(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.)
So far in this mini-series, we’ve seen how this mentality infiltrated the culture in Biblical times, and we’re hypothesized that helping Job have a better understanding of what prosperity means to God may have been one of the key reasons God allowed the devil to play with Job. We’ve also seen some of the many dangers of the Prosperity Doctrine. But doesn’t this doctrine have its roots in scripture? Didn’t Jesus Himself say that He came to give us life more abundantly (See John 10:10)? If Jesus didn’t mean that God rewards our “good decision” to come to Him by making us prosperous, what did He mean? If He wasn’t referring to the fact that He’ll give us everything we want, what was He referring to?
Once again, we can go to the book of Job for the answers.
The bulk of this interesting book focuses on a debate between Job and his three friends, with a final chapter in the debate by a fourth, younger debater. Have you ever wondered where God was throughout these chapters?
God was right there, friends, listening in, and when He finally speaks, His response is very poignant:
“Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?” (Job 38:2)
We’re talking about some of the wisest men in the land! Ouch!
“Brace yourself like a man; I will question you and you shall answer me.” (Job 28:3)
God is attacking Job’s maturity! Double ouch!
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?” (Job 38:4,5 NIV)
God is very clear that neither Job nor any of the four “wise” men who are accusing him have even the faintest concept of who God really is! Triple ouch!
But God isn’t quite through making His point: “Would you discredit my justice? Would you condemn me to justify yourself?…Look at the behemoth…Can anyone capture him by the eyes or trap him and pierce his nose? Can you pull in the leviathan with a fishhook or tie down his tongue with a rope?” (Job 40:8,15,24, 41:1,43)
Simply put, God is all wise, but we are not. We, who know nothing, who can’t even stand up to God’s creation, are not in the position to question God. We cannot say God is unfair. If our definition of God doesn’t match what we see going on around us, it isn’t God who is wrong. Rather, it is our concept of Him that is faulty.
Friends, the prosperity doctrine teaches us that we can control God with our good behavior, but the book of Job teaches us that no one can control God, and we are wrong to try. The prosperity doctrine teaches us that bad things don’t happen to good people. The book of Job teaches us that sometimes bad things do happen, and we would do well to embrace these times instead of wishing them away.
But that is just the book of Job. What about the rest of the Bible? Let’s take a look at Ps. 23: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…” (Vs. 4a, NKJV) and “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies…” (Vs. 5a, NKJV)
These verses make it very clear. We will sometimes walk in the valley of the shadow of death! We will spend time in the presence of our enemies! The abundant life isn’t a life without problems, it is a life full of God, a life that can go through problems because God has prepared a table before us in the presence of our enemies, because He does walk with us through the valley of the shadow of death!
Last week I told the story of how I had forbidden my son to drive to youth due to the snowy, slippery roads, and how this earned me the label of being mean and uncaring. This response was just his perspective on things. Because of his lack of experience, he didn’t see the potential dangers of the slippery roads and white-out conditions. My rule was simply put in place for his protection.
It’s the same with God. An abundant life in Christ doesn’t mean all of our desires will be handed to us on a silver platter. It doesn’t mean we’ll always understand why we are going through things. But just like I had an excellent reason behind my refusal to let my son drive to youth, God also always has good reason for what He does.
What might those reasons be?
Maybe, as would seem plausible in Job’s story, to help us clear up misconceptions of God and life. Or maybe to help cleanse us of defaults of character. Or maybe, as was the case with my teenage son, to protect us, even when we don’t realize we need protecting. But the bottom line is this: God cares. He is there, He is ever ready, not to keep us from the bad times, but rather, to help us through them.
What must God be thinking when we say things like, “God must not hear my prayers because He hasn’t answered them” and “God doesn’t love me because He hasn’t given me a raise?” Is He, perhaps, wanting to say, just like He said to Job of old: “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge…” (Job 38:2)?
This is the last lesson on The Prosperity Doctrine Exposed. If you have missed any of these lessons, you can find them here or email me here. And the next time we go through hard times, why don’t we try thanking God for them? It might change our perspective on things considerably!
Oh, and by evening the roads were clean enough that I felt comfortable with my son driving to youth…
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.)