Is It the Gospel of Redemption or Prosperity? :: By Gene Lawley

Mingled with the continual barrage of telephone calls and other inputs brought to our attention of scam opportunities to get rich, almost overnight, are the ones who claim to have heard “the voice of God” and that sending “seed money” to them will bring prosperity to the donor as automatically as the sun rises tomorrow. But the question we must ask is, “Does this message from God also connect with what He has said already in Scripture?”

Are there two messages from God—ask and He will give it—also, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33)?

Possibly between the two is that isolated B-attitude in Acts 20:35, “… And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Without question is the fact that God is a giver. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall have everlasting life.”

As one of my long-time mentors has maintained, “If God is a giver, who is He going to give to…?”

Probably one of the most compelling promises along this line is Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

As believers, we are told in Galatians 4:7 (TLB), “Now we are no longer slaves but God’s own sons. And since we are His sons, everything He has belongs to us, for that is the way God planned.”

But let’s cut the distinction much closer to what is lacking—the balancing factor in God’s economy. Consider this: God is love, but God is also just. The two are inseparably linked; you cannot have one and not the other.

So why doesn’t God give us everything we want, since He made such strong promises? There are at least two reasons, I have come to believe. One is that with abundance comes responsibility, which a merciful God does not lay upon those who cannot handle it. Imagine for a moment how you would respond if your days were bombarded with requests for donations, and you honestly wanted to help those who were the most in need.

As the Apostle Paul confessed of himself and his team, “We are sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing yet possessing all things” (2 Corinthians 6:10).

At least I want to be of that mindset.

My name is on every donor list that is out there, it seems. Hardly a day goes by without a request for a donation in my mailbox. Donor lists are regularly sold, I understand, and they cover political, medical, social, charitable, religious and Christian organizations. Many are worthy, no doubt, but we know that some are mere fronts for self-indulging purposes. This whole scenario became apparent during the Internal Revenue Service scandal two or three years ago, when it was reported that some 400 organizations were lined up to be approved for nonprofit status recognition by the IRS.

Coupled with the numerous scams that are constantly operating in the economy, it seems that the golden rule is taking a beating: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

The second reason God does not readily lavish upon us whatever we ask for is clearly laid out in James 4:3, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

In this response we have great protection from our selfish tendencies toward satisfying the lure of the flesh. God, who knows our hearts, merely says, “No.” It comes down to our willingness to let God be God in our lives.

“Having been born again by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5), God, therefore, looks for us to make mature spiritual decisions. Proverbs 3:5-6 is a great directive for our daily caution in that regard:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”

Someone once asked a millionaire what drove him to continue in his pursuit of wealth, for did he not have all that he needed? And his answer was, “more.” Jesus told a parable about that kind of person in Luke 12:16-21:

“Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’

“So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

The law of the tithe was very prevalent in the daily lives of the Jewish people in Old Testament times, and it is almost a required law in New Testament churches. Yet, New Testament believers are not under the law, but under grace. The New Testament does not mention tithing as a directive for the believer anywhere, except in discussions of the law as it applied to the Jews and their practices under the law.

Paul gives us the requirement of grace in 2 Corinthians 9:7-8: “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work.”

Paul wrote in Galatians 2:21, “If righteousness comes by the law, then Christ died in vain.”

We can see in the two previous verses that believers are in a relationship with God in which we are meant to make Spirit-led choices, not according to requirements of the law, but choices which do not contradict the laws of God.

As it says in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh.”

The gospel of redemption establishes the priority that submission to the Lord is first and foremost for the believer. This was brought out at the beginning of this article, but it also means that believers should submit to the sovereignty of God and His will for our lives—not making it a priority to search for wealth and abundance or anything else not in line with His desires for us. Romans 12:3 speaks to this:

“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”

Recently I quoted John 16:24 to my Sunday morning Bible class: “Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” I then asked them what would they ask of the Lord that would make their joy full. As I expected, there was an extended silence as they embraced that question.

What would you ask of Him in that regard? Psalm 37:4 comes to mind: “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”

So then, what should we do if a doorway opens that would lift us upward out of our current situation? Am I willing to step out on faith and check it out? Paul speaks to this in 1 Corinthians 7:21-22:

“Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it; but if you can be made free, rather use it. For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave.”

The Ask, Seek and Knock directive in Matthew 7:7-11 seems appropriate:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; and he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”

The Apostle, who bids us follow his example in our Christian journey, says of himself, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Philippians 4:11-12).

Perhaps out of that learning experience and observation he was able to conclude these truths that he wrote to Timothy:

“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness” (1 Timothy 6:9-11).

The gospel of redemption has to do with long-term preparation for eternity, while the “gospel of prosperity” is temporary and does not equip one for that eternal home where believers will reside. Like that rich farmer in the parable quoted earlier in the article, who knows what tomorrow will bring to our lives?

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