Money provides tremendous opportunities, but also brings difficult tests. In fact, with the remarkable material prosperity released in our generation, "being blessed" has proven a curse for many people. When their money and material possessions have increased, many solid Christians have tragically lost their heart for God and the furthering of His kingdom.
Many of these failed when tested with financial blessing because of three mistakes. First, they largely misunderstood the purpose of financial increase and money in general. Second, many did not embrace the repentance that John the Baptist preached. Third, when God released prosperity to them, they allowed their focus to drift away from Him and toward the natural wealth He had provided.
There are many misunderstandings about prosperity floating through the church today. The extremes are obvious some believe God wants every believer poor so we will be completely dependent on Him. On the opposite end, others believe God wants to make everyone live life in ease and comfort.
The truth lies somewhere between these two extremes.
Without elaborating in great detail, the reality is God wants to prosper His people as we embrace the principles outlined throughout the Scriptures. He wants us to be diligent in work, wise in investments, sober in our spending habits, and faithful in our giving. In other words, God’s plan for blessing His people is based upon our adherence to the wisdom outlined in His Word. Get rich quick schemes are denounced by the Scriptures.
Understanding that God wants to prosper us and the pathway to prosperity is important. However, we also need to recognize the pitfalls of prosperity or we may discover too late that we have fallen into them. Proverbs 1:32 states, "...the prosperity of fools shall destroy them" (NKJV). Only a fool would want prosperity without the wisdom to use it properly.
Money or material prosperity is not simply provided as a personal reward from God for obeying His will. While it is a foundational concept that God's blessing follows our dedication to sound principles of life and business, there are more profound and nobler reasons that God releases wealth to His people.
Although He loves and wants to bless us, God does not provide wealth simply so we can enjoy it. This fallacy stems from the selfish perspective plaguing much of our contemporary Christianity. God has a deeper desire in blessing us materially. His hope is that we embrace the joy of participating with Him in extending these blessings to others by giving. In other words, God blesses us so we can bless others for His kingdom.
Resources Not Just Blessings
It is God that gives you power to gain wealth that He might establish His covenant on the earth (see Deuteronomy 8:18). God releases money and other material resources to those who are faithful in His kingdom. Their service may have been in any arena, not just financial. However, because of their faithfulness and obedience within these different arenas, God provides additional resources to them, including money. But the increase they experience should be understood as kingdom resources, not just personal rewards or blessings.
Because this concept has been so fundamentally misunderstood, any Increase in prosperity has often brought about complacency in believers by revealing a profound selfishness within them. Instead of recognizing that they received a greater stewardship, many thought they were simply being blessed for their faithful service. With this self-centered perspective, they began to consume through their lusts the resources they were supposed to extend to others.
God does want to bless us, and we should understand that, but His intentions go beyond blessing us. According to II Corinthians 9:8, "God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed." God wants to bless us so that our needs are completely covered in every area and we have an abundance to give charitably to every good work.
However, based on much self-centered theology, many instead believe God gives to us so that we have an abundance of every good thing. The pivotal misunderstanding here revolves around the purpose of money. Money, along with other resources, is given by God to provide for us and our families, and so we can do good in His name and further His kingdom on the earth.
Some believers have understood the potential that money has to corrupt them and therefore seek to avoid dealing with financial increase. Although this is a noble intention, running away from prosperity is not part of God’s plan for dealing righteously with it. Money, like all resources, is necessary and needed for doing His will. It is our own wrong desire for having money, born of selfishness that is an issue.
When God provides us with greater material resources to use for His kingdom, we must embrace these resources gratefully, but soberly. We must overcome the temptation to build for ourselves instead of releasing to others. If we pass this test, we find an amazing opportunity to grow in God's nature and character, which is based on giving.
There is a significant temptation when provided with material blessing to move away from our devotion to spiritual principles. And this is a crucial test of the validity of our faith. We must grow in faith and devotion to God while increasing in material wealth or will we fall to trusting in the temporal instead of the spiritual.
Historically, many have failed this test. They lost their "faith walk" when finances increased. They subtly began trusting in their wealth instead of the Lord when any increase came. It is well-documented within Western society that as income increases, the percentage people give away actually shrinks, and this includes Christians. However, this does not have to be repeated in our lives. We can live differently if we make better choices, based on a better understanding.
Jesus declared that it was impossible to serve both God and mammon (see Matthew 6:24). So the issue before us is how to receive material wealth from God and use it for His kingdom, instead of simply consuming it on ourselves. We must also discover how to experience an increase in our devotion to God and His kingdom while experiencing increase in the material realm. Last, we must discover God's plan for how we can redeem material blessings for greater spiritual authority and power.
The Repentance We Need
The first answer for us is found in repentance-not just our contemporary ideas of repentance, but biblical repentance. When John the Baptist burst onto the scene, his message was simply, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Repent so you can enter it." The message is simple to enter or experience the kingdom of heaven, we must repent. But what are the practical steps of repentance required of us?
This was the same question the people posed to John after coming to his baptism and hearing him preach repentance. Remarkably, his answers to three different groups asking this same question had one theme overcome your love of money and your trust in material possessions. We find this exchange in Luke:
To the multitudes john said: "Let the man who has two tunics share with him who has none; and let him who has food do likewise (Luke 3:11). To the tax collectors John answered: "Collect no more than what you have been ordered to" (Luke 3:13). To the soldiers John said: "Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages" (Luke 3:14).
