Do Paul’s Life and Writings Support a Prosperity Gospel?

pot of gold coinsScripture: 2 Corinthians 11:23–27, ESV

Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27, ESV)

Some teachers promote the “prosperity gospel,” the idea that you will prosper in this world if you believe the “right” way. But do the life and writings of the apostle Paul support this idea?

Consider what Paul faced once he began following Christ: He was beaten with rods and lashes, imprisoned, shipwrecked, faced countless dangers, and ultimately died a martyr’s death. In fact, none of the Apostles experienced the so-called prosperity gospel. History and legend indicate that all of the Apostles died a martyr’s death except the apostle John.

The question of whether the prosperity gospel is biblical brings us to a basic question raised in the study of KingdomNomics: to what extent are we willing to exchange the instant gratifications of this world for the delayed eternal rewards in the world to come that are promised to strategic kingdom investors?

The apostles are the star examples of people willing to experience delayed gratification of this world in order to receive the promises of the future outlined in Scripture. They bet their lives on it!

Consider what is stated in Hebrews 11. “By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (Hebrews 11:24–26, ESV).

Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:36–38, ESV).

We must keep in mind we are just passing through this world. “For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14, ESV). Those who fail to appreciate this truth may be in for a very rude awakening. The idea that we will find “Easy Street” when we come to the Lord is a false teaching and should be avoided; it is a disservice to the church of Christ.

We must remember, “Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised” (Hebrews 10:35–36, ESV).

Today, ask yourself:

Do I realize the import of what Jesus says in John 16:33 (ESV): “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”