A Question I Was Asked:

Doesn't Paul Seem to Support the Prosperity Message?

No - Very Definitely Not!

The Question:

Hello I have a question in regards to the so called prosperity gospel or blab it, grab it, name it, claim it. 2 Corinthians 9, and Galations 6:7, 'whatsoever a man soweth so shall he reap. He who sows bountifully will reap bountifully. Give and it will be given unto you..' etc. It seems at first glance that it is describing some kind of spiritual law that God wants to make us rich just by giving we will get back multiplied again to ourselves in order to be a blessing to others. Can you give an exposition. Thanks in advance.

UK Apologetics Reply:

Okay let us look at these Scriptures. First of all 2 Corinthians 9:

1. 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."
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. (2 Corinthians 9:1-11).

This is quite specific; as every good Bible student is aware, Paul the Apostle is here discussing the collection which was made for the church at Jerusalem which was, at that time, being affected by a famine. Notice, "...for the generous gift you had promised." (verse 5). Paul then goes on to mention a clear spiritual principle of Giving, (verses 6-11). All Christians are aware (or should be aware) of this law of giving; givers are always blessed more than those who withold what they could have given. Prosperity teachers often talk about this but then completely distort its meaning by continually suggesting that one should give - and go on giving - to their ministry. Frequently just a little research will discover that such leaders hardly exemplify this in their own lives and are often grasping, greedy and selfish.

Since prosperity gospellers usually demand tithes and tithing they would love Paul to mention that here but, of course, he does not. Rather, note this: "Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion,.." (verse 7). Leaders who insist that their members/adherents pay tithes immediately break this principle because Paul has said that there should be no giving under compulsion! In fact, the voluntary and freewill giving from the heart which Paul refers to here is a million miles away from demanding that people should hand over their 'tithes' to those who greedily and avariciously seek for personal security and wealth by making merchandise out of the gospel!

So there is indeed a spiritual law of giving and Paul the Apostle does mention that but the main point he is discussing here is the collection for the Jerusalem church which was being affected by a famine.

Okay, now let us look at Galatians 6:

7. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.
8. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.
9. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
10. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (Galatians 6:7-10).

Far from being in any way in support of the prosperity teachers, this is a Scripture text which many of them should study very closely. This is saying that we will reap what we sow. Are we 'sowing' to the flesh or to the spirit? If the flesh - with its ultimate desire to control us - is where we are investing, we are heading for "destruction" - very simple. If however the Holy Spirit - and where He leads us - is the most important thing in our lives, we will eventually "reap eternal life." What is our general ife direction? Is it to serve others by making them aware of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Or is it personal gratification? Do we continuously seek to satisfy our lusts and desires, including continuously coveting personal wealth?

Sometimes it helps us to look at two extreme examples:

a. Corrie ten Boom.
"Corrie" ten Boom was a Dutch Christian, who with her father and other family members helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II. Corrie wrote many books and spoke frequently in the post-war years about her experiences. She also aided Holocaust survivors in the Netherlands. Her autobiography, The Hiding Place (1971) was later adapted as a film of the same name. This selfless woman was committed to helping others despite frequent personal danger to herself. She was Christlike in her selflessness, but she did not 'whitewash' the Jews either, simply finding herself alive in a time and place in which - as a Christian - she had to risk her life on a daily basis in order to assist others. Corrie could have been a financially prosperous person, but she was more interested in serving others.

b. Hugh Heffner.
Hugh Marston Heffner (born April 9, 1926, and still living as this went to press) is an American magazine publisher, founder, and chief creative officer of Playboy Enterprises. This man has made huge sums of money, amassed a personal fortune, out of magazine-based pornography which he has helped place before the eyes of millions of men and women world-wide. Personal human weakness, especially among men, is what this man has tapped into in order to make himself successful. He believes, as an example, that a married man should be at complete liberty to 'have' numerous other women besides their wives.

Certainly, those are two extreme examples. One a selfless Christian who believed in 'sowing to the Spirit,' the other a man committed to personal wealth which is gathered by encouraging widespread sexual lust among millions. Even now, I would not judge Heffner too harshly and he could repent on his deathbed, but there we may see two people, two extreme examples, one who has 'sowed to the Spirit,' the other who has 'sowed to the flesh,' seemingly without the least shame. So they are extreme examples; most of us will be somewhere between, although hopefully, closer to Corrie ten Boom if we are Christian believers. I judge neither, but Paul the Apostle, in Galatians 6:7-10, is - effectively - saying: choose the Corrie Boom example!

Absolutely nothing in Paul's words in either of those Scriptures is in any way supportive of those who pervert the Scriptures for personal gain - very far from it. Let us close with this Scripture - please make sure you read every single word of Paul:

3. If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching,
4. they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions
5. and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
6. But godliness with contentment is great gain.
7. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
8. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
9. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.
10. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:3-10, NIV throughout).

Robin A. Brace. November 3rd, 2012.