Authentic Prosperity

Is it wrong to ask God for wealth?

Years ago we had a young friend who longed to be a missionary. He pursued his calling with proper training and education. In the process, in spite of holding down a couple of part-time jobs, he accrued significant debt.

Charles had a sincere heart, a great imagination and a terrific sense of humour. After watching several installments of Benny Hinn’s “Miracle Crusades,” he had a brilliant idea. He wrote a letter to the flamboyant televangelist explaining his passion to bring the gospel to the world. His financial situation had become a real obstacle. Since Mr. Hinn’s mission was so successful, perhaps he would consider making a contribution to Charles’ ministry. (What’s a little student loan compared to a net worth of $60 million?)

Nice try. The response came as a form letter – nothing more or less than the request for a donation to Benny Hinn Ministries. The implication was that sacrificial support of Benny Hinn would open up the floodgates of Heaven for the giver.

Judging by the success of prominent prosperity gospel ministries, there are apparently millions of people who do respond regularly to the call for cash. It’s a billion dollar business globally.

The health and wealth message seems to have its origins in North America, possibly dating back to the 1950’s healing revivals in the U.S. But it has radiated worldwide, with surprising impact in Africa (especially Nigeria), where tens of thousands of people subscribe to churches established by the likes of David Oyedepo (reported net worth: $150 million).

The Value of Money
People in Africa, who experience genuine, severe poverty, understandably seek relief from their dire circumstances. But what excuse do North Americans have to fall for what Steve Taylor called “charlatans in leisure suits?” Had they learned their Catechism, surely they’d be able to poke holes though this false gospel – gaps big enough to drive a Brinks truck through.

Am I a sour-puss Reformed party pooper? Sounds like a Calvinist stereotype. As a theological group, we’ve been painted with a wide brush dipped in staunch conservative paint. We’re typically perceived as a hard-working lot (possibly because we work hard to present ourselves that way), accustomed to making our money the old fashioned way – with wit, determination and elbow grease. Careful now – pride is the original sin.

But is it wrong to ask God for wealth? If it isn’t intrinsically sinful to be rich, then wealth is something we can legitimately pray for. However, the Bible has lots to say about money management, especially about ensuring that we’re not managed by our money.

The value of money comes only from what you do with it. The biblical call to financial stewardship never focuses on accumulating stuff or living a life of luxury. We’re mandated to use our money (as well as all our other resources) to bring glory to God. That means sharing what we have with those who might need it more than we do.

“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (I Tim. 6: 17-19, ESV).

In this season of thanksgiving, in this land of abundance, taking hold of that which is “truly life” seems an appropriate response to the blessings we’ve received. That’s authentic prosperity.

  • Heidi VanderSlikke lives on a farm in Mapleton Township with her husband Jack. They share their home with a gigantic Golden Retriever named Norton, who thinks he's a lap dog. Heidi and Jack have three happily married children and seven delightful grandkids.

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