3 John 2; What is the Meaning?

"Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers" (3 John 2).

I t is indeed lamentable that this typical farewell message from the apostle John to Gaius the Elder has been picked up and distorted by so many during the last few years.
The truth is, this message is little different to one which we use all the time today, 'I trust that this letter finds you well.'

'Prosper' here in the Greek simply means something like 'to go well with you.' More specifically, the Greek word, eudoo (eudow), means 'to succeed in reaching' or 'to succeed in affairs, including business ones' but the word is not specifically concerned with prosperity. It comes from two root words one of which means 'to accomplish,' 'to do,' to make,' or 'to finish,' the other meaning 'to progress,' or 'to further' (as on a journey). Prosperity teachers claim the word is all about prosperity which reveals their lack of knowledge of New Testament Greek. The particular claim which one sometimes hears is that 'prosper' at the beginning of this verse concerns prosperity of a financial nature while 'prospers' at the conclusion of the verse only concerns spiritual matters. But this is entirely incorrect and - in both cases - the same Greek word is being used (eudow). Indeed, if John the Apostle expresses his wish that the elder might prosper "in all things" does not this remark itself show that this is not being confined to ones financial life?
Some of those who uphold the 'prosperity gospel' say that God wants us all to be healthy and wealthy and we are denying ourselves these things by not 'claiming the promises in faith,' they also seem to imply that words themselves have some sort of magical properties to them, so that if we will only boldly say we will have this or have that, we can have those things!

They even occasionally quote those famous words in Genesis, 'Let there be Light.' If God had faith in His Word, we can have faith in our words, they tell us, so that we too can boldly bring what we desire into existence! This biblically-unwarranted claim is now usually called 'positive confession.' These people seem to hijack the biblical understanding of faith (which is always tied in with the will and sovereignty of God) turning it into something which requires God to give us whatever we want, if we will only be bold and brazen enough to ask for it!

This teaching is so odd and so decidedly unsciptural that it might be considered amazing that any would ever listen to it, unfortunately however, many who are not well grounded in the Word of God do listen to it!
While even some very basic research will show that 3 John 2 really cannot be abused in that way, prosperity adherents will often turn to John 10:10 to back up their point. This is where Jesus said,

"...I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."

And frequently this is exactly how it is quoted, being lifted entirely out of its context! But this is in the Good Shepherd chapter; Jesus is warning about the activities of false shepherds who do not really care about the sheep but only about themselves, then in verse 9, He shows how He brings Eternal Life,

"I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture."

When we come to the next verse, we do not have to wonder what Jesus meant by having life 'more abundantly' since He had already explained it in the previous verse! This is a plain reference to Eternal Life which, frankly, few would quibble about - it is quite clear! It might be said to be a reference to the 'kingdom of God' which certainly, in a sense, starts to have relevance for Christians in this life, but any notion that Jesus is explicitly referring to financial prosperity here is, frankly, laughable.

Others have said that the John 10 reference is to 'the life of eternity.' that is fine, but there is no suggestion of financial well-being in the Greek. Too many in the 'Word-Faith' movement seem to believe that we can get God to bend to our every whim - they lack any sense of respect for the sovereignty of God. They imply that we can have whatever we want, if we will only be bold enough to ask for it, but, just a moment, who is in charge? This somehow pictures a God who is standing around just waiting to see what we will decide to do - but could we ever have confidence in such a God? Why should God want to turn us into 'spiritual spoiled brats' when even human parents quickly learn the folly of spoiling children?

Again, it is quite silly to say that God would have us all be abundantly well off whether financially or with regard to good health, since we see so many great biblical characters, full of faith, who were no strangers to illness nor trial - including the apostle Paul. God refused to heal him of his 'thorn in the flesh' because His (God's) grace was sufficient for him, moreover, such grace (Paul was told) is made 'perfect in weakness'!

The desire for the 'here and now' appears to be too great for some prosperity teachers, they seem to be far less concerned about the eternal state. Yet the New Testament quite clearly promises us trials and hardships in order to equip us with what we need for the kingdom of God! One might carefully read Hebrews 12: 1-11 !!

But, let us close by considering what Paul told the Philippians,

"For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also..." What comes next? 'But also to be healthy and wealthy??'
No! Here is how Paul finishes his sentence, here is the other vital thing 'granted to us,'
"...to suffer for His sake."
(Philippians 1: 29).

Now this is REAL New Testament teaching; the prosperity teachers show no understanding of the cross of Christ which we too have to bear in varying degrees during this life.

With regard to the 'positive confession' and prosperity teaching, you may also wish to read the following articles,