A peculiar and seductive message is being proclaimed by many preachers all over the world: this message is called ‘prosperity message’. The best known proponents of the ‘prosperity message’ are: Kenneth Hagin, late pastor of the Rhema Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, founders of Kenneth Copeland Ministries in Forth Worth, Texas; Bob and Marte Tilton, founding pastors of the Word of Faith Church, Farmers Branch, Texas; John Osteen, pastor of the Lakewood Church, Houston, Texas; Jerry Savelle, evangelist and former associate of Kenneth Copeland; Charles and Frances Hunter, founders of the City of Light, Kingwood, Texas; Charles Capps, a preacher who is headquartered in England, Arkansas; and Frederick Price, pastor of Crenshaw Christian Center in Los Angeles; Benny Hinn, former pastor of Orlando Christian Center in Orlando, Florida; Creflo Dollar, founder and senior pastor of World Changers Church International in College Park, Georgia; John Avanzini, founder of International Faith Center in Haltom City, TX; and Paul Crouch, founder of Trinity Broadcasting Network, Santa Ana, CA.
This message is called ‘prosperity message’ because those who proclaim it say very clearly that it is God’s will for every believer to prosper and succeed in every area of life. Frederick Price says: ‘It is God’s perfect will that everyone prosper in every area of life’ (Frederick Price, High Finance: God’s Financial Plan, Tulsa, Harrison House, 1984, page 12). To support this they quote the following biblical passage: “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 2 – NKJV). This means that a poor or sick believer is outside God’s will for his life.
Let me explain to you now what the proponents of the prosperity message teach about poverty and sickness, and how every believer can become wealthy and healthy.
How to be wealthy
Poverty is a curse. Gloria Copeland says: ‘Poverty and lack are a part of the curse of the Law …. The curse of the law definitely included financial reversal’ (Gloria Copeland, God’s will is prosperity, Harrison House, Tulsa, 1978, page 45); and Jerry Savelle says: ‘In God’s sight poverty is a curse ….” (Jerry Savelle, Godly Wisdom for prosperity, Tulsa, Harrison House, 1980, page 86). However, since Christ died on the cross to deliver us from the curse of the law, as it is written: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’) Galatians 3:13 – NKJV , He delivered us from poverty as well, so that we might be rich like Abraham; yes, like Abraham. For Paul says that Christ delivered us from the curse of the law “that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:14 – NKJV), and this blessing of Abraham is financial as well as spiritual. Are we not Abraham’s seed? So we are heirs of his blessing. Therefore Christ died for us so that we might become rich; Savelle says: “Prosperity for God’s people is just as much a part of the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus as His being made sin with your sin. Jesus not only died for your sin; He became sick with your sickness; He was made poor that you might be made rich’ (Jerry Savelle, Godly Wisdom for prosperity, page 53). This is confirmed by Paul when he says to the Corinthians: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9 – NKJV). God has promised to make every believer prosperous in material things because of His covenant with Abraham; that is to say, the covenant made with Abraham places God under obligation to prosper every believer: ‘Because of His promise, God will multiply you exceedingly and make you exceedingly fruitful. God has obligated Himself to bless you as He blessed Abraham’ (Gloria Copeland, God’s will is prosperity, page 15). Isaac, Jacob and Joseph became extremely rich because of their relationship to the Abrahamic Covenant.
Possession of the wealth provided through the Abrahamic Covenant is achieved by knowing, obeying, and believing.
First a Christian must know the promise before the promise can be claimed. Savelle says: ‘If a person doesn’t know it is God’s will for him to prosper, it is highly improbable that he will prosper’ (Jerry Savelle, ‘True Prosperity – What is it?’ Christian Life, July 1983, page 47) A believer who is unaware that prosperity is his is like the passenger on a cruise ship who ate only cheese and crackers because he did not know that meals were included in the price of the ticket.
Second, a Christian must be obedient. Savelle says: ‘If he doesn’t obey the laws of God that produce prosperity, he will not be able to appropriate them …. Obedience is the key to prosperity! If we are willing to obey God’s commands in every area of our lives, we will prosper. If we don’t obey, we won’t prosper. It’s that simple’ (Ibid., page 47-48), This means that he must pay tithe and give offerings to God’s work. As Price puts it, ‘Tithing is God’s primary way of materially and financially blessing His people’ (Frederick Price, , High Finance: God’s Financial Plan, page 69). Savelle says: ‘Giving is very important for prosperity’ (Jerry Savelle, Godly Wisdom for prosperity, page 110).
Third a Christian must exercise faith in God’s promises by asking for riches in faith or rather by commanding riches to come to him: ‘Take authority over them and command them to come to you in the Name of Jesus. Command the money you need to come to you. The authority is yours. Have dominion and subdue the earth and its vast resources’ (Gloria Copeland, God’s will is prosperity, page 49) This is done in obedience to the following words of Jesus: “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11:22-24 – NKJV). In other words, the motto of the prosperity movement is, ‘You can have what you say!’ For words have creative power. The things we say, especially the favors we demand of God, must all be stated positively and without wavering, then God is required or compelled to answer. Gloria Copeland says: ‘Words are the bridge between the physical world and the spiritual world …. What you say with your mouth is what you are going to get – even though you might desire something else’ (Ibid., page 82), and Kenneth Hagin says: ‘You always get and have in your life what you believe for and say’ (Kenneth Hagin, Don’t blame God, Faith Library Publications, Tulsa, 1980, page 3-5). Gloria Copeland recounted the story of how she obtained an expensive diamond ring through exercising faith. Frederick Price, by exercising ‘faith’, has got in ‘the name of Jesus‘ a 25 room mansion, a 6 million dollar yacht, a jet, an helicopter and 7 luxury automobiles. Man is a ‘God-like creature’ or a ‘little god’ for he was made in the image and likeness of God, therefore his words have authority to create every time he speaks. Just as God created the heavens and the earth by His word, as it is written: “He spoke, and it came to be” (Psalm 33:9 – NIV), so man can create things or speak things into existence by his words. If he speaks positive words and in faith, he will surely receive what he wants. With regard to the divine nature of man Kenneth Copeland says: ‘You don’t have a God in you, you are one!’ (The Force of Love, 1987, Tape #02-0028); and Kenneth Hagin says: ‘You are as much the incarnation of God as Jesus Christ was’ (The Word of Faith, December 1980, page 14). This means that a believer must never say to God ‘If it be thy will’ or ‘thy will be done’ for he has full control over his circumstances, he has been given all authority in the earth and God is not going to override his authority! If he says to God, ‘If it be thy will’ he is calling God a fool!
At this point you may ask, ‘How much wealthy will a Christian be if he does what the proponents of this message teach?’ Well, it depends on the amount of money you give for God’s work (of course each preacher wish and exhort people to give money to him). Listen what Gloria Copeland has written: ‘You give $1 for the Gospel’s sake and $100 belongs to you; give $10 and receive $1.000; give $1.000 and receive $100.000 … Give one house and receive one hundred houses or one house worth one hundred times as much … In short, Mark 10:30 is a very good deal.’ (Gloria Copeland, God’s will is prosperity, page 48). You receive materially from God in proportion to how much you sow or give (cf. Luke 6:38). Here is what Tilton says: ‘I started noticing good things showing up around me. I gave away a pair of shoes, then I noticed three or four pairs came back. I kept giving watches away, then I noticed a very expensive Rolex watch jumped onto my wrist’ (Tilton, God’s Laws of Success, page 137).
This is God’s formula for prosperity. Why should a Christian become rich? He should become rich so that he might meet the needs of others, but also that he might give Christ a successful image! On the other hand, a Christian is a son of the King of kings, so why should one be offended at hearing that God wants us to have luxurious homes, cars and clothes? Hear what Frederick Price says: ‘If the Mafia can ride around in Lincoln Continental town cars, why can’t the King’s Kids?’ (Faith, foolishness or presumption, page 34). Furthermore, Jesus Himself was a rich man, so we should follow His steps. ‘That’s the reason why I drive a Rolls Royce. I am following Jesus’ steps’ said Mr. Price (‘Ever Increasing Faith’ program on TBN December 19 1990). Therefore, if we have a modest house, if we wear modest clothing, and we drive a modest car, we can’t give Christ a successful image! That’s why these preachers never say that we should live in modest houses, wear modest clothing and drive modest cars: for through modest things we do not give Christ a successful image!
Why don’t all Christians prosper then? Because they aren’t operating in God’s financial plan, they are not obeying God. Harold Hill summarises the different reasons as follows: ‘Ignorance, unbelief, and disobedience … rob us of the manifestation of the prosperity promises of God’ (Harold Hill, The money book for King’s kids, Old Tappan, Fleming H. Revell Company, 1984, page 96). Therefore, if a Christian is not rich materially that means that God has not blessed him as He wants to because he doesn’t know nor believe the promises of God and as a consequence he does not do the will of God!
How to be healthy
Sickness, according to Deuteronomy 28 is a curse of the law, however Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law and thus He has redeemed us from the curse of sickness. Therefore Jesus died not only that we might be forgiven but also that we might be healed. The provision of healing is found in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, as it is written: “By His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5 – NKJV. Cf. 1 Peter 2:24). In the light of this, it is never God’s will for anyone to be sick. Here is what Kenneth Hagin has stated: ‘Don’t ever tell anyone sickness is the will of God for us. It isn’t! Healing and health are the will of God for mankind. If sickness were the will of God, heaven would be filled with sickness and disease’ (Kenneth Hagin, Redeemed from Poverty, Sickness, and Death, Tulsa, 1983, page 16), ‘…it is the plan of our Father God in His great love and His great mercy that no believer should ever be sick, that every believer should live his life full span down here on earth and that every believer should finally just fall asleep in Jesus” (Hagin, Seven Things You Should Know About Divine Healing, p. 21). Therefore God does not want any of His children to be sick or to die of sickness. Why is it the plan of God that no believer should ever be sick? Because God cannot be glorified in a sick body. Here is what Frederick Price has stated: ‘ … how can you glorify God in your body, when it doesn’t function right? How can you glorify God? How can He get glory when your body doesn’t even work? … What makes you think the Holy Ghost wants to live inside a body where He can’t see out through the windows and He can’t hear with the ears? What makes you think the Holy Spirit wants to live inside of a physical body where the limbs and the organs and the cells do not function right? … And what makes you think He wants to live in a temple where He can’t see out of the eyes, and He can’t walk with the feet, and He can’t move with the hand? … The only eyes that he has that are in the earth realm are the eyes that are in the body. If He can’t see out of them then God’s gonna be limited he’s not going to be helped…” applause (Frederick K.C. Price, “Is God Glorified Through Sickness?” Los Angeles: Crenshaw Christian Center, n.d., audiotape #FP605). Therefore, a Christian must be healthy in order to glorify God in His body.
How can he be healed? By His faith. Faith is defined as speaking or confessing something with authority in the full expectation that what is spoken will happen. Mark 11:23-24 confirms this definition of faith, for it is written: “Have faith in God. For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11:22-24 – NKJV). Therefore a Christian must name his healing and claim it. Here is what the Hunters say: ‘TALK TO THE DISEASE! Speak with authority and then believe! …. SAYING is a command to be healed! CONFESSING is believing for a future act or manifestation of the healing …. SAYING is giving authority to words, and CONFESSING is receiving the promise; both confessing and saying are calling into being something that does not exist at the present time’ (Charles and Frances Hunter, To Heal the Sick, Kingwood, TX, Hunter Books, 1983, page 64). Kenneth Hagin says that ‘faith’s confessions create reality’ (Kenneth Hagin, How To Turn Your Faith Loose, page 23). The confession of faith will cure any disease or physical handicap, since healing is always the will of God and has been provided for in the atonement. ‘Believe with your heart, and speak with your mouth’ they say, ‘and you will surely be healed!’ Words have creative power, and if you confess your healing you are going to be healed, because you are going to create the reality of your healing with your own mouth; that is a divine law.
But what if the words are spoken and faith is exercised and healing does not take place? This problem is overcome by patience and persistence. The sick are exhorted to persist in their confession and build up their faith to the level necessary to obtain the promised healing.
Though Jesus Christ was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, said: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30). Therefore we know that Christ left us an example and that we must follow it. Who would dare to say that Christ in certain things did not give a good example to us?
Let me start by saying that when Christ, the Son of God, was born He was laid in a manger, as it is written that Mary “brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7 – NKJV). A manger is a humble place, and the King of the Jews was laid right in a manger when He was born. God could have cleared a room in the inn for Joseph and Mary, but He did not, yet the child whom Mary brought forth was the Son of the Highest. Afterward Joseph and Mary moved into a house, in that the wise men from the East found the Child Jesus into a house, as it is written: “And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshipped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:11 – NKJV). The Scripture does not speak of a royal palace, but it speaks of a house. As for the gifts the wise men presented to Jesus, it must be said that they were not kept by Jesus as His own treasure on the earth, for He Himself said: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19 – NKJV); I say this because there are perverse people who make insinuations on what happened to those gifts. We destroy their insinuations because we know that Jesus was born without sin and He lived blamelessly in the days of His flesh (thus even in His childhood and in His youth).
Jesus, the Son of God, not only was born in a humble place, but also was born of humble parents, for His Father caused Him to be born of poor parents, and not of rich parents, who belonged to the house of David (God could have caused His Son to be born of rich parents, but He didn’t because it was not according to His will). That the parents of Jesus were poor is evident from the following things written by Luke: “And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;) And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons” (Luke 2:22-24). For according to the law a poor woman had to offer two turtledoves or two young pigeons – one as a burnt offering and the other as a sin offering – when the days of her purification were fulfilled, as it is written: “And when the days of her purifying are fulfilled, for a son, or for a daughter, she shall bring a lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, and a young pigeon, or a turtledove, for a sin offering, unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, unto the priest: Who shall offer it before the LORD, and make an atonement for her; and she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood. This is the law for her that hath born a male or a female. And if she be not able to bring a lamb, then she shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons; the one for the burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering: and the priest shall make an atonement for her, and she shall be clean” (Leviticus 12:6-8)
Jesus was poor in the days of His flesh, for it is written: “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9 – NKJV). Now I ask you, ‘Did Jesus own any luxurious houses on the earth?’ No, He didn’t. The King of the Jews did not live in a royal palace, nor did He wear expensive clothes or live in luxury, for He said that “those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces” (Luke 7:25 – NIV). So Jesus Christ did not live in a royal palace, yet He was the King of Israel. He could have lived as a King, but He didn’t live as a King; He preferred to make Himself of no reputation and to take the form of a bondservant so that He might serve.
The King of Israel in the days of His flesh was not dressed in purple nor did He wear a royal crown. He wore modest garments and a modest tunic which “was without seam, woven from the top in one piece” (John 19:23 – NKJV). The roman soldiers clothed Him with purple, as it is written: “Then the soldiers led Him away into the hall called Praetorium, and they called together the whole garrison. And they clothed Him with purple ….” (Mark 15:16-17 – NKJV) to mock Him, and they put a crown on His head …. but it was a crown of thorns, as it is written: “And they twisted a crown of thorns, put it on His head ….” (Mark 15:17 – NKJV).
He was the King of the Jews, however after He fed thousands of people with only five loaves and two fish, when He “perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone” (John 6:15 – NKJV). He did not seek the honor that comes from men, but the honor that comes from the Father, who sent Him. If He had sought the honor that comes from men, when He perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, he would not have departed again to the mountain by Himself alone.
Jesus entered Jerusalem not sitting on a white horse nor sitting on a royal litter borne by His disciples, but sitting on a donkey, as it is written: “Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written: “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt” (John 12:14-15 – NKJV)
Jesus not only proclaimed that He was humble in heart, but also showed His humility. He never set His mind on high things, but He associated with the humble. I say it again, He lived poor; yes brothers, it is so, for He did not have even two-drachmas to pay the temple tax. For He said to Peter: “Go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours” (Matthew 17:27 – NIV).
