Which Gospel: Prosperity or Poverty?
Our lives aren’t all about money, but money touches almost every part of our lives. When you are a follower of Jesus, that’s especially true, and it’s important to take the time to learn what the Bible says about money.
Fortunately, that isn’t that hard to do. The Bible has a lot to say about money. Its pages cover working, and earning, and saving, and giving, and poverty, and debt, and etc. ad nauseum. You can learn a whole lot about money by reading the Bible.
Unfortunately, all of these different scriptures have led to a couple of conflicting theological schools of thought when it comes to Christians and their finances. Each have their standard bearers, and each have their critics. So, which is right?
Why don’t we start with a vague summary of each:
The Prosperity Gospel
This school of thought is shaped around the idea that God provides material prosperity for those he favors. Thus, if you are truly obedient to the Lord, you will be rewarded with growing wealth. If you have wealth, you’ve pleased God and have been blessed by him. Paying tithes consistently and giving a big offering with the right heart always results in a greater material return.
Godliness and righteousness in life can be gauged through prosperity.
The Poverty Gospel
According to this school of thought, poverty is required to experience true discipleship and sanctification. At best, wealth provides too much autonomy, and keeps the holder from experiencing true humility and dependence on God’s provision. At worst, it is sin, the result of selfishness and greed. To be truly obedient to the Lord, you must give up everything you own and live as simply and humbly as possible.
Godliness and righteousness in life can be gauged through poverty.
So, which is it?
The first ‘gospel’ has the benefit of synchronizing well with the “American Dream” that our culture idealizes. The second ‘gospel’ benefits similarly, though, as the very rich in America have been raised up as evil icons of a corrupt culture. We can look at Donald Trump and Mother Teresa and make a snap judgment about which is more holy. At the same time, everyday wealth is best gained through hard work, diligence, and living frugally, and those aren’t the bad qualities to have.
Which is it? Is God blessing the prosperous or the impoverished?
Why not both?
Why not neither?
The biggest problem with these two theologies is that they’re using finances as a sure measure of spirituality, and reality doesn’t match up. There are too many counter-examples to each of these ideas in the Bible, let alone the real world. God has called people to serve him from prosperity and poverty.
After all, none of our wealth is actually ours. It’s all been given to us. Whether we’ve been given a little or a lot, we’re called to manage it well, and use it to please God. Both prosperity and poverty are a gift from God to be used for his glory.
What do you think? Is it better to prosper or be poor? Which draws you closer to God?
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