THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL
Lord, I am a cheerful giver.
Read 2 CORINTHIANS 9
9 There is no need for me to write to you about this service to the Lord’s people. 2 For I know your eagerness to help, and I have been boasting about it to the Macedonians, telling them that since last year you in Achaia were ready to give; and your enthusiasm has stirred most of them to action. 3 But I am sending the brothers in order that our boasting about you in this matter should not prove hollow, but that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 For if any Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we—not to say anything about you—would be ashamed of having been so confident. 5 So I thought it necessary to urge the brothers to visit you in advance and finish the arrangements for the generous gift you had promised. Then it will be ready as a generous gift, not as one grudgingly given.
6 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written:
“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor;
their righteousness endures forever.”[a]
10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
a 2 Corinthians 9:9 Psalm 112:9
New International Version (NIV)
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Remember the words of the Lord Jesus: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
The so-called “prosperity gospel” teaches that the more we give to God financially, the more we “prosper” financially. It has been used to manipulate people into supporting a particular preacher or ministry, with the promise that God will grant health and wealth as a result. Such teaching is thoroughly unbiblical. A simple reflection on the life of Jesus who had “nowhere to lay his head” should show us this (Matt. 8:20).
Yet there is a proper, biblical “prosperity” teaching, found in our reading today. Paul uses the image of a farmer sowing seed in a field and applies it to our giving. If a miserly amount of seed is sown, the harvest will be small. Conversely, if seed is sown liberally, there will be an abundant harvest (6). Put another way, the more we give the more we get, whether intentionally or not. So, are the health and wealth teachers right after all? No, for the harvest is borne of “righteousness” (10). We are assured, once again, that God will provide for our physical needs, but this is not the main point. Those who give generously will be made spiritually rich (11).
As we sow into the lives of others by supporting God’s people and enabling Gospel work to flourish, much fruit results. It is this spiritual prosperity—“treasures in heaven,” as Jesus calls it—that is in view here (Matt. 6:19–21). For some, this may sound a poor substitute for earthly treasure, which might seem more solid and real. Yet this is the spiritual fruit that will last forever, whereas the earthly variety will soon disappear. As the hymn puts it, “Solid joys and lasting treasure none but Zion’s children know” (John Newton, 1725–1807). Let us thank God for this truth and resolve to become truly rich by laying up treasure in heaven.
What impact have chapters 8 and 9 made on your life? Resolve to take steps to bring your own practice into line with God’s Word.
Lord, impress upon us even further the need to give consistently and substantially to the work of Your kingdom.