Jesus was poor and He could have become a very rich man if He had taught and healed for money, but He, unlike these preachers who are misled and of corrupt minds, did not think that godliness was a means to financial gain. For He pursued “godliness with contentment” (1 Timothy 6:6 – NIV), leaving us an example so that we should follow His steps.
Did Jesus Christ, being poor, not have a great faith in God? Was Jesus Christ a man of little faith, then, because He did not own anything on earth? Did He not exercise faith in God’s promises perhaps? Was Jesus outside God’s will? Certainly not, for He had a great faith in God and He showed His faith by working a great many signs and wonders and powerful works in the name of His Father, and by not asking for money, and also by laying down His life for us. The Righteous One lived by faith, while these idle talkers and rebels show their lack of faith because they ask for money as the beggars do; some of them even weep when they ask for money; some others curse those who give no money or a little money to their ministry. These people are merchants, who sell their sermons; each one of them fixes the price of his sermons (the more famous he is the bigger the price is). Where is this great faith in God they claim to have, who live in unrestrained luxury and give themselves over to the pleasures of life? They say that they trust in God, but actually they trust in their crooked ways and in their riches that they have heaped up by oppressing the saints with the passages of the Scripture which speak about giving. They have robbed the sheep of the Lord, snatching their money out of their hands through the most various pretexts; they have heaped up many riches through fraud, and then they dare to say, ‘Look how God has blessed me! Do you see it? The Lord honors those who honor Him!’ and many other beautiful but false words. And the simple believe their words, not knowing that these preachers have stolen many desperate people of their money. These preachers speak of their material things as if God gave them to them because of their upright and godly conduct; they say they are like Abraham, but that’s not true, for they are like Balaam. Abraham was called the friend of God, but these people are not friends of God but rather they are enemies of God, because they are friends of the world, as it is written: “Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4 – NKJV).
As we saw before, prosperity preachers assert that every Christian should become rich, so that he may give Christ a successful image! So I ask you, ‘What about Christ then, who lived poor? Shall we say that He did not give God a successful image? Certainly not! For He stated, “I honor My Father” (John 8:49 – NKJV). He was the Son of the Possessor of heaven and earth, and even though He lived poor He honored God. How? By keeping His commandments, that is to say, by living soberly, righteously and godly. So it follows that a Christian can honor God even if he is poor. There is nothing wrong with being poor, for even the only Begotten Son of God was poor in the days of His flesh. What matters is the keeping of God’s commandments, and among them there is no commandment which says somehow, ‘You must become rich!!’
However, while the Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus was poor, some of the prosperity teachers teach that Jesus lived in great prosperity (for instance, Benny Hinn stated, ‘The Lord was not poor. You could not be poor and feed twelve apostles and keep them alive!’): the reason is obvious, because by thinking like this, the believer is then free to receive his or her rich inheritance. Yes, because one of the reasons why some believers fail to prosper (that is, to become rich) ‘is because their subconscious mind has been conditioned into accepting the tradition that Jesus was poor; and it is as a result of such negative conditioning that building faith for prosperity sometimes fails’. And do you know what is the biblical proof that Jesus was rich? The garment that He wore at His crucifixion, which – according to these preachers – was a custom-made designer garment, the kind that kings and rich merchants wore: that’s why the soldiers who crucified Jesus cast lots over His garment!!!
Let me refute briefly what they assert. First of all, His tunic was not expensive because Jesus Himself stated that those who wear expensive clothes are in palaces (cf. Luke 7:25 – NIV) and He did not live in a palace. He did not own even a house, for He had “nowhere to lay His head” (Matthew 8:20 – NKJV). Second, it is inconceivable to think that a man whose heart was humble wore a custom-made designer garment. Third, it is a proven fact that the kind of tunic Jesus wore was not particularly unusual in Israel in the first century. Fourth, the practice of casting lots for the garment was a common tradition. So there was absolutely nothing particularly out of the ordinary about the clothes Jesus wore. Fifth, if Jesus had been rich and had lived in great prosperity, He would not have borrowed boats, a colt to ride into Jerusalem, a house for Passover, and He would not have been buried in a borrowed tomb. Don’t you think so?
The apostles were poor yet they made many rich
The apostles also were poor, for Paul wrote to the Corinthians that he and his fellow workers were poor yet they made many rich, they had nothing yet they possessed all things (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:10).
They were poor materially, but they made many rich spiritually; by them the Church was edified, and by the writings of Paul, who was poor and had nothing, the Church on the face of all the earth is still edified, made rich and comforted. We can’t say the same thing about these so called preachers, who destroy the vineyard of the Lord for they do not care about it, in that they all look out for their own interests. Of course, they are rich materially but they are poor spiritually, and through them the saints are not edified, either by their words or by their arid yet much expensive books, which speak above all of material prosperity, or rather of the way Christians can make money.
So the apostles of the Lord, though they were poor they made many rich. How did they make the saints rich? What kind of precious things did they impart to the saints?
Let us take Paul as an example. He said to the Romans: “But I know that when I come to you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ” (Romans 15:29 – NKJV). Therefore he was convinced that Christ would bless that Church through him (for he would come to them in the fullness of the blessing of the gospel of Christ). Let us see then how Christ would bless that Church. At the beginning of the epistle Paul said to the saints of Rome: “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established” (Romans 1:11 – NKJV). We learn from these words that Paul made the saints rich imparting to them some spiritual gifts (that means that the Holy Spirit imparted through Paul some gifts to the saints according to the will of God). God, through the laying on of the hands of Paul, gave the gift of the Holy Spirit to the saints (Paul said to Timothy: “I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” 2 Timothy 1:6 – NKJV), and some gifts of the Spirit (of course, according to will of God) as in the case of those disciples at Ephesus (who were about twelve in all), as it is written: “And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied” (Acts 19:6 – NKJV). Furthermore, the Lord healed the sick through Paul (at Ephesus “God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them” (Acts 19:11-12). Therefore, through the ministry of Paul, many sick people received their healing, which is a blessing of Christ, which cannot be bought with money. Paul enriched the saints in wisdom and knowledge because He delivered to them the wisdom and the knowledge he had received from the Lord Himself; we ourselves recognize that we have been enriched in wisdom and knowledge through the epistles of Paul. Isaiah says that “wisdom and knowledge are a rich store of salvation” (Isaiah 33:6 – Italian Bible Riveduta Version. The Italian words are, “La saviezza e la conoscenza sono una ricchezza di liberazione”). That’s why the apostles, to whom God gave wisdom and knowledge, were able to enrich those who listened to them.
I want to remind you, brethren, that when we speak of Paul, we speak of a man of God who never sought his own nor the material things which belonged to the saints, for he said to the Philippians: “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account” (Philippians 4:17 – NKJV). How many people can say the same thing today? God only knows. Certainly only a few can say the same words. Some preachers don’t seek at all the fruit that abounds to the account of the believers; for they seek the material things which belong to the believers: they are never content with what they have, the more they have, the more they wish to have. Among these preachers are those who preach the prosperity message, who show that they do not want to enrich the saints, for they want to become rich with the material things that belong to the saints. These preachers, instead of desiring the spiritual gifts, desire the gold and the silver which belong to the saints; these preachers, instead of building up the house of God, want to build their personal mansions and their own empire on the earth. They do the opposite of what the apostles did; on the other hand it can’t be otherwise, for these preachers concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck. Go and see with your own eyes what kind of life these preachers live, and you will realize that these preachers are not interested in edifying the Church nor do they desire the spiritual gifts, for they set their mind on earthly things and they are greedy for money.
The apostle Peter also was poor yet he made many rich. Let us take as an example what the Lord wrought through Peter at the gate of the temple which was called Beautiful. It is written: “And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms. And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God” (Acts 3:2-8). As you can see, Peter did not have any gold or silver to give to that beggar, but he had some spiritual gifts which he ministered to the others so that they might be blessed. In the above mentioned case, the Lord gave a complete healing to that lame through the apostle Peter. This incident leads us to reflect upon the importance of the faith and of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is certainly a good thing to give alms, for this is the will of God, however it is also a good thing to desire the gifts of the Holy Spirit, so that the Church may be edified and the sick may be healed by the power of God. Instead, when one begins to set his mind on earthy things he ceases to desire the gifts of the Spirit, and thus he does not want to edify the Church any longer. Paul said to the Corinthians concerning the spiritual gifts: “Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church” (1 Corinthians 14:12 – NIV); whereas those who preach Mammon (among whom are the proponents of the prosperity message) exhort you to excel in more and more material things. They want to make you want to become rich materially, but they do not want to make you want to become rich spiritually. They often say that at the beginning they were poor and afterward they became rich; however the tragic reality is that some of them at the beginning of their ministry were rich spiritually, and afterward they become poor and miserable.
Brothers, that’s what happens to all those who want to become rich. Therefore let us take heed to ourselves lest we find ourselves in the same spiritual condition of the angel of the Church of the Laodiceans.
However, as in the case of Jesus, many prosperity preachers assert that the apostles too were rich and lived in great prosperity. Fred Price, for instance, says, ‘The apostles were businessmen, they were rich men, and had plenty of money’. Otherwise, how could they have travelled around for 3 years without employment!!! This assertion – as I have already proved – is absolutely contrary to the Scriptures, and it proves that these preachers are conceited and understand nothing. The apostles were poor for they followed the footsteps of Jesus, while they have become rich for they have followed the footsteps of Balaam, who loved the wages of wickedness. Finally, I want to inform Mr. Price that the apostles could travel around for 3 years without employment for the simple reason that the women who followed Jesus supported both Jesus and His apostles out of their own means (cf. Luke 8:3 – NIV).
We have been enriched by Christ
Let us look now at the things that make rich all those who have them.
First of all it must be said that “Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:11 – NKJV) and in Him we are complete for “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3 – NKJV). Jesus Christ is the treasure hidden in a field that we have found; He is the pearl of great price which we have found; He is our gold. Jesus Christ is the heavenly gift that God gave us; He is the true God and eternal life. Jesus is also our peace and our hope, therefore anyone who has received Christ possesses everything, and even if he is poor in this present age, he is rich in the sight of God.
● The spiritual gifts, the ministry gifts, and the knowledge of the things of God
Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in every thing by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift ….” (1 Corinthians 1:4-7 – NKJV). We learn from these words that the gifts of the Spirit, the ministry gifts and any spiritual knowledge of the things of God are precious spiritual things, thus anyone who has them is rich.
James says: “Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” (James 2:5 – NKJV) God has chosen those who are poor in this present age to enrich them in faith, therefore the faith we believers have received from God (as it is written: “It is the gift of God” Ephesians 2:8 – NKJV) is a precious thing, which makes rich all those who have it.
Peter also confirms that our faith is precious, for he says at the beginning of his second epistle: “Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours” (2 Peter 1:1 – NIV). Brothers, you must understand that not all have the faith you have obtained (as it is written: “Not all have faith” 2 Thessalonians 3:2 – NKJV), and this faith is of great value in the sight of God. Therefore do not throw it away, or you will throw away the salvation of your soul and will condemn yourselves.
However, know this, that there is also a false faith, which is of no value because it is false.
From the words of James we learn also that those who have believed (being heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ) are heirs of the Kingdom of Christ and God, thus even if they are poor materially they are rich and happy. Jesus confirmed the happiness of the poor who had believed on Him, when, looking at His disciples, He said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20 – NIV). We proclaim, therefore, that the saints are happy and rich because God has made them heirs of His kingdom.
● God’s wisdom.
It is written: “Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding; for her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, and her gain than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, and all the things you may desire cannot compare with her” (Proverbs 3:13-15 – NKJV). Now since God said to man: “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom. And to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28 – NKJV), anyone who fears God has God’s wisdom (for the fear of the Lord produces wisdom), but anyone who does not fear God does not have wisdom. Oh, how precious is the fear of God! It is indeed his treasure, as it is written: “The fear of the Lord is a treasure from him” (Isaiah 33:6 – NIV).
Solomon was a very wise man for he had much wisdom, but he was a very rich man as well. The riches he had were great indeed; suffice it to say that “the weight of gold that came to Solomon yearly was six hundred and sixty-six talents of gold, besides what the travelling merchants and traders brought. And all the kings of Arabia and governors of the country brought gold and silver to Solomon” (2 Chronicles 9:13-14 – NKJV), and that in his days silver “was accounted as nothing” ( (2 Chronicles 9:20 – NKJV) for “the king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones” (1 Kings 10:27 – NKJV). Yet Solomon said: “There is gold and a multitude of rubies, but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel” (Proverbs 20:15 – NKJV), and again: “How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver” (Proverbs 16:16 – NKJV). That was Solomon’s way of thinking, who surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. However, today not all speak like Solomon, for even among the Church some consider riches more precious than God’s wisdom, and they are greatly mistaken. Those who think that material riches are better than wisdom have strayed from the faith; those who exalt material things above God’s wisdom (one can realize this when he hears them) are men of corrupt minds, who do not fear God. Beware of these people, lest you also become corrupt and stray from the faith.
● The Word of God is much more precious than material riches, for it is written: “The Law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver” (Psalm 119:72 – NKJV), and: “Therefore I love Your commandments more than gold, yes, than fine gold” (Psalm 119:127 – NKJV), and again: “The judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold” (Psalm 19:9-10 – NKJV). You see, brothers, those who love gold and silver are not satisfied with gold nor with silver, while those who love the Word of God are satisfied with it, because it comforts them when they are downcast, it strengthens them when they are weak, it rebukes them so that they might not be filled with troubles, it guides them in every circumstance of their life and it teaches them in all wisdom. Money is not able to do what the Word of God does; therefore, even though it is useful to all of us, it must not be considered more important than the Word of God. How rich are those who let the Word of God dwell richly in their heart! But how poor are those who don’t let the Word of Christ dwell in their heart! They love money more than the Word of God, what a folly! Their wallet is full of money, but their heart is completely devoid or almost devoid of the Word of Christ. They want to keep their money diligently, but they don’t want to keep the Word of God within them, for they no longer take their delight in it and they no longer pay attention to it. They no longer meditate on the Holy Scriptures nor do they study them; no, for they now study and meditate on the way they can deceive their neighbour in order to become rich as quickly as possible. They are running after luxury, or rather they are running after the wind, together with those who have a stubborn heart like theirs; they are poor and miserable, they show that they are and want to be poor and miserable.
● A good reputation and esteem
It is written: “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1 – NIV). Those who have a good reputation and are esteemed by their neighbour are those who fear God and keep His commandments; to them a good reputation and esteem are more important than riches and money, and thus they prefer to have a little with the fear of God and with a good reputation, rather than to have vast revenues without justice and with a bad reputation.
I want you to know that those who desire to be rich do not have a good reputation nor are they esteemed, for they “fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Timothy 6:9 – NKJV). That’s what happens to those who cease to be content with what they have, and begin to love money. Therefore beware of all these preachers, who are greedy for money and who do not care about a good reputation and esteem at all, lest your heart turn aside to their ways and thus you become corrupt like them.
These preachers, through their vain words, do not speak well of the believers who are poor, for they deceive people into believing that those believers who are poor are men of little faith or people who don’t know God’s promises or who don’t exercise faith in them. However I want to remind you that in the epistle to the Hebrews are written the following words about the ancients: “They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented – of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:37-38 – NKJV). Here is how those people were clothed (with sheepskins and goatskins and not with soft garments); here is what their social condition was (destitute, and not millionaires); here is how they were treated by the world (they were afflicted and tormented, and they were not given any prize); here is where they were compelled to wander (in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth). But do you know what the Scripture says about these people, of whom the world was not worthy? It says: “And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise” (Hebrews 11:39 – NKJV). The NIV reads: “They were all commended for their faith ….” Therefore, if on the one hand they were destitute, afflicted and tormented, on the other hand they pleased God through their faith and their conduct.
● Good works
Paul told Timothy to command those who were rich in this present age “to be rich in good deeds” (1 Timothy 6:18 – NIV), therefore those who are zealous for good works and abound in them are rich in the sight of God even if they are poor in the sight of men.
