasant and/or prosperous“.

Additionally, the word tsdaqah (which is from the Hebrew root word tsadaq meaning “to be ‘right'”) is translated into English as ‘justice,’ ‘moderately,’ and ‘right’ or ‘righteous’. In the abstract sense, it refers to “rightness” (that is, being ‘right’ as opposed to ‘wrong’); subjectively it refers to “rectitude”; morally, to “virtue” and figuratively it refers to “prosperity”.

I don’t know about you, but I find it very interesting – and very telling – that the notion of prosperity is embedded in two very basic Hebrew root words; words that give us the concepts of straightness, evenness (equity or even-handedness) and rightness. It’s obviously something our heavenly Father is very much in favor of. If He weren’t, He wouldn’t have so blatantly said He was in 3 John 2: “Beloved, I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers.” He also wouldn’t have given Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Job, David and numerous other folks all the money and stuff He gave them – and they all retained their righteousness, by the way – if He was against prospering His people. And that same prosperity – that “physical” prosperity – is available to the Body of Christ today (Romans 4:13; Galatians 3:14; Deuteronomy 28:1-14). He still wants His people – His children – to have it (Romans 8:14-17). He just doesn’t want it coming between Himself and His children in their hearts (1 Timothy 6:17).

To sum it up, prosperity is “right,” and that means it’s also righteous. God’s Word says it, so it must be how He feels about it (John 1:1). Therefore, we’d be absolutely foolish to consider it any other way but the same (Isaiah 55:7; John 17:17). Prosperity takes nothing away from spirituality, nor vice-versa: the two do not have that type of “repelling” relationship. As a matter of fact, it’s just the opposite.

The Lord Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and are life” (John 6:63). So in order to be spiritual, just do the words He says to you. As His mother Mary put it, “Whatever He says to you, do it!” (John 2:5) That’s not only the key to all miracles, it’s also the way to walk in the Spirit (Romans 8:1-5). And as a neat side bonus, it’s also the way to get all that “prosperity” stuff flowing your way, too – just like a big ole magnet! (Matthew 6:33)

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