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Does God Agree with Our Idea of Prosperity?

It’s interesting that the debate about what we call the “Prosperity Gospel” continues.   I’m not surprised because anything that sounds like hope is a tough thing to walk away from – whether it’s true or not.  I have some mixed feelings because I understand that preachers of the post-World War II era rightly wanted people to understand that God is a good God.

It’s hard today for us to understand the vibe from that era.  Back then, most people believed more in a “God with a stick” than any real sense of grace.  Writer Philip Yancey has written very eloquently about the toxic church he grew up in and the harsh view of God they taught.  Many churches of the time were very dead places.

But today, on the other extreme, it’s really gotten out of control.  The Old Testament prophet Isaiah said, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord.”  C.S. Lewis rightly understood that what seems to us good may not actually be good in God’s eyes, and what seems to us evil may not actually be evil.  Therefore pain, suffering and disappointment may not be as bad or harmful as we assume.

Likewise, prosperity, success, and accomplishment may not always be as good for us as we wish.  Lewis always reminded us that we need to let God be God.  Our thoughts are not His, and his judgments will often be dramatically different from ours.   He admitted that we really know infuriatingly little about God and the way he works in the world.

Does God want what’s best for us?  Of course.  Will “what’s best” always line up with our expectations?  Not hardly.  I read a statistic recently about lottery winners.  It said that within a few years, a significant number of big winners are right back where they started.  In some cases, vast sums of money actually ruined their lives.  I know many people who were much better off – and happier – when they were far less prosperous than they are now.

Let God be God.  Encourage people, but seek a balance.   Believe for His best for your life, but be careful assuming that God should live up to your expectations.

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  1. “The flip-side to that is that God wants us to have enough so that we overflow! so that we can then be a blesssing to everyone around us,….”

    So well said and writter here Phil. Thank you. I truly believe God is raising up His people to overflow. That first has to start out of our relationship with HIM.

    The economy may be floundering but His people can flourish. You don’t have to just survive but thrive today. Famine does not make God flinch. He’s has prospered great people of faith during times of famine. We have the Word to prove that. God gets the glory when we walk in this place of blessing. Psalm 112 has been a favorite of mine lately.  The “will be’s” in this Psalm are powerful for those who honor God and delight in His Word. (THE OVERFLOW!)

    I like what Jentezen Franklin said a while back…”We fight our famine by getting back to our Father’s House…”

    And…”God blesses where His reputation is safe..” (J. Franklin)

    Thanks for your comments on the lottery too. Sad statistics there.

    I have been to your blog here a few times….

    Small world….You happen to know a good friend and client of mine, Harriet Bradley.

    Yep, the Body of Christ is a “small world” raised up to make a big impact for Christ.

    Thanks for leading with such a spirit of excellence in the market place.



  2. Very good thoughts Phil! The Gospel is not about getting God to surrender to us – rather the Gospel is about us surrendering to God and accepting His best for our lives (whatever this might be). As CS Lewis wrote about Aslan, in what appears to be an apt description of God: "Nice? Oh no he’s not nice! But he is good." Pain, suffering, deprivation are not nice. But if the child of God experiences these it does not mean that God is not good. Of course this more Biblical worldview is harder to sell than the very appealing idea that accepting the Prosperity-Gospel guarantees a no-pain, no-sickness, no-disappointment, no-prayer-unanswered type of Christianity. But it is the worldview that will stand the test of time. Keep up the thoughtful comments Phil.

  3. I completely belive that God wants us to prosper. I agree with you that prosperity is different for all of us. I believe that God will never put more on us than we can bear. Many of us may want to be rich, but God knows that we may not be in a place to responsibly handle large sums of money. It is important for us to remember to be faithful over the small things that God gives us. If we do that, he will be comfortable with giving us more which will lead to the prosperity that many of us desire.

    Thank you for such a thoughtful commentary.

