One of the favorite themes of many of our modern ministers is “the prosperity gospel.” This term usually implies that a “love offering” sent to their ministry will result in an outpouring of money and other material blessings to the giver. Another popular term for this is “seed-faith money” – bundle it over to their ministry and God will bless you with bundles of money in return. Worldly ministers measure prosperity by worldly wealth. Mammon (Greek, mamonas, the personification and deification of wealth) has become the highest good.
This worship of mammon leads to the despising of God’s law which is antithetical to it. The law of God represents His authority, His very Being. Christ expressed it well in saying, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matt. 6:24; Lk. 16:13)
Yet, prosperity is actually a favorite subject in God’s Word. It is a recurring theme in Scripture that those who follow God’s laws, His principles of conduct, will prosper. Evangelical scholar, Benedikt Otzen, informs us, “The general attitude to the law [in Scripture] is often voiced in an imagery connected with the word ‘way’ (hodos and euodoo, ‘to accompany, help on the way, prosper’). It is no coincidence that we already met these words as a ‘Leit-motiv’.” (Tobit and Judith, 2002, p.35)
A “leit-motiv” is a leading motif or recurring theme. In contrast to modern theology which has abolished the moral laws of God, either in whole or in part, Scripture not only affirms the law but as a leading theme promises prosperity to those who follow it.
The twenty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy is a classic example of the relationship between divine law and prosperity, and it is truly “good news,” (which the word “gospel” means): “And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God. Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store. Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out. The LORD shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways. The LORD shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and he shall bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. The LORD shall establish thee an holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the LORD thy God, and walk in his ways. And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the LORD; and they shall be afraid of thee. And the LORD shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers to give thee. The LORD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow. And the LORD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the LORD thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them.” (Deut. 28:1-13)
After many more verses of this “prosperity gospel,” God informs us what will occur if we reject His law-teachings: “And thou shalt grope at noonday, as the blind gropeth in darkness, and thou shalt not prosper in thy ways: and thou shalt be only oppressed and spoiled evermore, and no man shall save thee.” (Deut. 28:29)
This theme appears again in the Book of Numbers: “And Moses said, Wherefore now do ye transgress the commandment of the LORD? but it shall not prosper.” (Num. 14:41) In verse nine this attitude is described as a rebellion against God.
The link between law and prosperity appears again in Deuteronomy following the Exodus from Egypt: “Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do.” (Deut. 29:9)
The Prophet Joshua stated, “Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.” (Josh. 1:7)
King David, who was a prophetic type of Christ, gave this wise advice to his son Solomon on his death-bed: “And keep the charge of the LORD thy God, to walk in his ways, to keep his statutes, and his commandments, and his judgments, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that thou mayest prosper in all that thou doest, and whithersoever thou turnest thyself.” (1 Ki. 2:3; cf. 1 Chr. 22:11-13)
The prophet Zechariah was stoned in return for this wise counsel, “And the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, which stood above the people, and said unto them, Thus saith God, Why transgress ye the commandments of the LORD, that ye cannot prosper? because ye have forsaken the LORD, he hath also forsaken you.” (2 Chr 24:20) The Prophet Ezekiel echoed similar sentiments in saying, “Shall he escape that doeth such things? or shall he break the covenant, and be delivered?” (Ezek. 17:15b)
The Book of Psalms begins with these words of advice, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”
At times it seems that the wicked prosper while the righteous perish. The Prophet Daniel pointed out, however, that this situation is temporary: “And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvelous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done.” (Dan. 11:36)
With the coming Messianic kingdom and return of the Messiah to reign, God and His law shall be supreme: “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.” (Jer. 23:5)
Returning to the New Testament, the Apostle John wrote, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” (3 John 1:2) To this we add our own good wishes for the health and prosperity of our readers as together we seek to follow His Will in our lives.