We have all heard the term “prosperity doctrine” used quite often recently. It’s used to describe pastors or churches with a bent towards feel good messages and a Christian life that’s described as effortless, comfortable, smooth and prosperous. Grace and blessings will abound in the Christian’s life with little to no troubles and suffering. Unfortunately, that is not the truth. Unfortunately, it’s not just mega churches and charismatic pastors who are responsible for spreading the prosperity doctrine. I see it every day, a pastor giving a message, a believer sharing advice, a believer trying to encourage someone else, a post on social media or maybe just a mention in a conversation. Quoting scripture out of context, without the surrounding verses or even cutting part of the same verse itself out is an incomplete picture of the gospel. It happens frequently with some of the most popular verses that we are all familiar with or at least, think we are familiar with. There’s a tendency to focus on the prosperity and promises of GOD without the complete truth of the word.
One verse I see taught, quoted and posted quite often out of context is Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Most people hear or read this by itself and think “for the good” means getting everything we want. But, if you actually read Romans 8:29 along with it, the truth of the Word is revealed.
Romans 8:29 “…for those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” Conformed to the image of His Son means we are progressively sanctified to become more like Jesus every day. The process of being conformed can however, be uncomfortable, even painful. So, when the meaning of Romans 8:28-29 is truly revealed it means that God works all things to the benefit of transforming you to be more like Jesus. That’s quite different from the prosperity thinking of God works all things for my good as I define it.
This verse has been misquoted by omission of the 2nd half of the verse and ignoring the very first word in the verse. Luke 6:38 “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom.” That sounds so great, my provision will be running over. One problem is, if you view provision as only material things, you may be missing all else that the Lord provides. In addition, people leave out the 2nd half and brush over the first word, and just see the overabundance part. The 2nd part of the verse often left out says – “For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” Well, that changes things a bit. When the entire verse is read it’s saying, as you give to others it will be given back to you. In other words, your blessing from God is equal to the blessing you bring to others. Luke 6: 38 “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” Scripture can only speak truth when we allow the whole truth to be revealed.
Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Now, in the NIV, it actually uses the word prosper which leads many people to look at the prosperity and blessings of the Lord only. The truth is this verse is meant to give us more than encouragement in times of trouble, it’s meant to be more than a promise of prosperity. When you put verse 11 in context with verse 12 and 13 it’s telling you what to do in times of trouble, and how. Jeremiah 29:12-13 “Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” The Lord is telling us to come to him, pray and seek him with all your heart. In other words, in your sufferings lean into and onto Him, pray, submit and obey. What is good for us, what will or will not harm us in our minds and hearts can be far from what God knows is actually best. Just as in Romans 8:28-29 said, our good is being conformed to the likeness of Jesus, our prosperity in God’s eyes isn’t a life free of pain and suffering, but a life that is progressively sanctifying you to be more and more like Christ each day.
Deuteronomy 4:2 “Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.” Clearly God doesn’t want us adding or subtracting from His word. When we pull verses out of context or only quote part of a verse we are guilty of this. The truth is God does make us promises that He will keep, but we can’t manipulate the word to make it say what we want. So make sure you examine the way you are spending time in the word, what you are telling yourself and others from the word of God and to speak the truth of the whole Gospel. If, we aren’t careful we can all be guilty of spreading prosperity gospel. We will be doing a disservice to ourselves, to others and mostly we will fail to glorify God through the truth of His word.
~ Mark T.