The Prosperity Gospel – the belief that God rewards faithfulness to Him with health, wealth and fame – is incredibly damaging.
There are some who preach this openly – indeed, they build whole careers out of it.
But I believe that many Christians (even those who would openly distance themselves from Prosperity teachings) hold to beliefs that, when you scratch the surface, come back to the same heresy.
One of these beliefs that is quite common, is that when life is going well, this is God’s “blessing” on your life. That God is saying, by way of material or spiritual success, that he approves of your life.
In actual fact, if we look at the Bible, we see that many times it is the wicked who enjoy prosperity.
The Wicked Prosper Materially
You are always righteous, Lord,
when I bring a case before you.
Yet I would speak with you about your justice:
Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
Why do all the faithless live at ease?
You have planted them, and they have taken root;
they grow and bear fruit.
You are always on their lips
but far from their hearts.
Jeremiah is crying out to God about the injustice he perceives as wicked people have good lives.
And notice that it’s not just the wicked who prosper, it’s their way. The whole way they live their lives seems to work, it has worldly wisdom.
When the way you do life works, when you enjoy good fruit and prosperity, you might be tempted to think, “This is the right way to do things.” But remember, success is not evidence that God approves of your life.
And it’s not just “pagans” Jeremiah was talking about either!
He says, “You are always on their lips…”.
There are people who claim to follow God – they might talk about him all the time – but their hearts are far from Him.
This is an attitude that Christians need to seriously guard against by remaining in Christ. It is only through a true relationship with Christ that we will genuinely live to please God, and know that our lives are pleasing to Him (regardless of our material circumstances). I know I say it again and again (if I have one hobby horse, let it be this), but EVERYTHING in the Christian life comes down to relationship with Jesus.
God sees and knows our hearts – we can’t fake it with him!
The Wicked Prosper Spiritually
And it’s not only material prosperity.
There are people who equate spiritual success with God’s favour too.
See Matthew 7:21-27:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
You would think that if you are doing great wonders and miracles in Jesus’s name, that would be evidence that he approves of you as a person, and certainly that he approves of your ministry!
But here Jesus tells us that is not the case. And this won’t just be a few people, it will be “many”.
Do you really know Jesus? Or do you just assume that you must because you have a successful ministry?
The Real Danger
The real danger of equating our own success with God’s favour is that we will “succeed”all the way out the door of God’s kingdom. Success has a way of blinding us of to the spiritual reality.
If you recall the parable of the sower, the seed that falls among the thorns…
…refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.
Wealth and prosperity are deceitful. They trick us into thinking we are fine, when the spiritual reality is that we are dying.
We should be like Paul, when he writes, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.”
Let your success or lack of success be passing circumstances. And remember that they do not determine your spiritual reality.