Saturday, November 21, 2009

What Prosperity Has the Lord Promised Us? The Error of the Prosperity Preachers

"Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, and delighteth greatly in his commandments. His seed shall be mighty upon earth: the generation of the righteous shall be blessed. Riches and treasures shall be in his house, and his righteousness endureth forever."
- Psalm 112:1-3 (Geneva Bible, 1599)

In his book, The Gospel Covenant, New England Nonconformist and Congregationalist Peter Bulkeley comments on this text: "Here may be a mistake, in taking the promise to containe more than indeed it doth; when the Lord promiseth that riches and treasure shall be in the house of the righteous, what doth he mean by riches and treasure? not the riches of a Kingdome: or that which shall be sufficient for a man of a high degree; but such a sufficiency as is sutable to every ones estate and condition which God hath set them in: That which is want and poverty to one, may be fulnesse and abundance to another: That then is riches to any man, when God gives him so much as is sufficiently enough for him in his estate and condition, though he may still come short of many others of higher ranke; this is that which is promised." [spelling and grammar in the original]

Bulkeley's point is well-taken. While the Prosperity Gospel movement has turned such promises into "a Mercedes in every pot, and a chicken in every garage" - or is it the other way around? - that is certainly not what our Father in heaven promises. First of all, His provision is a covenantal blessing. Notice that the promise in the Psalm is sandwiched between references to righteousness and love of God's Law. That side of the coin is certainly foreign to the antinomianism of the prosperity preachers. And second, God never promises one person the treasures that He has given to another, but rather that which is provision and joy for each. It isn't need or suffering which undermines joy in life, but envy. Joy comes with contentment in the gifts that God has given me! In fact, in Hebrews 11:24-25, Moses is praised for rejecting the riches of Pharaoh's household, in order to enjoy his fellowship with God's people, a treasure indeed!

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