Know this, that those who do not forget to entertain strangers and to share live as wise, and they lay up for themselves treasures in heaven, and therefore they are rich in the sight of God, even if they may be poor in the sight of men. Paul made known to the Corinthians the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia to minister to the poor among the saints. Here is what Paul wrote to them: “Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints” (2 Corinthians 8:1-4 – NKJV). As you can see, the Churches of Macedonia, even though they were extremely poor, were rich in good deeds for they shared in the contribution for the poor among the saints generously, by giving beyond their ability, and Paul bore witness of their generosity.
Jesus, the Faithful and True Witness, gave this testimony of the angel of the church in Smyrna, which is similar to that which Paul gave of the Churches of Macedonia: “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich ….” (Revelation 2:9 – NKJV).
In the light of the above mentioned passages of the Scriptures, then, there are some poor among the saints who are rich in the sight of God, because they have treasures in heaven; and since one lays up for himself treasures in heaven by giving alms and doing every kind of good work, we must conclude that these poor are rich in faith, because by putting the Word of God into practice they show that they fully trust the Word of God. Do you think that a man of little faith would sell what he has and give alms, as Jesus said: “Sell what you have and give alms” (Luke 12:33 – NKJV)? Do you think that a believer who is poor, who gives beyond his ability, has a little faith in God? Is it not those rich who give out of their wealth those who show that they have a little faith in God? Do your remember that poor widow who put into the treasury just two mites? What did Jesus say about her? He said that she had put in more than all the others. Why? For she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on, whereas the rich had put in offerings for God out of their abundance. That poor widow demonstrated her faith in God and Her love toward the Lord in that way. That poor woman was really rich in faith and in good works!
But those who do not want to share show that they do not have faith in the Word of God. It is the covetous rich, and not the poor who give generously, who show that they have no faith in God and that they are outside God’s will.
Therefore it is not true at all that those who are poor have not a great faith in God; I am sure that when we are in heaven we will see that many brethren who were poor on the earth will be very rich, and some who were rich on the earth will have less treasures than those who were poor. So we will rejoice greatly in the Lord for God will manifest His very high righteousness before our eyes; within a short time we will see this with our own eyes.
● A gentle and quiet spirit
Peter said to the wives: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:3-4 – NIV).
A woman whose heart is adorned with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit is a rich woman, for she has something that is of great worth; something which is more precious than golden jewelry and costly clothing. The haughty women want to show that they are rich by wearing golden jewelry and costly clothing; while the woman who fears Gods shows that she is rich in the Lord by pursuing what is good for all and peace with all people. Therefore, according to the Scripture, between a rich woman clothed with fine clothes and adorned with very expensive golden jewelry, yet at the same time with a crafty heart, contentious and angry, and a poor woman yet strong and virtuous, who wears modest clothing and has a heart adorned with a gentle and quiet spirit, the latter is the richest.
● The reproach of Christ is very precious
These words may seem strange and incredible, but actually they are supported by the Bible. For the Scripture says: “By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he looked to the reward” (Hebrews 11:24-26 – NKJV).
As you can see, Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and chose to be afflicted with the people of God, for he esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. We also must esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of this world, because the reproach of Christ will be richly rewarded by God. Blessed and rich are then all those who are reproached for the name of Christ! Those who are outside think that these words of ours are absurd and that we are out of our mind; however, fear not, for they are confirmed by Jesus Christ, who still says to us: “Blessed are you when men hate you, and whey exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets” (Luke 6:22-23 – NKJV).
However, it must be said that today not all agree with Moses, for some esteem wealth greater riches than the reproach of Christ. Those who have such a mind must become fool that they may become wise and rich in God’s sight.
● The trial of our faith
The apostle Peter said: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:3-7).
Brothers, the trail we face in Christ, through which our faith is tested, is much more precious than gold which perishes, though it is refined by fire. Now I will show you that riches are less precious than the trial of our faith, by comparing what wealth produces with what our affliction produces.
Riches do these things: they make many friends but they produce many troubles and sorrows and worries to those who long for them and gain them; in addition, they deceive those who trust in them and keep the Word of God from bearing fruit in them, and eventually riches drown them in destruction and perdition. This is the reason why Solomon said that “whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income” (Ecclesiastes 5:10 – NIV) and that “riches do not profit in the day of wrath” (Proverbs 11:4 – NKJV). What does our affliction produce, instead? Paul says that “tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope:” (Romans 5:3-4). As you can see, affliction produces directly patience and indirectly experience and hope. James confirmed the words of Paul, saying: “The testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:3-4 – NKJV). By afflictions we are perfected by God and thus we are bound to thank God for them, for they produce patience in us, which is so precious in our life and which we all need in order to receive what God has promised to us. If afflictions did not produce some good to us, Paul would not have said: “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake” (2 Corinthians 12:10 – NKJV). However, he said those words because he experienced the power of God in the midst of his afflictions and through them he was strengthened by God; so he could say: “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10 – NKJV).
Have you never read the Scripture which says: “He who oppresses the poor makes him rich” (Proverbs 22:16 – Italian Bible Riveduta Version)? Do you know why the poor becomes rich when he is oppressed? Because his affliction produces patience and an eternal weight of glory, as it is written: “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Corinthians 4:17 – NKJV). Yes, for our afflictions work for us even glory. This was confirmed also by Peter in this way: “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7). These are the reasons why we can say with all boldness that the proceeds of affliction are better than the profits of gold, which is refined by fire.
One of the peculiarities of those who preach the prosperity message is this: they do not speak about afflictions and persecutions, as if they were things which believers are not called to experience during their life. However, afflictions and persecutions are experienced daily by all those who want to live godly in Christ Jesus, therefore we cannot help speaking about them. If we did not speak about the afflictions and persecutions which every believer is called to endure for Christ’s sake, we would lead believers to believe that the life of those who turn to the Lord is a life without afflictions. The reason why these preachers (or rather, most of them) do not speak about these things is that they think that a Christian should not suffer for righteousness’ sake (and furthermore they know that people prefer to hear about wealth). However, what kind of Christian is a Christian who does not suffer? How can these preachers preach this heresy, when Jesus said: “In the world you will have tribulation …. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 16:33; 15:20 – NKJV), and the apostles said that “we must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22 – NKJV)? That the saints are not called to suffer in this world can’t be demonstrated through the Scriptures nor through the facts; rather the Scriptures and reality show exactly the opposite. Let me quote, for instance, the following words Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day” (1 Corinthians 4:11-13). Do they not show that those who preach the Word of God have many enemies and endure all kinds of persecutions? However, those who preach the prosperity message do not like these words. Their Gospel is devoid of afflictions, their sermons are about success and money; on the other hand, how could they preach that we must deny ourselves, when they themselves have not yet denied themselves? Their message is attractive and seductive for this reason also: because it is devoid of these subjects. Every message which does not put emphasis on the afflictions which a believer must endure on earth will always find many people willing to accept it, for today almost nobody wants to hear that we must suffer for the Gospel’s sake. Almost all want to hear only that God loves us, that He will meet all our needs, that He is good and ready to forgive all those who come to Him. Furthermore, if one adds to these words that he who comes to the Lord won’t have any problems any longer, and that God will make him prosper financially and He will allow him to live like a king’s son, then the message will achieve much more success.
Beloved, let no one of these idle talkers deceive you, for Jesus said: “And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38), and: “So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). Whereas these preachers would like you to follow the Lord without you taking your cross and denying yourselves. Know this, that unless one denies himself and takes his cross, he cannot follow the Lord. For the Christian path is full of sufferings and sacrifices. As for me, I have not found the footprints of Christ in a comfortable path, where there are no necessities nor persecutions nor distresses, but in a narrow path where one must endure a great struggle with sufferings and many afflictions every day because of righteousness. This is the path in which I began to walk, and in which I want to walk with my Lord till the end; the comfortable paths without persecutions but with the pleasures of life have nothing to do with the holy way; do not walk in them for they lead far from the Lord and His commandments.
Being poor in this world is not a dishonour
Let us now come to one of the statements which is made very often by the prosperity preachers, which is this: ‘God does not want any of His children to be poor, but He wants all His children to be wealthy.’
According to the Scripture, there will always be poor in the midst of the people of God; there were poor people among the saints of old, and there will be poor people among the saints in this generation as well. Now why are there some poor believers in the midst of God’s people? The reason is that not all believers live in the same country and enjoy the same favourable conditions from a climatic and economic and political standpoint. Let me explain this concept. The Scripture says: “The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11 – NKJV). This means that it is not sufficient to be swift to win a race, nor strong to win a battle, nor wise to have bread, nor men of understanding to have riches, nor men of skill to obtain favor, for all men depend on time and circumstances. Let us see now through the Scriptures how the economic situation of a country changes when circumstances change.
● During the life of Jacob it came to pass that God “called for a famine in the land; He destroyed all the provision of bread” (Psalm 105:16 – NKJV). God sent that famine, which was very severe, upon all the earth because He had decided to send Jacob and his household to Egypt. The going down of Israel to Egypt (where Joseph in the meanwhile had become governor of Egypt and where there was plenty of grain) had been foretold by God to Abraham, and God used that severe famine to cause Israel to go down to Egypt. Now bear in mind that when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt he said to his sons: “Indeed I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down to that place and buy for us there, that we may live and not die” (Genesis 42:2 – NKJV). As you can see, Jacob, who was a man whom God had blessed by giving him large flocks and many oxen, donkeys and camels, was near death because at a certain point he did not have any bread any longer (and all this came to pass by the will of God). In this case the land of Canaan was plunged into poverty by God’s will, and Jacob took the consequences. However it must be remembered that God saved the life of Jacob and his household from death by a great deliverance worked through Joseph (for Joseph, when he made himself known to his brothers, said to them: “God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance” (Genesis 45:7 – NKJV).
God strikes the countries on the earth by not sending rain on them, and when this happens abundance comes short and poverty starts, for the earth withers and does not produce its fruit any longer, and the animals die of thirst. When this happens, the believers who live in that country take the consequences for they find themselves in need.
In the days of the prophet Elijah, God did not send rain on the land of Israel for three and a half years, for the children of Israel had forsaken the Lord, had killed His prophets and turned to idols. God sent that period of drought to punish the children of Israel, and since Elijah at that time lived in Israel he too find himself in need. However God met his needs. At the beginning He sent Elijah to hide by the Brook Cherith, where for a certain period of time He sent to him some ravens which brought him some bread and meat in the morning as well in the evening; then, when the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land, God sent Elijah to a widow who lived in Zarephath, in the region of Sidon, to whom God had commanded to provide for him. Elijah was an upright and holy man who obeyed God, yet he found himself in need by the will of God, because of a drought. Elijah did not find himself in need because he disobeyed to God and thus God punished him; nor did he find himself in need because he had forsaken the Lord and God cursed him. He was a holy man who was very zealous for the Lord and in the midst of the distress in which he found himself God worked some wonders for him; first He sent to him some ravens to bring him meat and bread, and afterward at Zarephath He kept the bin of flour from using up, and the jar of oil from running dry till the day the Lord sent rain on the earth (cf. 1 Kings 17:1-16).
● After God delivered the children of Israel out of the hand of Pharaoh, He made a covenant with them, according to which He promised that He would bless them if they would obey Him, keeping His commandments. However God told the Israelites that He would curse them and made them poor if they would forsake Him and turn to idols. That’s what happened to the children of Israel when they cast the law of God behind their back. So God made them become poor because of their wickedness. Here is what the book of Judges says about the economical condition in which the children of Israel found themselves after they rebelled against God: “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD: and the LORD delivered them into the hand of Midian seven years. And the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel: and because of the Midianites the children of Israel made them the dens which are in the mountains, and caves, and strong holds. And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came up against them; And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass. For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it. And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD” (Judges 6:1-6). As you can see, in this case God sent the enemies of the children of Israel to ravage the land of Israel because of the wickedness of the children of Israel. Therefore the children of Israel became poor because God made them poor (remember that it is written: “The Lord makes poor …” 1 Samuel 2:7 – NKJV).
God still punishes many countries and make them poor by sending foreign armies against them which take hold of their material goods, their flocks and their crops; when this happens the believers, who live in these countries, also take the consequences for they see their material goods run short. When this happens we can say that poverty comes by the will of God, and therefore the believers who live in the country punished by God begin to be in need by the will of God. Know this, that when God wants to teach us to suffer need (Paul was taught by God “both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” Philippians 4:12 – NKJV) He accomplishes His purpose and no one can prevent Him from doing it. Therefore, know this, that God can use even a war to teach us, who live in Italy, to suffer need.
● God can appoint a despot over a country to make the people of that country poor; and in this case also the Church of God which is in that country would take the consequences, and would find itself in need.
In ancient times God appointed king Saul, son of Kis, over the children of Israel, and He made known to the Israelites the behaviour of Saul even before he became king. Here is what the prophet Samuel said to the Israelites at God’s command: “This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work” (1 Samuel 8:11-16). That Saul oppressed the children of Israel is confirmed by the fact that while he persecuted David “every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him [David]; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men” (1 Samuel 22:2).
● If a dictator becomes the ruler of a country and the saints begin to be persecuted and put in prison, it will happen that many families will be deprived of their breadwinners and thus they will find themselves in need. This is what happens in many countries where Christians are persecuted: the husbands who are put in prison for the Gospel’s sake are no longer able to provide for those of their household and thus they begin to experience poverty. We know that the persecutions against the saints take place because God wants to purify them, for we know that when the saints are persecuted they are humbled by God and in the midst of their distresses they begin to demonstrate toward one another a sincere and fervent love, that love which comes short during the years of great plenty and freedom because of selfishness and haughtiness. Believers, when they are persecuted, begin to experience all kinds of financial straits, but they begin also to help those who are the most persecuted. If the governing authorities began to persecute the saints by plundering their goods because of the Gospel, the believers who have plenty of goods would begin to be in need by the will of God; however they would accept all this joyfully (the Scripture says: “You … joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and enduring possession for yourselves in heaven” Hebrews 10:34 – NKJV).
However, while on the one hand these unfavourable circumstances produce poverty, on the other hand they give those believers who have plenty of goods an opportunity to do good to those believers who find themselves in need; therefore, after all, these hostile circumstances work together for good to those who love God.
Is it then normal or not that among God’s people there are some believers who are poor? According to what the Scripture teaches, we should not be surprised at the presence of some poor among the saints, rather I would like to say that there must be some poor among the saints, for Jesus said to His disciples: “The poor you have with you always …” (John 12:8 – NKJV), and in the law it is written: “The poor will never cease from the land ….” (Deuteronomy 15:11 – NKJV).
Now let us see whether it is true that God wants us to become rich for it is not for the saints to be poor, as the prosperity preachers say.
First of all, it must be said that if things were so, Jesus did not do the will of God for He lived poor. Did Jesus, who was the Son of the King of kings, dishonor God through His way of life? Certainly not! Otherwise He could not have said to the Jews: “I honor My Father” (John 8:49 – NKJV). Jesus knew the will of His Father, why then did He not wish to become rich? Why did He, who had a great faith in God, not ask God for riches nor did He ask God to make Him live in luxury as was fitting for a King’s son? The reason was that He came into the world not to do His own will but the will of His Father, as He Himself said: “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38 – NKJV).
Furthermore if we asserted that God wants us to become rich, that would mean that we ought to desire to become rich for this is the will of God for us. However, that would also mean that God wants us to fall into temptation. Why do I say that? Because the Scripture says that “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Timothy 6:9 – NKJV). Therefore, since God wants us to stand we must conclude that it is not His will for us to be rich in this present age (why don’t these preachers say that it is the will of God for us to be rich in the world to come?)
However, there is something else which needs to be said: if it is God’s will for all of us to be rich, then we have the right to ask God for plenty of riches, being confident that He hears us, for John says: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (1 John 5:14 – NKJV). But if things were so the Scripture would be set aside which says: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3 – NKJV). As you can see, the words of these preachers are nullified by the Scripture unequivocally.
