Divine prosperity and basic necessities

divine prosperity?Twenty or so years ago, prosperity preachers used to say that if you were driving a Chevrolet instead of a Cadillac, you were living beneath your privileges and probably didn’t have the faith to live in divine prosperity. Maybe some of them still do. I stopped paying attention.

I believe in divine prosperity, so long as we let the Bible define it. 2 Corinthians 8-9 constitute the greatest fund raising letter in history. Paul wanted to raise a huge donation for the church in Jerusalem, and here is what he promised that generous people would receive: enough for every need and abundance for every good work (2 Corinthians 9:8).

A few verses later (v.11), he said generous givers would be rich in every way so they could be generous in every way.

But this same man who promised God would supply all of our needs, also warned against the love of money and suggested that we should be content if we have food and clothing (1 Timothy 6:8).

So what do we need?

Generally, food and shelter are considered basic human necessities, but Paul said food and clothing. Perhaps with the cultural emphasis on hospitality in Jewish culture in those days, shelter wasn’t as much on his radar.

After all, Paul left Athens for Corinth and arrived lonely and broke. One of the first things he did was find a fellow Christian tent maker named Aquilla and move in with him to work in his tent making business.  Aquilla provided shelter, but Paul probably still had to supply his own food and clothing.

So let’s say we need food and shelter. What else do we need?

I need a computer for the work I do. But do I need to do the work I do? No. I could get food and shelter doing something else.

Would I then need a car? Get serious. People lived quite nicely without cars for centuries. People nearly always lived within walking distance of where they worked.

I live in a house. That takes care of shelter. Do I need as much house as I have? Most Americans occupy more space than they really need. More to the point, even slums provide amenities beyond the basic necessities. 

Do we need central heat or indoor plumbing? Be honest. They’re nice to have, and much of the world still doesn’t have them. They are not necessary. Even the poorest Americans have a lot of downright luxuries.

Contentment vs greed

Advertisers try to make us greedy. Political pressure groups of all kinds try to make us feel like someone else’s victims who are not getting our rights. No one in the world proclaims contentment with what we have. But the Bible certainly proclaims it to the world.

Malachi 3:10 promises those who bring the full tithe to God that he will open the windows of heaven and pour out an overflowing blessing. That’s certainly divine prosperity. That’s certainly a divine generosity that goes wildly beyond meeting bare necessities. And I want every bit of it!

But preaching divine prosperity as requiring that we acquire fancy and expensive stuff beyond basic necessities gets dangerously close to the love of money. Godliness with contentment is great gain.

Let’s gripe less about what we lack and give thanks more for the abundance we already have.

Do you suppose that generosity to others and to God himself would bring about some of that overflowing blessing? So Christians could use their divine prosperity to bless others?

Photo credit: Some rights reserved by James Jordan.

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