“He is like a tree planted beside flowing streams that bears its fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” (Psalm 1:3, CSB)
As Americans, we are obsessed with the idea of prosperity. Our entire society is built on the values of success, happiness, and prosperity. For many people, their highest ambitions in life are wealth, power, and popularity. This idea of prosperity has infiltrated the Church as well, with a whole movement of pastors and megachurches teaching a message dubbed the “prosperity gospel.”
The underlying premise of this false gospel (for that is what it really is) is that God wants you to be healthy, wealthy, famous, powerful, and successful. All it takes is the right amount of faith. If you’re materially blessed, it’s because you have good faith. If you don’t get the raise, can’t afford a bigger house or a better car, or don’t get healed of your cancer, it’s because you don’t have enough faith. The prosperity gospel is nothing more than the American Dream articulated in Bible-words. It is not the gospel proclaimed by Scripture.
To be sure, the Bible does speak of prosperity, like in Psalm 1:3. But I think it means something altogether different than what the leaders of the prosperity gospel and pop culture say. To “prosper” in the biblical sense is to fulfill the purpose for which you were created. Psalm 1:3 describes a tree that is prosperous: it bears fruit in season, and its leaves never wither. The tree is accomplishing what God created it to do– that is prosperity.
You can have all the money you want, all the power you want, and all the toys you want. You can have parties, friends, and booze. You can be famous. And you can still be miserable. You can live a chaste life that would give the Amish a run for their money, you can go to church every time the doors are open, and you can be so obsessed with family time that your family becomes an idol. And you can still be miserable.
Prosperity is not about being rich and famous. It’s not about being healthy and wise. It’s not even about being humble and meek. It’s about being who God made you to be, doing what God calls you to do; discovering and fulfilling the purpose for which you were created. My prayer for you this week (and this year) is that you will truly prosper in 2018.
On December 31, I challenged LakeView Church to read a chapter of Psalms each day for the first 150 days of the year. I’ll be doing the same thing and blogging weekly with some reflections. I’d love for you to read through Psalms with us and share your thoughts as well!