Now I want you to pay attention to the following words Paul wrote about the saints of Thessalonica, so that you may realize that – unlike what is said by the prosperity preachers – to be poor is not a scandal nor a disgrace for the doctrine of God. Paul said to the Corinthians about the churches of Macedonia (among which was the Church of the Thessalonians): “Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints” (2 Corinthians 8:1-4 – NKJV) Therefore, the saints of Thessalonica were poor, for Paul referring to the churches of Macedonia said that they were extremely poor. Now if being poor had been a disgrace or if God had wanted them to become rich or if they had been outside God’s will, Paul would have said that to them somehow in the epistles he wrote to them, but nowhere in his epistles to the Thessalonians Paul hinted at such a thing. Rather it must be said that the saints of Thessalonica, even though they were extremely poor, were an example to the believers of Macedonia (who were poor) as well as to the believers of Achaia, such as the Corinthians, who abounded in material goods. This is the reason why Paul and his fellow workers thanked God for the saints of Thessalonica. Listen to what Paul wrote to them: “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth; So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure” (2 Thessalonians 1:3-4). As you can see, those brothers, even though they were poor materially, were rich in faith and in good works, and in addition to this they kept the faith in all their tribulations and because of this the apostles boasted of those believers. According to Paul and his fellow workers, the saints of Thessalonica conducted themselves in a manner worthy of God, and thus they pleased God, for Paul wrote them: “Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more” (1 Thessalonians 4:1 – NIV). What kind of disgrace were those believers to the doctrine of God because of their poverty? Furthermore, I say it again, if it had been God’s will for those believers to be rich, Paul would have told them. However Paul did not write to them anything about this so called God’s will for all Christians to be materially rich.
All the sermons of the prosperity preachers are about prosperity, which is so important for them that they harass their listeners with their sermons on prosperity. Listen, do you think that the apostle Paul, whom God by His mercy enabled to write so many commandments to the saints of all the churches of Gentiles, whether rich or poor, would have omitted to speak of such an important thing? In addition, if the extreme poverty of those believers had been a disgrace to the Gospel, Paul would not have written to them: “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy” (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20). The point is that those poor brothers of Thessalonica were an example to many believers, therefore they honored the doctrine of God; while we have to say that these prosperity preachers together with their followers are not an example to the believers, but they are a scandal and a stumbling block, because they are haughty, presumptuous and given to the pleasures of life.
How can they say that they are followers of the Master, when they talk and live in a manner which is clearly contrary to the way Jesus talked and lived in the days of His flesh? They have no shame at all, they do not even know how to blush, their glory is indeed in their shame.
All our ways depend on God
Wisdom says: “The race is not to the swift ….. nor riches to men of understanding …. But time and chance happen to them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11 – NKJV). This is true, for a believer may become rich even though he does not desire to be rich; however this happens in his life when and if God wills.
Let us see some of the ways in which a believer can become rich, even though he does not desire to be rich.
A believer can become rich by inheriting riches. It is written: “Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers” (Proverbs 19:14 – NKJV). Therefore a believer who does not set his mind on earthly things and does not desire to be rich at all, can become rich all of a sudden because of some riches bequeathed him by his father or by his grandfathers. In the Scripture we have the example of Isaac, who inherited all the things which belonged to his father Abraham, as it is written: “And Abraham gave all that he had to Isaac” (Genesis 25:5 – NKJV).
A believer – who is upright – can become rich when God Himself makes his work prosper wonderfully, that is, in a supernatural way. The Scripture says: “Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the LORD blessed him. And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great: For he had possession of flocks, and possessions of herds, and great store of servants: and the Philistines envied him” (Genesis 26:12-14). As you can see, Isaac sowed and in the same year he reaped a hundredfold. This means that God worked a miracle on behalf of Isaac, for in order to reap a hundredfold you need a special intervention of God. God was with Isaac, and even the Philistines, who envied him, saw that, for one day they said to him: “We have certainly seen that the Lord is with you” (Genesis 26:28 – NKJV).
In the case of Jacob also it must be said that it was God who made him rich. When Jacob left for Padan Aram he crossed over the Jordan river with his staff, and when he returned from that place to the land of Canaan he owned large flocks, and many camels and donkeys. Let us see how he became so rich. Jacob was with Laban for twenty years during which he served Laban fourteen years for his two daughters, Leah and Rachel, whom he married, and six years for the flock of Laban. At the end of those twenty years God commanded Jacob to return to the land of his fathers; so he called Leah and Rachel and said to them: “I see your father’s countenance, that it is not toward me as before; but the God of my father hath been with me. And ye know that with all my power I have served your father. And your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times; but God suffered him not to hurt me. If he said thus, The speckled shall be thy wages; then all the cattle bare speckled: and if he said thus, The ringstraked shall be thy hire; then bare all the cattle ringstraked. Thus God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me. And it came to pass at the time that the cattle conceived, that I lifted up mine eyes, and saw in a dream, and, behold, the rams which leaped upon the cattle were ringstraked, speckled, and grisled. And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I. And he said, Lift up now thine eyes, and see, all the rams which leap upon the cattle are ringstraked, speckled, and grisled: for I have seen all that Laban doeth unto thee” (Genesis 31:5-12). As you can see, God saw that Laban deceived Jacob and He took away the livestock of Laban and gave them to Jacob; that’s what God worked on behalf of Jacob. God still works in this way, for He takes away the goods of the wicked and gives them to those who are good in His sight, and there is nobody who can keep Him from doing this. The following passages of the Scripture confirm this: “The wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous” (Proverbs 13:22 – NKJV); “One who increases his possessions by usury and extortion gathers it for him who will pity the poor” (Proverbs 28:8 – NKJV); “To the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting, that he may give to him who is good before God” (Ecclesiastes 2:26 – NKJV).
Job also was a very rich man but at the same time he was upright and just: let us see how he came into possession of his wealth. The Scripture says: “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters. His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east” (Job 1:1-3). Now when we speak of Job we often remember his riches but not his integrity, and this is a mistake for we should remember both things for they are closely linked together, for he became so rich because he feared God. Job was an upright man who feared God and shunned evil; he pursued righteousness sharing in his goods with those who were in need, for he caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy, he helped the orphans, he was eyes to the blind, feet to the lame, and he was a father to the poor, he entertained strangers, and furthermore he had a blameless and exemplar conduct. God saw the way his servant Job conducted himself and He blessed him and the work of his hands. Even Satan had to acknowledge that God had blessed Job, for he said to God: “You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land” (Job 1:10 – NKJV). However Job conducted himself uprightly not only when he had plenty of riches and God’s blessing was upon his house, but also when he was in need (for as you know he lost all that he had and Satan struck him with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head). He held fast to his integrity and did not deny God in the midst of his poverty and his awful tribulations (he said: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” Job 1:21 – NKJV, and to his wife who wanted him to curse God he said: “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” Job 2:10 – NKJV) as Satan thought he would do (for he had said to God: “But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has … touch his bone and his flesh, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” Job 1:11; 2:5 – NKJV), showing thus that he feared God not because God had blessed him, but because he loved God. God tested Job and saw that Job, even though he was poor and sick, held fast to his integrity and did not deny His name, and so He restored Job’s losses, as it is written: “And the Lord restored Job’s losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before ….. Now the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys” (Job 42:10, 12 – NKJV). In this case also, of course, God worked one of His wonders to make Job so rich. Therefore we believe that: “The blessing of the Lord makes one rich” (Proverbs 10:22 – NKJV), for the Lord makes rich, but we believe also that “the Lord makes poor” (1 Samuel 2:7 – NKJV). So let us fear God, let us keep His commandments, and God will surely meet all our needs and we shall lack nothing; His blessing will be upon our families for He “loves the righteous” (Psalm 146:8 – NKJV) and blesses their home.
Let us now talk about the riches of Solomon, for they were given to him by God, even though Solomon did not ask for them. The example of Solomon also shows that because of God’s blessing, a man can become rich honestly. The Scripture says: “In Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee. And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days” (1 Kings 3:5-13). Solomon was not an envious man nor greedy for money, and when God said to him to ask for whatever he wanted God to give him, Solomon asked for wisdom, and God was pleased that Solomon had asked for this: so God gave him wisdom. However God did also give Solomon what he had not asked for, that is, riches and honor. Now it is true that Solomon was very rich, but I remember you that Jesus said: “A greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12:42 – NKJV), to indicate that He was greater than Solomon even though He did not have on earth as many material things as Solomon had. I believe that we, too, should ask God for wisdom, that we might conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of God on the earth, for this request is according to the will of God, as it is written: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5 – NKJV). However we ought to see that we do not ask amiss (prompted by bitter envy and vainglory), lest this passage of Scripture be fulfilled in us: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3 – NKJV).
In ancient times there was a man who, even though he said he was more stupid than any man and he did not have the understanding of a man, made a wise request, and this request of his is recorded in the book of proverbs. That man was called Agur the son of Jakeh, and his request is this: “Two things I request of You (Deprive me not before I die); remove falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches – Feed me with the food allotted to me; lest I be full and deny You, and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:7-9 – NKJV). Instead, today there are some men who think that they are intelligent, who not only despise this request but also they would never dare to ask God for the things Agur asked for, because according to them such a request is not fitting for the King’s kids; judge for yourselves what I say.
To sum up, a believer who is upright can become rich (therefore we do not exclude this possibility) when God wills and if God allows him to be rich. However this does not lead us to say to the believers: ‘God wants you to be rich for this is His will for you, and if you are not rich you are outside God’s will’ or ‘If you are not rich you have a little faith or you have not asked God to become rich’. The point is that these preachers, through their empty words, tend to make believers who are content with what they have feel miserable people who do not have faith in God and do not do the will of God, and a believer who hears these preachers runs the risk of ceasing to be content with what he has and of starting to wish to become rich.
What is the use of our abundance
There are several passages of the Scripture which attest in various ways that God blesses the righteous materially as well. We can’t prove the contrary; first of all because the Scripture says so and the Scripture cannot be broken, and secondly because we ourselves have experienced the truthfulness of the words of God.
Jesus said: “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” (Luke 6:38 – NKJV). Now, as you can see, to give is a commandment of God, and we know that “he who fears the commandment will be rewarded” (Proverbs 13:13 – NKJV); therefore he who gives will be rewarded by God for he keeps the commandment of Christ Jesus. According to what the Scripture teaches, it shall be done to us as we have done to others, as it is written: “As you have done, it shall be done to you” (Obadiah 15 – NKJV), and this is what happens to those who give too, for Jesus said: “Give, and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:38). Therefore if we meet the needs of the saints, God will meet our own needs, as it is written: “He who waters will also be watered himself” (Proverbs 11:25 – NKJV); if we give bountifully, it will surely be given to us bountifully, as it is written: “Whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6 – NIV), and again: “One man gives freely, yet gains even more” (Proverbs 11:24 – NIV). In order that you may understand this concept, I remind you of some words Paul wrote to the Philippians and to the Corinthians.
Paul, after he said to the Philippians that he had received the offering that they had sent to him through Epaphroditus, said to them: “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 – NIV). As you can see, Paul was sure that as the Philippians had renewed their concern for him, so God would remember them by supplying all their needs bountifully. God is just, and He blesses us materially according to the measure we bless others materially
Paul, after he said to the Corinthians: “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7 – NKJV), said to them: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work …. Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown …” (2 Corinthians 9:8,10 – NKJV). In this case also, the giving precedes the receiving from God, for Paul commanded the saints to sow first, and then he said to them that God would multiply their seed. It is evident that the harvest (or reaping) will be plentiful if the sowing has been generous; but it will be poor if the sowing has been poor, because we will be rewarded according to what we have given.
This law of giving with the material blessing God has promised to those who keep this law, is also in the law of Moses, for God said: “Give generously to him [the poor brother who is among us] and do so without a grudging heart, then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to” (Deuteronomy 15:10 – NIV). As you can see, these words ‘because of this’ show that God has promised to bless us materially, multiplying our seed, if we beware of covetousness and give generously and with a cheerful heart to the brothers who are in need.
In the book of Proverbs also there is a promise of material blessing made by God to him who shares in his material goods with others, for Solomon, after saying: “Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase” (Proverbs 3:9 – NKJV), says: “So your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine” (Proverbs 3:10 – NKJV). These words also confirm that the Lord blesses even materially those who honor Him with their possessions.
When God does multiply our seed and thus he allows us, who are members of His household, to have plenty, He does so for a definite purpose; let us see what this purpose is.
Paul, after saying: ““So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7 – NKJV), says: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work …. Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruit of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality …” (2 Corinthians 9:8,10-11 – NKJV). This is the reason why the Lord makes all grace abound toward us and multiplies our seed, that we, having all that we need, may abound in every good work and meet the needs of the poor among the saints, for Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “At the present time your plenty will supply what they need” (2 Corinthians 8:14 – NIV). Have you got plenty at the present time? If you answer is in the affirmative, then your plenty will supply what you need as well as what the poor among the saints need, and “you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good” (Mark 14:7 – NKJV), said Jesus. This must be done so that there might be equality, as it is written: “Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: He that gathered much did not have too much, and he that gathered little did not have too little” (2 Corinthians 8:13-15 – NIV). Among God’s people there have been always those who have gathered much as well as those who have gathered little, and this can be seen still today in the midst of the brotherhood in the world. If he who has gathered much supplies the needs of him who has gathered little, the latter will lack nothing, and he who gathered much will not have too much.
Brothers, in this nation we have plenty of material things by the grace of God; we don’t know till when this plenty will last, but we know that we must remember the poor sharing in our material things with them, for this is good and acceptable in the sight of God, as it is written: “With such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:16 – NKJV). Far be it from us to think that our plenty will supply only our needs or that God richly provides us with everything exclusively for our enjoyment. Let us watch, and let us not imitate the children of Israel who, after God brought them out of the land of Egypt by a mighty hand, after they experienced the goodness and the faithfulness of God in the wilderness for forty years, and after they entered the promised land, forgot God and cast the law of God behind their back turning to the idols of the nations. They forgot God after they ate and were full, and built beautiful houses and dwelt in them, and after their herds and flocks multiplied, and all that they had was multiplied. The children of Israel did not serve God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything; so God delivered them into the hand of their enemies; the wrath of God came upon them for they strayed from His covenant in the midst of the abundance of everything the Lord had given to them.
We must not imitate the inhabitants of Sodom and the cities around it either, who had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did they strengthen the hand of the poor and needy (cf. Ezekiel 16:49). You must understand that the whole plain of Jordan – where Sodom and the other cities were – “before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah” was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. Therefore that plain was fertile and yielded very much; but the inhabitants of those cities, even though they had plenty of food, refused to help the poor and the needy for they were haughty and proud in heart, and God punished them because of their haughtiness and because of all the other abominations they committed in the sight of God. Wisdom says: “Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; though they join forces, none will go unpunished” (Proverbs 16:5 – NKJV), and in fact those cities did not go unpunished.
In this country the abundance of everything, which exists today, could end within a short time, for God changes circumstances, they are not always the same. This is what we learn from what happened to Italy and to Europe in the past centuries: years of abundance were interrupted by wars, famines, pestilences and were followed by years of extreme poverty. Remember that many centuries ago in Egypt, in the days of Joseph son of Jacob, came seven years of great plenty first, and then seven years of severe famine. God changes times according to His will; today our country is, by the grace of God, one of the most industrialized and wealthy countries in the world, however within a short time it could be numbered among the poorest nations on the earth. Let us not deceive ourselves; today it is the brethren who live in Africa, in South America and in Asia who receive our offerings, our clothing and our food, but in a short time it could happen the opposite because of a radical change of the circumstances, and then their plenty will supply what we need. Someone may say, ‘What you say can’t happen!’ Listen, know this, that the clouds which swirl around over your head and by the mercy of God water the earth when God commands them to water the earth, could disappear for a long time, and then the waters of the lake on whose shores you walk from time to time (or the waters of the river on whose banks you walk) would dry up at once, and you would see what you have never seen with your eyes or what you thought could never happen in this country. It is written: “If he holds back the waters, there is drought” (Job 12:15 – NIV); this is what our God, who rules the universe, does. According to the Scripture, God has often punished the nations of the earth by commanding the clouds not to water the earth.
