Prosperity cannot be the main focus of our ministry, nor should the idea be absent from our ministry. The first step in knowing what to teach about prosperity involves knowing what it entails.
Prosperity is freedom. An example is found in the story of Israel's exodus from Egypt (see Ex. 12:31-36). The primary fact of the exodus was that the Hebrews were leaving their former existence as slaves. God has also freed us from our slavery to sin and ourselves. That is prosperity.
Prosperity is God's blessing. As Pharaoh sent the Israelites away, he told them to take their flocks and herds with them (see v. 32). They left with many possessions, such as flocks of sheep and goats and herds of cattle. They also left as a great nation with many people.
Prosperity is the opportunity to bless others. We also see another principle of God's prosperity in Exodus 12:32. As the people were leaving, Pharaoh said to Moses and Aaron, "Bless me also" (NKJV). Even though the Bible tells us that Pharaoh had hardened his heart against God and Israel, he evidently recognized God's hand of blessing on the people.
As Christians, we have the potential of walking in all of God's blessings. We can have peace in the midst of a crazy world. Our marriages can be strong in a society where divorce is quickly becoming the norm. Our children can grow up with the moral foundation of the Word of God in a society where anything goes.
We can walk in God's financial blessings in a society where money is a god. When we walk in God's blessings, others notice and want to know how this can be.
Prosperity follows purpose. Pharaoh told the people, "Go, serve the Lord as you have said" (v. 31). Israel left in a hurry from Egypt, but they weren't running for their lives--they left with purpose. They weren't just going to go--they were going to worship the Lord on Mount Sinai.
Jesus said it this way: "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matt. 6:33). We need to think about our purpose in life and make sure our priorities are God's priorities.
Prosperity means favor. Finally, Exodus 12:36 tells us, "The Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians." Walking with God and following His purposes for our lives will necessarily affect everything in our lives, including our relationships with others.
God wants us to prosper as we learn to obey God's commands (see Ex. 12:35) and as we learn to follow God's high purpose for our lives (e.g., worshiping at Sinai). But, as we start to receive "gold from Egypt," it's important to avoid two pitfalls:
Misunderstanding Prosperity. Despite the fact that Israel left having "plundered" Egypt, they were hungry and thirsty within weeks (see Ex. 15:23-24; 16:2-3). This is the first fact of God's prosperity: not everything will always go our way.
In the midst of God's prosperity, we will face trials in life; that's a guarantee. God's prosperity and blessing doesn't remove problems, it helps us get through them successfully. When facing trials, we should: (1) step back; (2) re-evaluate where we are in relation to God's will; (3) count our blessings; and (4) put our trust in God and His goodness.
Misusing Prosperity. After the Hebrews reached Sinai, Moses went to meet with God. During his absence, Aaron was convinced by the idolatrous Israelites to create a golden calf for them (see Ex. 32:1-4). Like the Israelites, we misuse God's prosperity when we: (1) forget our purpose; (2) look first to our own needs; or (3) focus on the blessings rather than the One giving blessing.
So, as ministers of the Word, where do we go from here? We must emphasize God's goodness while avoiding self-centeredness. We must learn to teach and preach on prosperity without misunderstanding or misusing it. *
Jim Mann is pastor of New Life Church in Denton, Texas. He earned his master's and doctorate degrees at Southwestern Baptist