So often I participate and hear in the warnings against prosperity doctrine. We find easy targets in the Copelands of the world who promise earthly prosperity as they make pleas for you to empty your wallets and max out your cards. At least, we perceive them that that way. But…do we ever consider that conservative evangelicals may have reacted to prosperity doctrine in a way that ignores that there is a true biblical prosperity?
While the prosperity teachers seem to place great burden upon people in teaching that they are not prospering because they are not giving, some evangelicals swing to the other end of the pendulum. We almost hear that prosperity has absolutely nothing to do with God’s purposes. Neither is true.
In Isaiah 53, Isaiah describes the Suffering Servant who will come and be despised and rejected and go silently like a lamb to the slaughter. By his stripes we are healed because he numbers himself with transgressors and suffers in their place. Because of this great Servant, Isaiah 55 brings even greater hope to exiles by telling them (us) what we can expect. "Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” (Isaiah 55:1).
Through Isaiah, God calls us to come without any money and drink and eat in abundance without any cost. The prosperity that God promises to give is absolutely free. We can also argue that it is an eternal prosperity that is not subject to the temporary nature of earthly materialism. The water and food Isaiah talks about is the abundance of the eternal and providential God of the universe. It is an abundance that far outweighs the fleeting pleasures of this world. It is not given to them that give the most, but it is given to them who have nothing. It cannot be bought. The very heart of God is shown in that he appeals to us to come and enjoy his eternal provision knowing that we can bring nothing to the table to obtain it. That’s true prosperity.
How can it be that such an eternal prosperity could be ours? Who is paying for this great abundance? The answer is, the Suffering Servant has paid and has numbered himself among us and we now share in his conquering victory over death and sin. He has paid for our inheritance with his blood and he is the abundant owner of all things who has capacity to give infinitely.
We should never say that God is not a God of abundance and prosperity. Indeed, God is a God who desires to share the splendor of his glory with his children in his infinite generosity. This is our God who saves. We should also never reduce God’s infinite generosity to fleeting earthly pleasures that are only attainable on the basis of what we give. This is the bankruptcy of the prosperity gospel that promises finite indulgences in the place of infinite glorious abundance.
The prosperity gospel keeps people in slavery to accumulation while the one true gospel brings freedom for generosity. Because we know that God has already paid for and given his abundance to us without any possibility of contribution from us, we know that there is no need to hoard selfishly. We know that we already have inherited the whole earth and have infinite abundance in Christ. Our resources have been freed to express our gratitude to God and our desire to see others experience the same generosity we have. We are not slaves to giving in order to get. We are freed from getting in order to give.
We can therefore say to everyone in every economic phase of life, “Come and drink freely from the Spring of Living Water.” Or as Isaiah says it… “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:7).