Have you ever thought about the earthquakes? Do you know why the earth trembles? The Scripture says that it trembles when God is angry. And why does God shake the earth? Perhaps because He is not good or He is not just? Certainly not! But He shakes the earth because He loves righteousness. Do you think that God has closed His eyes? Know this, that the eyes of God are open and He sees the injustice and the wickedness of men, and He abhors all the perversions and the abominations committed by the inhabitants of this country (as well as by the inhabitants of all the other countries). He does not tolerate their evil works nor does He approve of them, but He abhors them and He punishes those who commit them also by shaking the earth under their feet. And when the earth trembles, the strongest men tremble, the swift of foot does not escape, the most courageous men of might are greatly afraid, the haughty are humbled, and the allies of the proud lie prostrate beneath Him; but at the same time God is exalted and hallowed by His righteousness. In the past whole cities were destroyed by earthquakes, the inhabitants of those cities were decimated, and their strength and their prosperity were destroyed. Therefore let us fear God and, as we have opportunity, let us do what we must do and what we can do toward the poor among the saints. Remember what happened to that rich man who had planned to pull down his barns and build greater in order to store all his crops and his goods: God did not allow him to do what he had planned, for He said to him: “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?” (Luke 12:20 – NKJV)
Brothers, consider how short is our life (Moses said that “we fly away” Psalm 90:10 – NKJV), and consider also that during this short period of time God has granted us to live on the earth, God commands us to supply the needs of the saints. And consider also that God gives us even the means to help the poor among the saints, and in His great mercy He gives us even the opportunity to help them.
Now let us see what the collection for the poor among the saints produces. Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God; Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men; And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you” (2 Corinthians 9:12-14).
Brothers, when the poor among the saints receive our offerings they feel relieved because their hearts are refreshed by the love we demonstrate toward them. In addition to this, they give many thanks to God for our obedience to the Gospel, and they pray for us, who long for us because of the exceeding grace of God in us. As you can see, this grace of giving produces many good things.
God is the One who supplies seed to us so that we might sow it, and bread for food. So let us continue to sow righteousness; however let us not observe the wind, for it is written: “He who observes the wind will not sow” (Ecclesiastes 11:4 – NKJV), and when harvest comes we will rejoice and sing for joy to God, for the word will be fulfilled which says: “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy” (Psalm 126:5 – NKJV).
Beloved, be ready to do every good work, but be also content with what you have; let no one deceive you with those vain words the prosperity teachers speak in order to make you want to become rich and haughty.
To those who are rich in this present age
Now I speak to you who were called by God while you were rich: do not be haughty, that is, do not set your mind on high things but associate with the humble and glory in your humiliation, because as a flower of the field you will pass away. You must not think that you are more important than the poor, for this thought, which is vain and harmful, is an abomination to God. Before God you are just like the poor: He does not favor you over the poor for you too are the work of His hands. He who made you made the poor too; He who enlightens you enlightens the poor too. Furthermore, do not glory in your riches, but glory in this, that you know the only true God and His Son Jesus Christ; riches do not endure forever, while the knowledge of God endures for ever; glory in the incorruptible and undefiled inheritance reserved in heaven for you, and not in your riches which soon or later will be corrupted and will vanish away like smoke.
Do not trust in your riches lest you be deceived by them; today you have them, but tomorrow you may find yourselves without them through some misfortune; therefore do not set your eyes on what can vanish away so easily, but look at the things which are not seen and trust in God. He is the Rock of ages and will never vanish away; you can trust in Him for He does not deceive those who trust in Him. Remember that riches cannot deliver you from your distresses, while God can; this is the reason why you must not trust in your riches, as it is written: “If riches increase, do not set your heart on them” (Psalm 62:10 – NKJV), and: “He who trusts in his riches will fall” (Proverbs 11:28 – NKJV). Whereas he who trusts in God will stand when he is tempted; this also should lead you to consider how useless is to trust in riches.
Do good, be rich in good works, ready to give and to share in your goods with those who are in need, so that you may lay up a solid treasure for yourselves in heaven, where thieves do not break in and steal, and where neither moth nor rust destroys. Do not be like Nabal, who was a very rich man yet at the same time a fool. He was not willing to help those who were in need, for the Scripture says that when David sent ten young men to Nabal to ask him for some of his goods, Nabal reviled them and refused to give them what they had asked. However God did not leave him unpunished for his wicked conduct, as it is written: “Then it happened, after about ten days, that the Lord struck Nabal, and he died” (1 Samuel 25:38 – NKJV).
Be like Barzillai the Gileadite, who was very wealthy, who, after David fled together with his men from Jerusalem for fear of being killed by Absalom, while he was at Mahanaim, brought plenty of food for king David and the people who were with him to eat (cf. 2 Samuel 17:27-29).
Imitate Job, who was a very rich man who shared in his goods with those who were in need, and for this reason he could say in the midst of his sufferings to uphold his integrity: “I put on righteousness, and it clothed me” (Job 29:14 – NKJV).
Many are rich, but not toward God
Let us see now who are those who are not rich toward God even though they are rich in this present age.
Jesus said: “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:15-21).
As you can see, this rich man, when he saw that his ground produced a good crop, thought of storing all his grain and his goods in new barns, so that he might enjoy them in the following years (he thought he would live for many years on the earth); he did not care about the poor, he did not remember the poor at all, for he wanted to keep all the goods for his enjoyment. He was rich, but he did not have wisdom nor did he fear God, for God called him ‘fool’ because he thought only of laying up treasure for himself. Now Jesus said that he who lays up treasure for himself is not rich toward God. Of course, he is rich in the sight of this world, but not in the sight of God. Therefore, he who is rich in this present age, for God called him while he was rich, and thinks of laying up treasure for himself, he is a foolish man in the sight of God because he rejects Wisdom which says: “Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days. Give a serving to seven, and also to eight, for you do not know what evil will be on the earth” (Ecclesiastes 11:1-2 – NKJV), and the word which says: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth …. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:19-20 – NKJV); and consequently he is poor as well, for he does not have any treasure in heaven.
Here is the witness which Jesus witnessed of the angel of the church of the Laodiceans: “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:15-17). Now we don’t know the witness which the people of the world witnessed of the angel of the church of the Laodiceans; however we know for certain that it was not the same witness which Jesus witnessed of him, for we know that people judge according to appearance for they look at things according to the outward appearance, while the Faithful Witness who is in heaven does not judge anyone according to appearance for He knows the secrets of the hearts of all men and all their works. Jesus knew the works of the angel of the church of the Laodiceans, and He said to him that he was wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked, even though he said that he was rich and he had need of nothing. As you can see, the Lord did not flatter that angel, but He rebuked him sharply. For he, after he believed, forgot that he had been cleansed from his old sins, he desired to be rich and he managed to be rich, but by neglecting the great salvation he had received, for he was not diligent to add to his faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. The Lord saw this and sent him a letter which contained a reprehension, in which the Lord admonished him and exhorted him to repent. What shall we say? Do we live not in a time in which we see with our eyes the same things the Lord saw in Laodicea? Today many pastors and many sheep, being deceived by the prosperity preachers, are like the angel of the Church of the Laodiceans. They are pleased with themselves, they glory in their riches which they have heaped up by fraud, and they lust for more and more riches. They have forsaken their own Mercy and have began to regard worthless idols; they have a form of godliness but deny its power; they are esteemed by most people for their riches, but they are poor for they are idle and do not want to share in their material things with those who are in need. They desire to lay up treasures for themselves on earth and not in heaven, showing thus that they do not desire to depart and be with the Lord. In addition to this, at the thought of leaving all their own possessions on earth when they die they are distressed. On the contrary, those who lay up treasures for themselves in heaven show that they believe that there is a place of rest in heaven, called paradise, where after death every believer goes to be with the Lord, and where every believer will reap what he has sown on the earth.
Let me explain some passages of the Scripture quoted by the prosperity preachers to support their message
It was bound to happen that those who began to preach the prosperity message would take some passages of the Scripture to support their doctrine. Let me now explain some of these passages.
● Jesus said: “And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life” (Matthew 19:29); “Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting” (Luke 18:29-30). Inasmuch as by these words Christ promised to those who forsake houses or lands for His name’s sake that they will receive on the earth many houses and lands, the prosperity preachers assert that these words of Jesus show that he who forsakes houses and lands for the Gospel’s sake must necessarily become a rich man, that is, a man who owns many houses and lands. Certainly, at first glance it seems that the Lord promised to those who forsake houses and lands for His name’s sake that they will own many houses and lands. However, if we examine carefully the promise made by the Lord, we realize that this is not the true meaning of the promise made by Christ. Why? Because these preachers wilfully forget that the Lord said that those who have left brothers will receive many times more; those who have left wife will receive many times more; those who have left children will receive many times more; those who have left sisters will receive many times more; those who left parents will receive many times more. Therefore, just as we can’t say that he who has left his wife to go to a far country to preach the Gospel will have one hundred wives who will bear him one hundred children, for this would mean that the Lord is in favour of adultery, so we can’t say that he who has left his own house for Christ’s sake will receive one hundred houses, that is, he will own one hundred houses. The words of Jesus mean that he who has left his own house or his land for the Lord’s sake will find many believers who will place their own houses and their own lands at his disposal. If these words of Jesus meant what the prosperity teachers affirm, they would encourage us to lay up treasures for ourselves on the earth rather than in heaven, while the Lord has commanded us not to lay up treasures for ourselves on earth. Furthermore, how can one say that this is the meaning of those words of Jesus when Jesus a short time before said to the young ruler: “Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” (Mark 10:21 – NKJV)? Notice that the Lord did not say to him: ‘Go your way, sell your houses and your lands and give to the poor, and then you will receive a hundredfold on the earth’. For if that young man had heard such an answer he would not have gone away sorrowful; because he would have been sure that he would get his own possessions back and he would become richer. However, the point is that Jesus told him to sell his possessions to have a treasure in heaven, and that man did not like His words for he realized that he would become poor and he would not get his own possessions back. At this point, I want to say that we must not give alms thinking that by so doing we will become richer on the earth, nor should we give alms because we want the Lord to give us the same amount of money we give to the poor together with some other money. This is not a right way of thinking, for we must give for the sake of our neighbour, for we are moved with compassion toward our neighbour. Furthermore, who said that we surely will be rewarded on the earth, when there are some brothers who gave and after a short time died, not having received their reward on earth? Jesus said that by selling our possessions and giving to the poor we lay up treasures for ourselves in heaven; He did not say that we lay up new treasures for ourselves on the earth. I confirm this concept by these other words spoken by Jesus: “When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just” (Luke 14:12-14). As you can see, Jesus said that when we give a dinner or a supper we must not ask our friends, our brothers, our relatives, nor rich neighbours. Why? Lest they also invite us back, and we be repaid. Whom should we ask to dinner then? The poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, that is, all those people who cannot repay us on the earth, for we are sure that we shall be repaid at the resurrection of the dead. God’s wisdom says: “He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, and He will pay back what he has given” (Proverbs 19:17 – NKJV). However, according to the teaching of Jesus, if we ask the poor to dinner (and this is a pitiful work done to the poor) we will not be repaid during our earthly life but at the resurrection of the just.
Furthermore, brethren, do not forget that the Lord has promised also persecutions to those who have left houses, lands, brothers and sisters, parents, wife, and children for His name’s sake, for in Mark it is written: “With persecutions” (Mark 10:30 – NKJV). It goes without saying that these idle talkers are careful not to speak of the persecutions promised by the Lord, for they, unlike the apostle Paul, do not take pleasure in persecutions: they want to live and to make people live a ‘successful’ life!
● Paul said to the saints of Philippi: “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:12-13).
Those who preach the prosperity message quote these words of Paul to show that Paul also lived like a King’s son, for he also abounded. You’d better beware of this peculiar interpretation given by these foxes to the above mentioned words of Paul, lest you fall into a trap. Of course, Paul abounded on some occasions; that’s what he himself stated; however, this does not mean that he lived a scandalous life as these preachers do or that he preached the prosperity message. Know this, that when Paul said that he abounded he did not mean that he set his mind on high things or that he was rich. These preachers forget that Paul had learned to be content in whatever state he was. This means that he was content not only when he abounded but also when he suffered need. And this is something that these preachers have not learned or don’t want to learn, for according to their own words they are never content with what they have (for they want to have more and more material goods), to be poor is a shame for a Christian, and their happiness depends on the abundance of the earthly things they possess. Brothers, I say it again, the above mentioned words of Paul do not mean that Paul lived as a prince, for he himself said to the Corinthians: “As poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things” (2 Corinthians 6:10 – NKJV). Now I want you to pay attention to the following thing: when Paul wrote to the Philippians he was in prison because of the Gospel; therefore when he said to the Philippians: “Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you ….” (Philippians 4:18 – NKJV), he was in a distress. So in this case Paul experienced abundance while he was in prison. Yes, he did abound, but he certainly did not live like a prince in that prison!
● “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8 – NKJV). I consider it superfluous to say that these words do not mean that God has promised to make us rich and to make us live as kings on the earth. These words are addressed to those who sow with a cheerful heart; for God says that He will supply and multiply the seed they have sown so that they may abound in every good work.
● “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17).
God “giveth us richly all things to enjoy” means that God does show His kindness toward us by giving us rain from heaven and crops in their seasons and providing us with plenty of food; it does not mean that God wants us to be rich, nor does it mean that we have the right to buy luxurious houses with the money God has given us or the right to give ourselves over to the pleasures of life.
● “Beloved I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 2 – NKJV).
This is the passage about prosperity which the prosperity preachers like the most and on which they preach the most. They never speak of Diotrephes and his evil conduct (verse 9-10), and of the love the beloved Gaius showed toward the brethren, even though they were strangers to him; but they often and willingly quote the above mentioned words of John, for according to them they confirm that God wants Christians to be rich and live like king’s kids wherever they are and in any age they live. However, “I pray that you may prosper in all things” means that John wished that Gaius might lack nothing and God might richly provide him with all the things he needed according to His glorious riches, so that Gaius might abound more and more in every good work.
I want you to notice that in the same epistle the elder said to Gaius these words also: “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good” (3 John 11 – NKJV). I say to you this so that you may understand that the elder not only wanted Gaius to prosper in all things (thus economically as well) but also wanted Gaius to imitate what was good and not what was evil. That means that Gaius, as he prospered in all things, had to cling to what was good (that is, to continue to do good works) and to abhor what was evil, that is, the pride of life, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes. What I have noticed, instead, is that these preachers want God to make them prosper economically but they do not want to imitate what is good but what is evil, for they – being intemperate and dissolute – delight in wearing costly clothing, in living in luxury and in amusing themselves.
● God said in the law: “And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God. Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store. ….. The LORD shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and he shall bless thee in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee. …. And the LORD shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers to give thee. The LORD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow” (Deuteronomy 28:1-5,8, 11-12)
Now God promised that He would bless materially His people if they kept His commandments. Therefore if the Israelites feared God and observed all His commandments they would be blessed by God. I would like you to pay much attention to the following words: “If thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day” (Deuteronomy 28:1), for ‘all his commandments’ mean that the Israelites, in order to be blessed by God, not only had to flee idolatry and pursue righteousness and mercy and faith in God, but also had to keep the sabbath day, the new moon celebration, the feasts at the time appointed by God, the dietary laws, circumcision, the law of tithe, the law which forbade them to marry people who belonged to the other nations, and the laws concerning the burnt offering, the sin offering and the fellowship offering.
The prosperity preachers quote the above mentioned words of the law to show that God has promised us that He will bless us economically. Now since we cannot do nothing against the truth, we do not dare to set aside these words of the law. However, I would like to remind you of the following things.