  4. The things that I’ve seen is…once the prosperity gospel, always the prosperity gospel. I came to Christ in a “Word of Faith” church, and God did great things through them…However, I came back 20 years later, and they were still preaching the same things. And it usually has to do with God helping you pay your bills, and having cash flow. It’s the “Devil you can’t take my stuff” kind-of thinking.

    but what about His beauty?? How awesome He is? The focus of beautiful fellowships is all about Him. and it’s too easy for the prosperity churches to become all about ME! And there’s no maturity, there’s no depth, and they hold so tightly to that gospel, that they stop being spiritual Mom’s and Dad’s.

    I wish these churches would focus entirely on Him. He will take care of us! and once we know that, we can move on to other things that are more important.

    The flip-side to that is that God wants us to have enough so that we overflow!  so that we can then be a blesssing to everyone around us, even after we’ve covered all of our expenses. We can’t do that if we’re always just scaping by. God want’s to have more than enough!

  5. Just a thought….. I’m learning so much from you, Phil..and hear everything you say about getting our content across many digital platforms….so…why can’t I buy your books on my Kindle?

  6. Right now I’m in Mexico, where the prosperity gospel is just death to the soul.


    Take the poor, hardworking people of Mexico, and hand them a false gospel of wealth and things get very messy. How is the church supposed to follow up with the truth: “Well, the things they told you about God making your rich weren’t true, he wants you to know him instead.” 

    Many simply prefer the hope of riches over the hope of Glory. Sadness.

  7. Jeff-I think you hit it square on the head with these words: The flip-side to that is that God wants us to have enough so that we overflow! so that we can then be a blesssing to everyone around us, even after we’ve covered all of our expenses. We can’t do that if we’re always just scaping by. God want’s to have more than enough!


    It is all about not only giving back but paying forward. How can people tithe if they are starving? When our basic needs aren’t met it’s hard to focus on helping others.


    Phil – Very insightful post coming at the right time for me. I have been inwardly debating where God fits in to my Law of Attraction studies. I believe God has a purpose for me and I am meant to give and share my time, talents and money.


  8. Difficult times like these make people all the more likely to fall for the abuses of any group of con-artists.  Whether the latest MLM pyrimid or the slick suited televangelist the money rolls in for people like this when economic times get hard.

    I think a better question is: Does our view of prosperity match God’s?  Of course this onlly works if we are willing to use Gods word, in an open and honest way, to identify God’s views on prosperity.  If we pick and choose and use out of context we can come to the same conclusions that our gold enthroned, Jaguar driving heavily made up wives TV preachers have drawn.


  9. I always found the ‘Gospel of Wealth’ quite distasteful. How can we expect to take hope to those living in extreme poverty if this is our version of hope? It makes the gospel a selfish thing to be used for personal advancement. I don’t believe that God wants a BMW in every Christian’s driveway, but the majority of the Christians around me believe this. It really, really bothers me.

  10. Perhaps we should remind ourselves that “it is harder for a rich man to pass through the eye of a needle than enter the kingdom of God…” or “the love of money is the root of evil…” how about “lead us not into temptation…” All sound pretty clear to me.

    If you want riches you need to prepare yourself for the great responsibility. BTW, compared to the vast majority of people in the world, most of us in the western world are millionaires already.

    God doesn’t want our money, he wants us!

  11. Phil, 

    Since you consult on his television show, you should ask Jerry Savelle about this.  I’m sure he could opine pretty thoroughly on the subject. 

    I’d love to read a transcript of the conversation.  🙂

  12. Good stuff Phil – appreciate the balance and that’s what’s really needed.

    Form a historical context poverty is not holiness.  I also struggled with the “guilt and fear is why we’re here” approach that some of my ancestors presented to me.  When the faith message first showed up we needed it.  Sadly some have taken it WAY too far making God our cosmic bell hop.

    Something to ponder.  In developing countries it’s pretty hard to preach Cadillacs and condos to people living in storm drains and on the street.  And is our prosperity directly or indirectly tied to the poverty of others?  Those are dots we need to connect if our gospel is authentic.

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