(This 4-part study is Study #4 from the series, Studies From the Book of Job. You can access the other studies by clicking here.)
Ever popular in our day and age is what has become known as “The Prosperity Doctrine.”
If you ask a Christian just what this Prosperity Doctrine is, the response is generally insinuates the idea that God wants all believers to be prosperous. The general teaching is that when believers give their money, they are enacting a spiritual principle that they believe guarantees them that their offering will be multiplied and returned to them and will make them rich. Included in this doctrine is the idea that God rewards our good behavior, and conversely, He punishes our bad behavior. Thus, we are essentially manipulating the hand of God. If we want something bad enough, all we have to do is be faithful in our giving and believe hard enough, and God will come through for us in the way we want Him to.
A sound doctrine, right? Didn’t Jesus tell us He came to give us abundantly life?
Yes, He did: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10 NKJV)
Aren’t we told that our blessings would be heaped up, pressed down, and running over?
Absolutely! “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38, NIV2)
But does “abundant life” mean we will be rich and without want? Do the words, “For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” and “Give and it will be given to you” mean that when we give money, we will get money in return?
Of course they can mean just that, but these texts do not limit God to returning our gifts with monetary blessings. An “abundant life” doesn’t necessarily mean one that is full of riches or absent of material want. It simply means a life that is full of God, a life rich in faith, a life fully committed to Him. And anyone who has truly experienced such an abundant life will agree that it is far superior to having riches on earth!
Tragically, the prosperity doctrine reduces the Savior of the world to a means to an end, and not the end in and of Himself. But Jesus is the end. When He died on the cross, there was nothing more that needed to be done, period!
This teaching, in general, often results in frustrated Christians. When God doesn’t come through for us the way we want him too, faith crumbles and people are left wondering if God even exists, or if He does, why He doesn’t care about them. When we buy into this prosperity doctrine, we have basically reduced the creature of this universe into one big cosmic Santa Claus.
Many people come to this ministry totally disheartened with God. When you probe into the reason for this disillusionment, you usually find one of three things: God hasn’t answered their prayers, God hasn’t kept His promise of provision or protection, and God doesn’t care about them because they have committed–or continue to commit–too many sins. Whether they are aware of it or not, they have bought into the prosperity doctrine and trust has been broken.
Is the prosperity doctrine a new doctrine?
Not at all. Though modern charismatic teachers are purported as being the ones to push this doctrine in our day and age, I would not be the first to point out that the roots of this doctrine can be seen throughout the history of Christianity, and even in Biblical times. In fact, if any of you have recently read the book of Job, then the description of the prosperity doctrine sounds pretty familiar! Job and his three friends believed in the prosperity doctrine, and this is why Job is accused of sin just because he is going through troubled times. This is also why Job is so puzzled. He feels he’s being punished, yet he doesn’t feel he has sinned!
This doctrine was, in fact, so widely accepted in Job’s day that it wasn’t even considered to be a “controversial” doctrine. Rather we can understand by reading through the book of Job that this was the only accepted doctrine. Job is being punished by God, and whether rightfully so, as his friends purported, or wrongfully so, as Job claimed, the punishment was cruel and severe!
The next three parts of The Prosperity Doctrine Exposed will take a close look at the Truth that the book of Job has to teach us about prosperity. We will see how the prosperity doctrine had completely infiltrated the mentality of Job’s day, we will come to understand the potential dangers of this mentality, and finally, will we uncover the Truth about prosperity.
Please join us next Saturday for The Prosperity Doctrine Exposed, Part 2: The Mentality of Job’s Day Challenged.
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two teens, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries.
(To access other lessons in The Prosperity Doctrine mini-series, please click here.)