1) These promises are part of the Old Covenant and not of the New Covenant. The New Covenant is a better Covenant, “which was established on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6 – NKJV). Therefore let us start saying that the blessings promised to the believers under the New Covenant are more excellent than those of the Old Covenant. Suffice it to consider this promise made by the Lord Jesus: “Most assuredly I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death” (John 8:51 – NKJV), that is, the second death; and the following words of God: “And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Hebrews 8:12 – NKJV; cf. Jeremiah 31:34), in order to realize that the Second Covenant is superior to the First Covenant.
2) God “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3 – NKJV), for He has adopted us as sons so that we should be holy and blameless before Him. We as children of God have plenty of joy and peace for in Christ we have the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
3) We believe that if we keep the commandments of God, God will bless us materially (as well as spiritually) in this world by giving us richly all the things we need. However, when we teach the Word of God we do not put much emphasis on the material blessings (such as money, food, houses, and lands) God gives us, for we know that they are temporary and not eternal blessings. Paul says: “Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them” (1 Corinthians 6:13 – NKJV), and: “The things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18 – NKJV). Therefore why should we extol the abundance of possessions that the Lord gives us in His faithfulness on the earth, when we know that we can enjoy it only in this world and one day it will vanish away for God will destroy it, as it is written: “The earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10 – NKJV)? Bear in mind that when I say that God gives us plenty of material goods, I do not mean that we are rich people, but I mean that we lack nothing and we have something to share with those in need.
3) Inasmuch as we are under grace and not under the law, we must be careful when we quote these words of the law because among the commandments which the Israelites had to observe in order to be blessed materially by God were also those commandments we must not observe lest we be entangled again with the yoke of bondage (that is, the bondage of the law – the Sabbath day, the new moon celebration, the religious festivals, tithe, circumcision, and other precepts of the law).
4) Among the blessings there is also the following one: “You shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow” (Deuteronomy 28:12 – NKJV). How is it then that these prosperity preachers (or rather many of them) are deeply in debt for they have borrowed a lot of money from banks? They often say that they have borrowed a lot of money for God’s work, and then they impudently say that it was God who told them to borrow that money! They contradict themselves, because according to the law, those who are blessed by God do not need to borrow any amount of money from anyone!
5) God promised He would curse His people if they did not observe His commandments. These idle talkers never speak of these curses, as if the Lord promised that He would only bless His people. Here is what God said: “But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee: Cursed shalt thou be in the city, and cursed shalt thou be in the field. Cursed shall be thy basket and thy store. Cursed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy land, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. Cursed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and cursed shalt thou be when thou goest out. The LORD shall send upon thee cursing, vexation, and rebuke, in all that thou settest thine hand unto for to do, until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly; because of the wickedness of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me. The LORD shall make the pestilence cleave unto thee, until he have consumed thee from off the land, whither thou goest to possess it. The LORD shall smite thee with a consumption, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with an extreme burning, and with the sword, and with blasting, and with mildew; and they shall pursue thee until thou perish. And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron. The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed….. The LORD will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed. …. Thou shalt betroth a wife, and another man shall lie with her: thou shalt build an house, and thou shalt not dwell therein: thou shalt plant a vineyard, and shalt not gather the grapes thereof. Thine ox shall be slain before thine eyes, and thou shalt not eat thereof: thine ass shall be violently taken away from before thy face, and shall not be restored to thee: thy sheep shall be given unto thine enemies, and thou shalt have none to rescue them….. The stranger that is within thee shall get up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down very low. He shall lend to thee, and thou shalt not lend to him: he shall be the head, and thou shalt be the tail” (Deuteronomy 28:15-24, 27, 30, 31, 43-44).
As you can see, the curses that God promised He would send on the Israelites if they cast His commandments behind their back are many and various. However I remind you that among the commandments the Israelites had to observe in order not to be cursed by God, were the commandments concerning the Sabbath day, the new moon celebration, the religious festivals, circumcision, tithe, sin offerings, burnt offerings, and food, which we must not observe lest we be entangled again with the yoke of bondage. In addition to this, I remind you that we were all under the curse of the law before we turned to the Lord for we did not observe all the commandments of the law, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them” (Galatians 3:10 – NKJV; cf. Deuteronomy 27:26), but “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13 – NKJV), and through Him the blessing of Abraham has come upon us, who are Gentiles.
We believe that under grace one must speak of the above mentioned curses as well, so that believers might realize that God not only promised He will bless those who fear and observe His commandments, but also that He will punish severely those who, after having known Him, cease to fear Him and to observe His commandments. I know that to hear of the divine blessings is more pleasant than to hear of the divine curses and I know also that some want to hear exclusively of pleasant things, but I will not flatter you; I will tell you how things really are. First of all let me say that when the Israelites forsook God, God struck them with famine, with the plague, with the sword, to destroy them and pluck them from off the good land He had given them. He made them extremely poor; He compelled them to eat even their children; He dried up their throat, their skin and their flesh. He sent against them merciless foreign armies which destroyed their cities, their lands, their houses, and carried them captive to other nations. Yes, brothers, that’s what happened – according to the Scripture – to the Jews who rebelled against God. And today, as for us who have believed in Christ, what will happen to us if we cease to observe the commandments of God as the Israelites did? Certainly God will not continue to bless us, for Jesus said: “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:6 – NKJV). This is confirmed by the following words written in the epistle to the Hebrews: “For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned” (Hebrews 6:4-8). As you can see, if a believer ceases to observe God’s commandments will not be able to bear good fruit for he will bear only thorns and briers and thus he will be cursed, and eventually he will be cast into the everlasting fire to be tormented forever! Yes, it is true that we are now blessed children, but it is also true that if we deny the Lord who bought us we will become accursed children. In his second epistle, the apostle Peter says the following things about the false teachers who are among God’s people: “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction … Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children” (2 Peter 2:1,14). As you can see, these people also knew the Lord but afterward they forsook Him and became accursed children. This confirms that if we deny and forsake the Lord the curses of God will come upon us one after another. If the Israelites did not go unpunished when they forsook the first covenant, much more shall we not go unpunished if we forsake the second covenant.
6) As far as health is concerned, God promised that He would bless Israel, for He said: “If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee” (Exodus 15:26). However, as you can see, God promised to the Israelites that He would not bring on them any of the diseases He had brought on the Egyptians, on condition that they kept the commandments of God. What happened to the Israelites when they forsook God? God brought on them all kinds of diseases, for He had said to them: “If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, THE LORD THY GOD; Then the LORD will make thy plagues wonderful, and the plagues of thy seed, even great plagues, and of long continuance, and sore sicknesses, and of long continuance. Moreover he will bring upon thee all the diseases of Egypt, which thou wast afraid of; and they shall cleave unto thee. Also every sickness, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this law, them will the LORD bring upon thee, until thou be destroyed” (Deuteronomy 28:58-61). Also under grace God strikes with diseases those who refuse to obey Him and in some cases He puts them to death. This is confirmed by the following incidents recorded in the writings of the New Testament. Ananias and Sapphira his wife were put to death by God for they had agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord (cf. Acts 5:1-11); and those believers of the Church in Corinth who had partaken of the Lord’s supper in an unworthy manner were struck by God with diseases and some of them were put to death (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:29-30). Therefore, in the light of what happened to those believers, we’d better be very careful how we live lest we be struck by God with diseases or put to death.
Brothers, we want to declare to you the whole counsel of God; we keep back nothing that you must know! We do not flatter the rebels by promising them prosperity, blessing and health. We proclaim also the terrible divine punishments which will come upon us if we live according to the flesh.
7) It goes without saying that these idle talkers do not speak of the judgements of God which will come upon those who rebel against God; they only speak of God’s blessings to flatter them. And we must admit that by their smooth words and flattering speech they have managed to deceive many simple believers who attend their meetings. These believers, being devoid of discernment and not knowing the Scriptures, have turned to them to drink their water, but their water cannot quench their thirst at all for the water that the prosperity preachers offer is salty; their words are not words full of grace, seasoned with salt, which impart grace to the hearers, but are words polluted by deceptions which they have camouflaged with smooth words. Beware of them!
7) “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ ….. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:13-14, 29).
Now, according to the prosperity preachers, these words of Paul mean that since the believers in Christ Jesus are one in Christ Jesus and thus they are Abraham’s seed, God is obligated – because of His covenant with Abraham – to bless them financially as He blessed Abraham. However, things are not so. Why? Because the blessing of Abraham of which Paul speaks to the Galatians is a spiritual blessing, that is, the justification which we who are Gentiles have obtained by faith. For just a short time before Paul said: “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham” (Galatians 3:6-9). Please notice these words “they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham”, for they make it clear that the blessing of Abraham of which we have become partakers in Christ is a spiritual blessing. Paul is saying that Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness, that is to say, God imputed righteousness apart from works to him because of his faith. And since David describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works, saying: “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the Lord shall not impute sin” (Romans 4:7-8 – NKJV), we say that Abraham was blessed by God. However God promised Abraham that this blessing would reach all nations (that is, the Gentiles) through his seed, as it is written: “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 22:18 – NKJV). Who is the seed of Abraham? It is Christ, for it is through faith in Christ that the Gentiles are justified as Abraham was justified. In other words, it is through Christ that we who are Gentiles have received the remission of sins (that is, we have been justified as was foretold by God to Abraham) and thus we are blessed with believing Abraham. As you can see, the prosperity preachers have misinterpreted the words of Paul, and they make Paul say what they want, that is, that the blessing of Abraham was also material or financial. And as it always happens in these cases, they contradict themselves several times. For instance, if Jesus is the seed of Abraham (cf. Galatians 3:16), how is it that God did not bless Jesus on earth materially and financially in the same manner He blessed Abraham? How is it that He lived poor and said to His disciples, who were sons of Abraham for they had faith: “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the Kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20 – NKJV)? And what shall we say about the apostles? Were they not one in Christ, and thus Abraham’s seed? How is it then that God did not bless them materially and financially as He blessed Abraham? For Peter did not have silver or gold (while Abraham had silver and gold); Paul said that he and his fellow workers were poor and had nothing (while Abraham could not affirm such a thing). As you can see, the prosperity preachers do not divide the word of truth rightly.
Why these preachers teach this doctrine
Why do these preachers teach this doctrine? What advantage is it to them? The answer to these questions is found in the following words which Paul wrote to Titus: “For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain” (Titus 1:10-11 – NKJV). This is then what prompts these preachers to teach this doctrine, which many like to hear and which attracts those who desire to be rich and live in luxury on the earth: the sake of dishonest gain. What must be said about these people is that they speak so much of faith and prosperity, and then when they are invited to preach they do not accept the invitation unless he who invites them promises them that he will give them the amount of money they want or all the offerings which will be collected during the meeting. However, do not expect these preachers to tell you these things for they will never tell you them: but you will get to know about them afterward. The point is this: since during the meetings held by these preachers the offering-basket is passed out at least once, and according to the ‘contract’ all the offerings or half of them must be given to these preachers, they are very interested in teaching this doctrine, for they know that the ‘weightier’ are the basket-offerings the ‘weightier’ they will return to their houses. They insistently urge believers to give generously for the Lord’s work for they know that a good part of that money will eventually go into their pockets. They affirm that great blessings will come upon those who give generously (some of them even say how much one must give in order to receive these great blessings!) These preachers are swindlers, they are vultures which are ready to take off when they see a prey which is weak or near to death. According to them, the passing out of the offering-basket in their meetings does not offend anyone. They have the effrontery to say that if the sisters who attend their meetings cover their head with a veil they run the risk of offending the unbelieving people who are present, but they are not ashamed to pass out their long voracious hand among the people who are seated in their meetings. But they don’t care at all if by so doing they offend souls for their aim is to become rich. These people follow the way of Balaam, for they have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, but they manage to appear servants of the Lord to many for they manage to put together several passages of the Scripture and to speak of the Gospel with persuasive words of human wisdom. They do not edify you for they mix the sacred with the profane, truth with error; however they devour you if you fall into their hands.
Beloved, until the end I will keep urging you to beware of these rebels and to withdraw from them for the sake of righteousness and truth, I will keep proclaiming in your hearing, ‘Listen to the sound of the trumpet, for the enemy has introduced the enemies of the cross among you so that you may be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.’
The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil and the pride of life is not of the Father but is of the world
Paul said to Timothy: “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:6-10 – NKJV).
Brothers, we brought nothing in this world; I believe this is one of those things on which we should reflect more often. One day Job said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb ….” (Job 1:21 – NKJV); this is what each one of us must remember and say. No one can say that he brought something into this world, so when he dies he will carry it out of this world. No one will be able to carry anything out of this world, for when a man dies he must leave everything, and I say it again, everything, on this earth. We will leave what we have on earth, whether much or little.
Now we are tested by God continually; we know that we must be content with what we have, as it is written: “Be content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5 – NIV), however we are tempted not to be content with what we have, for we see around us many people who are never content with what they have. Men want to come into possession – at all costs – of as much money as possible and as many material things as possible. In seeing so many people unsatisfied with what they have, we are tempted not to be content with the state in which we are. What should we do then? We must submit to God and resist the devil lest we fall into temptation.
Paul said that godliness with contentment is great gain, which means that he who pursues godliness being content with what he has gains much. I would like to point out to you that the apostle Paul called the death of a believer gain, for he said to the Philippians: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21 – NKJV). Now we know that the believer who stands firm in the faith till the end and dies in the Lord does not lose anything, but he saves himself, for Jesus said: “By standing firm you will save yourselves” (Luke 21:19 – NIV – The Italian Bible Riveduta Version reads: “Con la vostra perseveranza guadagnerete le vostre anime” that is, “By your perseverance you will gain your souls”). Therefore no one of those who died in the Lord has lost his soul or has regretted enduring to the end. Likewise, we can also say that there is no one who pursues godliness with contentment who can say that he has lost something or regrets being content with what he has, for godliness with contentment is great gain.
However, we know that next to the highway in which we walk there is a crooked way, in which those who are not content with what they have walk. Anyone can walk in that way, for it is indeed to hand. If you walk in that way you will become rich. Is it worth walking in that way? No, it isn’t, because that way leads to destruction and perdition. In other words, those who decide to walk in it will lose their soul. Consider where are at the moment those who walked in that way and died (they are in Hades tormented by fire, together with that “rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day” Luke 16:19 – NKJV; and they continually weep and gnash their teeth), and you will realize that it is not worth desiring to be rich in this world.
Jesus said to the rich: “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation” (Luke 6:24 – NKJV), and to His disciples: “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:24-25 – NKJV). Now we know that these rich men are not only those rich men who refuse to repent and to believe in Christ, but also those who have strayed from the faith in their greediness. I affirm this on the grounds of the following words of Paul: “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Timothy 6:9 – NKJV). Do you think that a believer who desires to be rich can stand firm in the faith? Beloved, do not deceive yourselves, and do not be deceived by those who want to deceive you into believing that you can desire to be rich and at the same time you can stand firm in the faith. These men of corrupt minds tell you how you as a Christian can make money; instead I tell you that you will go to perdition if you decide to make money. If Paul says that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil and some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, you must believe him. Do not think that the love of money is a good and precious thing, for that is one of the lies conceived by the devil. The Scripture says: “Keep your lives free from the love of money” (Hebrews 13:5 – NIV). Therefore anyone who begins to love money breaks the word of God and is rewarded by his aimless conduct with death and with delusion as well, for he will find himself in the everlasting fire together with those who have deceived him
Now let us speak of money. Why do many people love money? I will answer this question through the Scripture. Now we know that on the earth we need to have some money in order to buy what we need. We can’t help using money and we can’t say that we do not need it. However, we must keep our life free from the love of money for the sake of our soul. It is clear that the more money one has, the more material goods he can buy, for “money answers everything” (Ecclesiastes 10:19 – NKJV). However, the point is that money, besides giving you the opportunity to buy many things, makes those who have got a lot of money feel safer. I mean that the devil manages to deceive people into believing that their safety depends on money, which we know it is not true for one is not safe in the hands of money but in the hands of God. Outside God’s hands there is no safety, but only anguish, fears, troubles, and despair. “The abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep” (Ecclesiastes 5:12 – NKJV), says Solomon; therefore do not think that if you become rich you will be in safety and you will live a quiet life, for that’s not true. If you start serving money, you will lose not only your sleep but also your soul. Do you think you will go unpunished? You are deceiving yourself, for it is written: “He who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 28:20 – NKJV).
