But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day. ~ Deuteronomy 8:18
Deuteronomy 8:18 is one of the most often quoted texts by prosperity preachers who cite it as if it is “a spiritual promise” from God for personal wealth and riches. Yet these words were spoken to the corporate nation of Israel, and not to any single individual. God’s intent for Israel was to make them a great nation above all other nations so that His Name would be glorified. God never promised wealth and riches for every individual in Israel.
The laws given to Israel reflect the fact that the nation would be comprised of individuals across all economic classes. Israel’s laws under Moses made numerous distinctions between the rich and the poor.
There were laws addressing creditors, loans, debts, bribes etc. Consider the following:
If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him. ~ Exodus 22:25
You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. ~ Leviticus 19:15
And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God. ~ Leviticus 23:22
If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. ~ Leviticus 25:35
The promise of wealth which God gave to Israel was national and was dependent on Israel’s loyalty to God and obedience to the law. The wealth of the nation would enable Israel to have a Sabbatical year at the end of every 7th year.
At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release. And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother; because it is called the Lord‘s release. Of a foreigner thou mayest exact it again: but that which is thine with thy brother thine hand shall release; Save when there shall be no poor among you; for the Lord shall greatly bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it: Only if thou carefully hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all these commandments which I command thee this day. For the Lord thy God blesseth thee, as he promised thee: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, but thou shalt not borrow; and thou shalt reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over thee. If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother: But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth. Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee. Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto. For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land. ~ Deuteronomy 15:1-11
Notice the distinction in the verses above between the prosperity of the nation and fact that the poor will never cease out of the land. God’s promise was to increase the well fare and well being of the nation so that Israel could take care of their own and lend to many nations rather than being indebted to other nations.
The power to get wealth in Deuteronomy 8:18 is national, and not individual, for there would always be poor among them. Consider that when Joseph and Mary presented Jesus, their firstborn to God, they gave an offering which was commanded in the law: a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons (Luke 2:24). This offering was one which the poor were to bring.
But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days. 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 12:5-8
The phrase “if she be not able” is a reference to her economical status. Other translations provide clarity where the KJV is not so clear. For example, the Amplified Bible says, “If she cannot afford a lamb then she shall take two turtledoves or young pigeons, one as a burnt offering, the other as a sin offering; the priest shall make atonement for her, and she will be clean.’”
Joseph and Mary were both chosen by God. Joseph was a just man (Matthew 1:19) and Mary was a virgin who was favored of the Lord (Luke 1:30). Yet they were poor and not wealthy.
When Deuteronomy 8:18 mentioned above is taken out of its contextual setting, and used as a promise that God intends to make every individual Christian materially wealthy, error soon follows.
The apostle Paul, addressing the issue of riches says the following:
But 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 raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. ~1 Timothy 6:6-11
I recently watched as a prosperity preacher refused to read 1 Timothy 6:10 which says, “the love of money is the root of all evil.” His justification for refusing to read this text was his claim that this verse had kept those in the congregation, broke. His exact quote was, “No I’m not going to verse 10. Verse 10 has kept you broke.”
This text which he claims had kept the people broke is part of Paul’s warning to Timothy regarding those who make material riches their pursuit rather than the true riches in Christ. Paul tells Timothy to flee the pursuit of material riches and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness instead. Does this mean that being rich in this world is bad or evil? Absolutely not, but equating earthly riches to godliness is contrary to the doctrine of God.
If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. ~ 1 Timothy 6:3-5
Paul follows the words above by saying “But godliness with contentment is great gain.” Our pursuit should be godliness with contentment. Paul goes on to instruct Timothy as to what he should teach those who are rich.
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; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. ~1 Timothy 6:17-19
Notice that Paul does not tell Timothy that God promises to make every believer rich, but gives sound instructions for how those who are rich in this world should live godly. They are to:
- not be proud
- not trust in their riches
- be rich in good works with regards to helping others
By doing these things they store up for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. In other words, they are using their wealth for godly purposes and storing up treasures in Heaven (godly deeds) rather than storing up material treasures on earth that will eventually be of no value.
Consider the words of James:
Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways. ~ James 1:9-11
Wealth and riches are temporary, and can not be taken with you. Every billionaire will leave this world when they die as empty handed as the poorest among the poor. This is why the “pursuit” of wealth is vanity, for by this pursuit many “fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition” ~ 1 Timothy 6:9.
When wealth is obtained honestly by a good work ethic, it is a blessing from God.
Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God. ~ Ecclesiastes 5:19
Enjoying the fruits of our labor is a gift from God. Yet too many Christians are being programmed to believe that God wants them to obtain a rich status by their giving. When our giving is motivated by the desire to get, rather than the joy of helping others, our giving is no longer motivated by love.
The apostle Paul says, “though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing” ~ 1 Corinthians 13:3.
The pursuit of riches corrupts even the motives of our giving.
The tragedy of the prosperity gospel is it’s amplification of certain Biblical texts at the expense of other texts which would bring about a balanced scriptural view. Consider the following from the book of Proverbs:
Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar. Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain. Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. ~ Proverbs 30:5-9
The Bible has much to say about wealth and riches. Sometimes it is a blessing from God, and sometimes it is a curse. If our hearts are not pursing godliness, it will certainly be a curse rather than a blessing.
Remember the words of James, “let the rich rejoice in that he is made low.” To be made low is a reference to humility. The rich are instructed to rejoice in humility because earthly riches are temporal and have no eternal value. Thus Paul instructs Timothy to teach the rich in this world to use their wealth in a manner that glorifies God, and not in the pursuit of lavishing possessions upon themselves so they can parade around telling everyone how blessed they are.
Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. ~ Hebrews 13:5