Paul said that the love of money is “a root of all kinds of evil”. Consider what he said, so that you may understand what is the root of many evil things which are committed on the earth. If we examine many evil deeds and many injustices which are committed on the earth, we can’t help seeing that their root is the love of money. Consider then how harmful is the love of money! Why does the love of money drive people to do evil things? For he who begins to love money ceases to share in his material goods with those who are in need, for he only thinks of heaping up as much money as possible, and he does not want to give some of his money to those who are in need. To him, to give some of his money to the poor is counterproductive for he thinks that to give alms is a waste of money: to him it is counterproductive also to lend money free of interest, for this goes against his own interest. In addition to this, he begins to work out how to make as much money as possible, and you must understand that all the ways followed by a covetous man keep him from doing the will of God. For he does not have time to pray, to read the Word of God, to gather together with the brethren, to do good works, to visit orphans and widows in their trouble. He can’t spend time doing the will of God, for he must spend time working beyond all limits or working out how to extort money from his neighbour. In other words, the Word of God can’t bear fruit any longer in those believers who start loving money, for it is written: “The worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it [the word], making it unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22 – NIV). John says: “This is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 John 5:3 – NKJV), but he says also: “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15 – NKJV); therefore these words of his confirm the words of Christ for they show that if a believer starts loving money he ceases keeping the commandments of God. And if he ceases to keep the commandments of God how can the love of God dwell in his heart? How can he himself abide in God? This is the reason why we are told not to love money; the Scripture does not forbid us to use money but to love money, which is different. God has raised us up with Christ and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ, therefore we must not set out mind on things on the earth, but on things which are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, so we must not seek to be rich, for anyone who wants to be rich shows that he wants to lay up for himself treasures on earth. If we consider that on earth rust and moth destroy, thieves break in and steal, and the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up, it is not worth desiring to be rich in this world. Wisdom says: “Do not overwork to be rich; because of your own understanding, cease! Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away like an eagle toward heaven” (Proverbs 23:4-5 – NKJV).
As you can see, the Scripture commands us in various ways not to desire to be rich, therefore we’d better listen to God rather than to the prosperity preachers, who urge believers to desire to be rich and unfortunately many believers have been deceived by their words.
Now let me tell you another thing. The prosperity preachers say that we, as is fitting for king’s kids, must live in the best houses, wear the best clothing, drive the best cars, therefore we must have the most expensive things on the earth. This means that we must set our mind on high things and must not associate with the humble, which is contrary to the Word of God, which clearly says: “Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble” (Romans 12:16 – NKJV). Therefore, these preachers do not consent to the sound doctrine, but they give heed to profane babblings. Know this, that if we lived the kind of life these preachers want us to live we would cease to be meek and humble, and we would become haughty like these preachers. What shall we do then? Shall we conduct ourselves like these men whose minds have been led astray from their sincere and pure devotion to Christ and they now walk according to the stubbornness of their heart? Certainly not. We have in Jesus the perfect example of faith; His words as well as the words of the apostles are our infallible guide, and thus we must not give heed to the smooth and deceitful words of these people nor follow their bad example. These preachers are spoiling the vineyard of the Lord, for those churches who have accepted their false teaching desire to be very rich, not spiritually but materially rich. They seek after prestige in the midst of our modern society; as if believers were called to please this wicked world rather than God. The believers who have given heed to these idle talkers have become corrupt; some of them have become lukewarm, others have become cold, no one of them wants to humble himself, for all of them somehow exalt themselves. They want to attract the world’s attention, and I have to admit that they have succeeded in attracting the attention of the people of this world for they are eccentric and haughty. The light which was in them is now darkness, so they are no longer able to shine as lights in this world of darkness
Those who preach the prosperity message have succeeded in attracting the world’s attention for they commit all kinds of evil things and thus the world is interested in their scandals and the newspapers report them. The life conducted by those who preach the ‘gospel of prosperity’ is a life full of evil things which induce people to blaspheme the doctrine of God. And then they say that they want to live as king’s kids! But if they really wanted to live as children of the King of kings, they would see that they live as the Son of the King of kings lived in the days of His flesh. Jesus is the firstborn among many brethren, and we as children of God must see that we imitate Jesus. Therefore, if the One who was with His Father in glory, before the foundation of the world, decided to humble Himself and to live a humble life in the days of His flesh, who are these people who are of the earth like us, and who urge us to conduct a haughty life? They are certainly conceited people.
Many have become rich dishonestly and not because God has blessed the work of their hands
The Holy Scripture teaches that some people have become rich dishonestly, that is, stealing and cheating their neighbour.
God said through the prophet Jeremiah: “For among My people are found wicked men; they lie in wait as one who sets snares; they set a trap, they catch men. As a cage is full of birds, so their houses are full of deceit. Therefore they have become great and grown rich. They have grown fat, they are sleek; yes, they surpass the deeds of the wicked ….” (Jeremiah 5:26-28 – NKJV). Beloved, these words are topical, and, as you can see, according to them, among the people of God are some unscrupulous people, who don’t fear God, who have become great and rich cheating and robbing their neighbour. Yes, they wear soft garments, they are sleek, the have beautiful houses, but all the things they have were obtained by fraud. However, these persons deceive people into believing that the abundance of the things which they possess is a peculiar blessing of God which has come upon them, saying: ‘Surely we have become rich, we have found wealth for ourselves, in all our labors they shall find in us no iniquity that is sin.’ However, God knows their works and witnesses the following witness of them: ‘They multiply lies and violence. They are cunning Cananites! Deceitful scales are in their hands, they love to oppress.’
James, the Lord’s brother, wrote the following words to the dishonest rich who were among the brethren: “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for [in] the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you” (James 5:1-6). From these words we learn that the face of the Lord is against those who heap up riches and become rich by keeping back by fraud the wages of their laborers. This is confirmed by Paul who, after saying that it is God’s will that we should be holy, that we should avoid sexual immorality, that each of us should know how to possess his own body in sanctification and honor, and that no one should defraud his brother in any matter, says: “Because the Lord is the avenger of all such” (1 Thessalonians 4:6 – NKJV). As you can see, the Lord punishes all those who fail to pay their workers their wages or do not give them what is just and fair.
But the dishonest people become rich not only by keeping back by fraud the wages of their workers (breaking thus the commandment which says: “Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns” Deuteronomy 24:14 – NIV), but also by not paying taxes, that is, by evading taxes (breaking thus the commandment which says: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Mark 12:17 – NKJV).
Why does the way of the wicked prosper?
The wicked, who are among God’s people, also enjoy good health and prosper materially. The following passages of the Scripture confirm it.
● Asaph said: “But as for me, my feet were almost gone; my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment. Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish. They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily. They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth. Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them. …. Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches” (Psalm 73:2-10, 12)
● Job said: “Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power? Their seed is established in their sight with them, and their offspring before their eyes. Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them. Their bull gendereth, and faileth not; their cow calveth, and casteth not her calf. They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance” (Job 21:7-11).
● Jeremiah said to God: “Righteous art thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously? Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins” (Jeremiah 12:1-2)
● David said: “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass” (Psalm 37:7).
As you can see, in the above mentioned Scriptures which refer to the wicked, we find the word ‘prosperity’ and the verb ‘to prosper’. Brethren, pay much attention to these details for they show once more that the fact that one prospers financially does not necessarily mean that he increases his possessions for God blesses the work of his hands because of his upright conduct! That’s what we say to those preachers who speaks so much of financial prosperity!
Beloved, we also see in this generation what was seen by Asaph, Job, Jeremiah and David, for we also see that among God’s people are some wicked people who prosper. When I say ‘wicked people’ I refer to people who claim that they are believers and who honor God with their lips, but their heart is far from God and trained in covetous practices. They are well-known, they speak of the Gospel, they are esteemed and praised by many, they prosper for they continually increase their possessions, they are healthy, but their character is this:
They are haughty and proud; when you hear them speak it seems that they know all things and they can do all things. They think they are gods and not human beings; they mouth great swelling words through which they deceive the hearts of many simple believers. They want to be treated as kings, for instead of putting on humility they have put on pride; instead of putting on meekness they have put on haughtiness.
They are violent, for they resort to physical violence against those who thwart them; they are men who oppress God’s people in any way to achieve their dishonest aims.
They are greedy for money, for they are unscrupulous businessmen who give themselves over to the commerce of the things of God, who resort to falsehood, craftiness and fraud, in order to make money.
They feel at their ease with thieves and adulterers and with anyone who walks after the flesh; they use bad and filthy language, they curse those who rebuke them. When someone rebukes them they cast the reprehension behind their back.
Yes, brothers, this is the conduct of these ungodly people, who prosper before our eyes. And then it is they who speak so much of prosperity! They never speak of justice, of temperance, of humility, of holiness, but they always speak of prosperity!
What shall we say then? Shall we say that these people please God and the blessing of God is upon them? Certainly not, for we believe that these people, even though they bring their wicked schemes to pass and thus they manage to prosper, are enemies of God, for it is written: “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8 – NKJV). Jeremiah was right when he said about them that God is “near in their mouth but far from their mind” (Jeremiah 12:2 – NKJV)!
Beloved, may God grant us to be zealous for the fear of the Lord till the end without envying these wicked people who prosper and preach prosperity to many Churches here in Italy as well. I realize that it is not easy to be quiet and to trust in God in seeing the way of the wicked prosper, however it is worth striving to be quiet and to trust in God. Know this, that God allows them to prosper in order to test us, who want to live godly, soberly and righteously on the earth; in order to see whether we love Him with all our heart and with all our soul or not. That’s why they live and prosper!
To you who have become friends of the world
Listen to me, you who have become friends of the world and enemies of God, for you have given heed to the so called prosperity message: which is a very seductive message.
You heart is lifted up, for you do not associate with the humble things any longer, but you set your mind on high things. You take pleasure in those things which you should not lust for; you wear soft garments, designer clothes, which are very expensive; through your clothing you show off such a haughtiness that even some people of the world don’t show off. You refuse to be humble and to be dressed modestly, for the prosperity message has entered your heart. You now dislike those who teach that we must be humble; now you also talk about riches and financial prosperity as these unscrupulous idle talkers do. Your words do not edify, they are arid, for they are devoid of salt and of the grace of God. Notwithstanding this you continue to affirm that God has blessed you. How can you say such lies, when you are so lukewarm, so indifferent to spiritual things, so devoid of the Word of Christ, so miserable that I feel pity for you? You have been deceived by smooth words and flattering speeches, for now you are overworking in order to become rich and to be able to say: ‘God wants us to be rich and not poor!’ Tell me this, ‘What do you mean by ‘poor people’? Perhaps people who are content with what they have, who do not desire to be rich, and who lack nothing?’ If you think so, I tell you that you have lost discernment, you are no longer able to distinguish good from evil. Paul said: “And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (1 Timothy 6:8 – NKJV), while according to your words it seems that one must be rich and haughty in order to be content. We perceive that you have become miserable for when we talk with you we have no fellowship with you. You do not know the Scriptures: you know the books of these vultures, but you do not know the book of the Lord. You are wise in your own eyes and your arguments are not fitting for saints. You have assimilated so well this new doctrine that now according to you he who preaches modesty, purity and humility is a sort of apostate, someone who has departed from the faith and seeks to keep God’s people from receiving the Lord’s blessing! Arise from the dead and Christ will give you light, and you will realize that you have given heed to lies and not to the truth of the Gospel.
Now you adorn yourselves with gold, for you say: ‘What harm is there in wearing a thin gold chain round one’s neck, a gold watch, a gold ring with a diamond on it, and a bracelet?’ I answer you, ‘You can’t see the harm which is in it for you have been blinded by darkness. Go your way, throw away your gold and return to the Lord from whom you have gone far, and the Almighty will be your gold.’
You show off you haughtiness also through other things. When one enters your wonderful houses he thinks that he has entered the palace of a prince; when one sees your costly cars parked outside the place of worship he thinks that he is near a club which is attended by millionaires and billionaires. We see horrible things with our own eyes. And who are those who live in these wonderful houses? Who are those who drive these cars? It is you, who, after you believed, have given place to the deceitfulness of riches, to the pleasures of life and to the desires for other things, and thus the Word of Christ has become unfruitful. It can’t bear fruit, for you have ceased keeping the commandments of God. You will not prosper, for you have cast the commandments of the Lord behind your back. It’s time for you to humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord laying aside your haughtiness; weep and mourn as one mourns for his only son, bow down your head like a bulrush in the sight of God, confess to him the haughtiness of your heart and God will have mercy on you; then He will exalt you and you will become really rich.
If you refuse to listen to the Lord, you will bear your disobedience, for Wisdom says: “If you scoff, you will bear it alone” (Proverbs 9:12 – NKJV). Therefore, do not deceive yourselves, for you will pay for your perverse way of living. You have already received in yourselves part of the due penalty for your error, for you are full of troubles and sorrows (you have ceased trusting in the Lord, and you have put your trust in riches and you have strayed from the faith, you have pierced yourselves through with many sorrows); yes, those troubles and sorrows which will be to those who refuse to heed the voice of the Lord. Examine yourselves; do you not see that you have lost faith in the Lord? Do you not see that to you your help does not come from the Lord any longer, but rather it comes from the huge amount of money you have made, for you have neglected the salvation you obtained from the Lord? Do you not realize that you have lost the peace and the quietness and the true joy which are in the Lord? Do you not see that you do not know the Scriptures? Do you not see that you are not able to pray any longer? Do you not see that the good works done for the sake of those who are in need take the last place in your life, or rather they no longer exist? Have you not brought this on yourselves for forsaking the Lord your God, when He led you in the way? Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you! Do not harden your heart, you who love the world and its lusts. God exhorts you to return to Him with all your heart and to walk humbly with Him.
Many live as enemies of the cross of Christ
The apostle Paul wrote to the Philippians: “Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (Philippians 3:17-21 – NIV).
Paul knew that among God’s people there were many who lived as enemies of the cross of Christ, who obviously did not conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel, and thus he exhorted the saints to follow his example and to take note of those who lived according to the pattern he and his fellow workers had given them and not of those who lived as enemies of the cross of Christ. He did not shun to speak of those people, for he spoke of their character and their destiny. I would like you to notice that Paul often spoke to the saints of those people who lived as enemies of the cross of Christ so that they might beware of them, and that when he wrote to the Philippians about the enemies of the cross he wept. Instead, among many Churches today, some believers do not know that there are many who claim to be Christians who live as enemies of the cross of Christ; others know the enemies of the cross for they see that they are bad trees which bear bad fruit, yet they keep silent, for they think that by speaking of them the Church is not edified. Brothers, as for me I will not keep silent, but “I will cry like a woman in labor” (Isaiah 42:14 – NKJV). For you must beware of these men, and you must not follow their example, because they are evildoers, who skilfully hide themselves behind the banner of the Gospel, of which they say they are ministers but this is not true for they serve their stomach and not the Gospel.
We as disciples of Christ must be imitators of Christ and of those who have denied themselves, taken up their cross and followed the steps of Christ. And among those who have denied themselves and carried their cross are the apostles Paul, Peter, Silvanus, Timothy, John and James. It is true that they are no longer in this world, however we have their writings, which show us the way they conducted themselves.
Let me comment now on the above mentioned words of Paul.
● “Many live as enemies of the cross of Christ”
In order that you may understand what it means to live as enemies of the cross of Christ, I need to speak to you of the cross of Christ. Now we, who are believing people, boast in the cross of Jesus Christ, for by it (the cross) the world has been crucified to us, and we to the world, as Paul said to the Galatians: “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14 – NIV). When I say that the world has been crucified to us, I mean that we who are in Christ “have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24 – NKJV). Now if the world and all that is in it – that is, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life – was nailed to the cross of Christ, how can we still love what was nailed to the cross? Don’t you think that if we loved the world and its lusts we would live as enemies of the cross of Christ? Therefore, all those who, through their example and their words, want to arouse in us the love of the world and its lusts live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Know this, that when a preacher seeks to arouse in his listeners the love of riches, the love of money, the love of the pleasures of life, and somehow he urges them to lay up for themselves treasures on earth rather than in heaven, he speaks as an enemy of the cross. If you read carefully the words of Christ and the words of the apostles, you will notice that Christ first and then the apostles exhorted believers in various ways to live godly and righteously, and to set their minds on things above and not on things on the earth. Therefore anyone who does not exhort you to say ‘no’ to the worldly lusts, but he urges you to love them, is an enemy of the cross of Christ. When we speak of the cross of Christ, we speak of sacrifices, sufferings, persecutions; therefore it is inconceivable that one preaches the cross and at the same time he seeks fame, temporal power, the world’s approval, earthly riches, and he loves the world with its lusts. Thus, if a preacher does not want to deny himself, nor to take up the cross of Christ, but he wants to please the world and he shows by his conduct that he loves the world which Christ has nailed to the cross, I urge you to beware of him, for he is not a friend of the cross of Christ but a very fierce enemy of it.
● “Their destiny is destruction”
Those who live as enemies of the cross of Christ walk in a way which leads to destruction. Why? Because those who love the world love their life, and we know that “he who loves his life will lose it” (John 12:25 – NKJV). Yes, all those who refuse to deny themselves and to take up their cross, will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
● “Their god is their stomach”
Now the enemies of the cross of Christ do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their belly, and in order to serve their belly they cause offenses and contradict the teachings of the Word of God. Why do they contradict the Word of truth? Because the Word of God opposes the fleshly lusts and worldly lusts, that is, the things which these people love. Paul exhorted us to beware of these people, saying: “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17-18 – NKJV). Some believers have not yet realized that one cannot seek his own (that is, money, fame, the honor that comes from men) in the work of the Lord and at the same time serve the Lord faithfully and with a clear conscience; for they think that those who preach and seek their own serve Christ, but if things were so, Jesus was wrong for He said: “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Luke 16:13 – NKJV). I give you some examples so that you may understand that he who serves his own belly cannot serve righteousness. Anyone who takes pleasure in revelry and drunkenness cannot love the word which says: “Therefore be … self-controlled” (1 Peter 4:7 – NIV), for it opposes his fleshly lusts. Anyone who loves money cannot love the word which says: “Freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8 – NKJV), nor that which says: “Be content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5 – NIV), for the Word clearly opposes his own interests. This is the reason why those who serve their belly cannot serve righteousness and they oppose the sound doctrine of God with useless wranglings.
● “Their glory is in their shame”
Those who serve their stomach distinguish from those who serve our Lord Jesus Christ for they boast of things which are their shame. Instead of being ashamed of their evil works, they boast of doing them. In hearing them, we realize that they boast of shameful things.
● “Their mind is on earthly things”
The Word clearly says: “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2 – NKJV), but these people refuse to obey the commandment of the Lord, for they seek at any cost to become rich and famous in the sight of the world.
These people set their mind on earthy things, and such an attitude is contrary to the attitude of a true believer, who desires to depart and be with Christ in the heavenly places. From the things these people say and from their way of life we clearly learn that they do not desire to depart from their body and go to be with the Lord, for they take pleasure in living in luxury and in the midst of their riches.
But as for us, our citizenship is in heaven; we want to go to that place where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, where God establishes peace, and where one rests from his labors. Whereas the enemies of the cross of Christ look at the things which are seen, we look at the things which are not seen, which are eternal and kept in heaven for us. We now feel attracted by heaven, and not by the earth; by the heavenly things, and not by earthly things which are like a breath; that’s why we are no longer attracted by the things of this world, that’s why we do not desire to become rich and famous, or to wear costly clothing or to live in luxury or to have pleasant palaces. I ask you, ‘If we desired the same things as the people of the world desire, what would be the difference between us and them?’ Brothers, we must show in deed and in truth that we feel like strangers and pilgrims in this world. If we say that we are on the way to heaven we must also show that we want to go to heaven and we can show this by not conforming to the pattern of this evil world. However, if we also conform to the course of this world, we will cease to enlighten darkness, and thus darkness will not be able to see that we are a nation which walks in the light of the Christ of God.
We have taken up our cross, and with that cross we want to continue to walk together with our Lord; surely there will be many sacrifices and tribulations for us who want to live as friends of the cross of Christ; however while we are looking for the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ it is worth enduring them, for at the end of the race we will obtain the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
To God be the glory now and forever. Amen.
The principle of ‘sowing and reaping’
As I showed before, the principle of ‘sowing and reaping’ or ‘giving and receiving’ is in the Bible. We can do nothing against the truth, so we can’t deny that if we give it will be given to us, and that with the same measure we use it will be measured back to us.
However, it must be said that God commands us to give because He wants us to share in our material goods with those who are in need or deserves to be helped so that His name may be glorified in us, and not because He wants us to become rich. Therefore we must give prompted by the love of God toward those who are in need and not by the love of money. In other words, we must give part of our money to the poor or to the ministers of the Gospel not because we want to become rich or richer, but because we want to love them in deed and in truth. If we give because we want to become rich or because we want to receive, we are wrong for as we saw before we must be content with what we have. So brothers share in your material things with those who are in need or with those who instruct you in the Word, but do this prompted exclusively by the love of God.
I would like to tell you another thing. When you give some money to a minister of the Gospel or to the poor, this does not necessarily mean that God will reward you giving you some other money. In other words, if you give 100 € to God’s work that does not mean that God within a short time will cause someone to give you 200 € or 300 € or more, for nowhere in the Bible we are said that what we reap is exactly according to the kind of what we sow. I give you an example taken from the Bible. Jesus said to His disciples: “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42 – NKJV). As you can see, Jesus did not say that he who gives a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, will receive ten cups of cold water or one hundred cups of cold water. He just said that he will by no means lose his reward. Likewise, when we give some money to God’s work, we must not expect God to reward us with more money (for God is not bound to give you more money). Nevertheless I do not exclude that God may reward us giving us more money. I recall an accident which happened to me many years ago: at that time I was about twenty years old. One Sunday, before leaving my house for the place of worship, I promised God that during the worship service I would give to His work a certain sum of money (it was not much but I decided to give it with a cheerful heart). Nobody knew of my decision. That night, when the worship service was ended, an elderly brother gave me an envelope. I took the envelope and put it into my pocket. After a short time, while I was with my brother, I opened that envelope, and I found in it a sum of money which was bigger than that I had given to the Lord a short time before. However, this experience of mine has not led me to teach that this is exactly what will happen to you if you give some money to God’s work, for many other times God has rewarded me in other ways. Therefore, when you give a certain sum of money for God’s work don’t expect to receive a bigger sum of money; when you give a pair of shoes, do not expect to receive two or three pair of shoes, and so on. What I mean is this, God will surely reward you, but He will reward you according to His will and not according to your will. God is not your servant, but your Master,’ remember this always. Do you remember the Shunamite woman? She was concerned for the prophet Elisha, for she said to her husband: “Let’s make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us” (2 Kings 4:10 – NIV). What did she receive from the Lord? She received a child (cf. 2 Kings 4:16-17). Therefore, the Scripture teaches that God rewards us for our offerings, for He is a righteous God, but His reward is not necessarily according to the same kind of the things we gave (money for money, shoes for shoes, houses for houses, etc.). This is confirmed by the following words Paul said to the Philippians after he received from them an offering: “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 – NIV). What the Bible teaches is that he who helps those who are in need, will be helped by God when he is need; therefore if you meet the needs of someone, God will meet your needs, as it is written: “He who waters will also be watered himself” (Proverbs 11:25 – NKJV). Do you remember the poor widow who lived in Zarephath, who expected to die of hunger, to whom God sent the prophet Elijah? She helped the prophet of God by giving him some food, and God helped her by giving food to her and her son for many days (cf. 1 Kings 17:9-16). In addition to this, a short time after, when her son died of sickness, God raised her son from the dead (cf. 1 Kings 17:17-24). I know by experience that God will never be in debt to us, whatever thing we do for His glory, He will reward us on earth according to His faithfulness and righteousness. Is it not written that “the righteous will be recompensed on the earth” (Proverbs 11:31 – NKJV)? But what I am saying has nothing to do with the ‘prosperity message’ according to which it is God’s will for every son of God to be financially rich and to live as a king’s son on earth. Therefore, brethren, live soberly, righteously and humbly, sharing in your material things with those who are in need, and God in His faithfulness will meet all your needs. Do not desire to be rich, but rather be content with what you have, and God will bless your life.
To ask and receive
Now let me tell you something about the principle of ‘asking and receiving’. God commands us to ask, for Jesus said: “Ask” (Matthew 7:7 – NKJV). However, in order that we may receive from God what we have asked, we must fulfil the following conditions:
We must ask in faith, as it is written: “Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them” (Mark 11:24 – NKJV). Therefore, if we doubt, our prayer will not be answered, “for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:6-8 – NKJV).
We must ask for things which are according to the will of God for us, as it is written: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 John 5:14-15 – NKJV). Therefore, if we ask amiss, that we may spend it on our pleasures, our prayer will not be answered: “You ask, and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3 – NKJV), says James.
We must keep the commandments of God, as it is written: “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22 – NKJV). Therefore, if we refuse to keep the commandments of God, God will not answer our prayer. Wisdom says: “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination” (Proverbs 28:9 – NKJV), and the Psalmist says: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear” (Psalm 66:18 – NKJV).
In the light of the teaching of the Scripture, therefore, in order that our prayer may be answered it is not enough to ask in faith. Therefore we will receive from God the petitions we have asked of Him, if we ask in faith, if they are according to the will of God for us, and if we keep God’s commandments. If only one of these conditions is not fulfilled, we will not receive what we have asked. For instance, if you live soberly, righteously and godly, and ask in faith, but what you ask is not according to the will of God for you, your prayer will not be answered. No matter how many times you may confess that thing in prayer, God will not give you that thing. You are not a god who can speak into existence whatever he wants by his words, but you are a human being made of dust and ashes whose ways depend on God. It is God who has full control over your life, and not you. Let no one deceive you with empty words.
As we saw before, the prosperity preachers teach that tithing is very important for prosperity. This is the reason why they urge believers to tithe (that is, they command believers to bring them each month one-tenth of their income). To support this they quote the following words spoken by the prophet Malachi: “Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts. And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 3:7-12). Let me tell you, therefore, something about tithing.
Tithing is one of the commandments of the law of Moses we are no longer bound to keep. In other words, it is no longer mandatory under grace, for it is not part of the law of Christ. Christ did not command His disciples to give Him a tenth of all their income in order to support His ministry. It is true that Jesus Christ spoke of tithing, for He said to the scribes and the Pharisees: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law; justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone” (Matthew 23:23 – NKJV); however, I would like to point out to you that if we quote these words to support the validity of tithing under the New Covenant, we should regard also the Sabbath day and the dietary laws and many others, as commandments to be kept under the New Covenant. Why do I say this? Because – as you can clearly see – Jesus said: “These [the weightier matters of the law; justice and mercy and faith] you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone” (Matthew 23:23 – NKJV). And which are the other matters of the law which we should not leave undone? It is very easy to answer this question, for they are the Sabbath day, the dietary laws, the laws concerning the Jewish feasts, circumcision, and many others, which we know were just a shadow of things to come and thus we are not bound to keep them. Please pay much attention to these words of Jesus. So, it is clear that Jesus by those words did not mean that we who are under the New Covenant are bound to tithe as the Israelites were bound under the Old Covenant. What did He mean by those words then? Well, He meant that the scribes and the Pharisees (and not His disciples) were hypocrites for they kept just a part of the law of Moses, while they had to keep all the commandments of the law of Moses, and not only some of them. They tithed but they neglected the weightier matters of the law. That’s why Jesus spoke those words to them.
I have written an exhaustive article which refutes the imposition of tithing under the New Covenant; read it.
Health and sickness
It is wrong to affirm that it is never God’s will for any of His children to be sick, for according to the Holy Scriptures sometimes God allows Satan to strike some of His children with sickness, as in the case of Job who was struck by Satan with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head (cf. Job 2.7). The reason why God allows Satan to strike some of His children with sickness is to test them as He tested Job.
Some other times it is God Himself who strikes some of His children with sickness, for they have rebelled against His Word. Many of the saints of Corinth became sick for they had partaken of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:27-30). In this case, therefore, sickness is a punishment God inflicts upon those children of His who despise His Word, and unless they repent of their rebellion they will not be healed or they will die of that sickness.
Some other times, sickness is just the means God has decided to use in order to make His children die and make them pass from this world to heaven. In this case, therefore, the children of God become sick with the illness of which they will die like the prophet Elisha, of whom the Scripture says: “Elisha had become sick with the illness of which he would die” (2 Kings 13:14 – NKJV).
As far as healing is concerned, it must be said that sometimes it is not God’s will for some of His children to be healed for He has decided to make them die of sickness. As we saw before, the Scripture says that the prophet Elisha become sick with the illness of which he would die, Therefore, no wonder that today many Christians die of sickness. Some other times God does not want to heal His children in order to keep them from becoming conceited because of some great revelations they have received from God, as in the case of Paul (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:7-9; Galatians 4:13-15). Some other times we do not know why they are not healed by God, even though they have faith in God and have pleaded with Him to heal them. Timothy was a man of God, who was sick, for Paul said to him: “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for your stomach’s sake and your frequent infirmities” (1 Timothy 5:23 – NKJV). Trophimus, who was a servant of the Lord, was left sick by Paul in Miletus (cf. 2 Timothy 4:20). Whatever the Lord pleases He does, says the Scripture. The Lord’s will be done. However, even though sometimes God does not want to heal some people, we firmly believe that God still heals today for He has not changed and therefore we urge the sick to have faith in God in order to be healed. In addition to this, we urge believers to desire the gifts of healings, so that God may give them the supernatural ability to heal the sick in the name of Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Faith is not a force following unalterable laws
Faith is not a force following unalterable laws. In other words, it is not true that we always get and have in our life what we believe for and say. Know this, that you can have all faith, so that you could remove mountains, but if you plead with God to do something which is not according to His will, you will by no means obtain what you have asked of Him. Let me give you three biblical examples.
Moses was a very humble man of God, he worked many signs and wonders by the power of God both in Egypt and in the wilderness, and his prayers were answered by God. Yet when he pleaded with God to let him enter the land of Canaan, God did not answer his prayer. Here is what Moses said to the Israelites: “And I besought the LORD at that time, saying, O Lord GOD, thou hast begun to shew thy servant thy greatness, and thy mighty hand: for what God is there in heaven or in earth, that can do according to thy works, and according to thy might? I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon. But the LORD was wroth with me for your sakes, and would not hear me: and the LORD said unto me, Let it suffice thee; speak no more unto me of this matter. Get thee up into the top of Pisgah, and lift up thine eyes westward, and northward, and southward, and eastward, and behold it with thine eyes: for thou shalt not go over this Jordan. But charge Joshua, and encourage him, and strengthen him: for he shall go over before this people, and he shall cause them to inherit the land which thou shalt see” (Deuteronomy 3:23-28).
Paul was an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, many people were healed through the laying on of his hands or even without the laying on of his hands, yet when he pleaded with God to take the messenger of Satan (whom God had given him to torment him) away from him, God did not take him away from Paul. Here is what he said to the Corinthians: “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).
Jesus was the Son of God, He was full of faith and the Holy Spirit, He worked many signs and wonders, He healed a great many sick people, yet when He pleaded with God to take that cup away from Him God did not answer His prayer for it was God’s will for Jesus to die on the cross. Here is what Jesus said to His Father: “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will” (Mark 14:36 – NKJV).
Therefore, let no one deceive you with empty words.