John's answer to everyone was: Stop trusting in material possessions. He then made it even more practical for them by giving specific directions. Be content "With your pay scale. Do not try to gain financially by cheating another person. Do not put your faith in money or material blessings. Trust God to provide for you as you look out for others.
These were profoundly simple steps of repentance, but in each case they dealt "With a heart attitude toward money or possessions. This repentance or turning away from our trust in money and natural provision is necessary for us to experience the kingdom of heaven.
Our heart must become unfettered by the love of money or material blessings, or we "Will fall and not ascend higher as God desires. The issue is learning that we are called as conduits of blessing, not their end point. Paul quoted Jesus in Acts 20:35 as saying, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." God wants us to have so we can give, not just have so we can be full.
Who Do We Love?
The desire for fullness really is the issue. When Jesus stated that it was impossible to serve God and mammon, He was not just denouncing money (see Matt hew 6:24). Mammon is not just another expression for money or material resource. Mammon was actually a demon deity of fullness worshiped by pagan cultures. Jesus was saying we cannot serve both God and the desire to be filled to fullness "With worldly; temporal possessions.
Jesus was warning us of the power of mammon. We must understand that mammon has power, and we must continually wage warfare against the control it seeks over our lives. Do not be deceived; we cannot serve God and mammon. We cannot place our security in being full of this world's provision and serve God at the same time.
Practically though, how can we know if we trust God and love Him, or if we trust in money and love it? One way love is revealed is by our reaction to the proximity of the object of our affection. How do you feel when God is close to you? Do you feel secure and protected, empowered and joyful? When He appears to be distant, are you despondent and helpless?
What about our reaction to money and provision? When we have money or provision, do we feel better, empowered, protected, and secure? Are we forlorn, fearful, and depressed when it is distant? When money goes away from us, are we depressed? Can we say with Paul that we have learned to be content in all states, abounding or being abased, or do we love money so much that we have lost our need for God? Getting our heart straight about money and our attitude toward it is crucial for our generation.
Choosing Poverty of Spirit
There are practical ways to avoid setting our affections on money or temporal things. If we intentionally live with an open hand as John the Baptist prescribed, we wage a constant warfare against this temptation. Additionally, we can make structured choices to increase our standard of giving, not our standard of living, as God blesses us materially. By doing this we acknowledge our position as stewards of His resources, not just consumers of His blessings.
Additionally; while God wants to break the spirit of poverty off the church, we must in tum embrace poverty of spirit. While the phrase "poverty of spirit" is arcane, the sentiment it represents is sorely needed today. Poverty of spirit or being poor in spirit means to know our need for God.
Being poor in spirit or recognizing our need for God is our best protection from the corrupting influence of money and material blessing. If we know our need for God and grow in our pursuit of Him, it will protect us against selfishly using financial increase that God extends for our stewardship. Otherwise we will fall to living only according to the kingdom of this world.
Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are poor in spirit (see Matthew 5:3). In other words, when we know our need for God, it enables us to rise above the temptations to only accept a worldly or earthly kingdom. If we can walk out the repentance John preached, even when financial increase or material prosperity comes, we can experience the kingdom of heaven.
In this way, material blessings do not have to be an impediment to walking in the kingdom of heaven. In fact, part of God's plan for releasing financial resources is to provide us a pathway for experiencing a more spiritual, supernatural realm. Financial resources can provide an amazing springboard for moving in greater realms of spiritual authority and power, if we respond correctly when they come.
The True Riches
Jesus hinted at the hidden potential of properly stewarding material resources in a parable He told His disciples. In Luke 16 Jesus tells of a steward who was unfaithful with His master’s possessions. He then made this statement as an application: "He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. "If therefore you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous mammon, who will entrust the true riches to you?" (Luke 16:10-11).
There is something available to us that Jesus describes as ''true riches" when compared with unrighteous mammon. The pathway to being entrusted with these true riches, in part, is properly stewarding the natural resources that God extends to us. Financial blessings, when stewarded wisely; provide pathways to true riches. The true riches God wants to release to us are spiritual authority and supernatural power to demonstrate the kingdom of God.
God wants to release to us amazing authority over sickness and disease. He wants to release profound authority over demonic influences that oppress mankind. He longs to release the miraculous to His people. Amazingly; one way He does this is by giving us natural resources to teach us faithfulness, and to grant us access into the kingdom of heaven.
Redeeming the Natural for the Supernatural
When God entrusts us with natural resources, this presents us with an amazing opportunity to experience spiritual power and authority. Another way of saying this is that the natural resources are redeemable for supernatural resources. God will actually enable us to give our natural resources and gain heavenly access as a result.
Years ago, just after graduating from the university and before I was married, the Lord instructed me to give all of my money to a couple who were expecting their first child. Although, I had a specific need personally, the Lord told me that He wanted to pay for this child's birth and His plan was to use my money to do it. He reminded me of how often I told Him that all my possessions belonged to Him, and now He wanted to discover if l really believed it.
This was a significant test for me. I had a specific impending need for the money. It actually took several hours of dedicated prayer before I found strength to obey partially because the Lord revealed that my need would go unmet for four months. Later that evening, as I gave the money to this couple at the Lord's direction, I discovered it fully covered their expenses. Also, as the Lord had spoken, my own needs were not met for more than four months after this.
God had allowed me to redeem unrighteous mammon for supernatural provision without even realizing it. My obedience in giving at the Lord's direction opened a reservoir of supernatural resources for my children beyond anything I could imagine.
Over the years, as my family has grown to include three daughters in addition to my two sons, I have marveled as God has quickly and repeatedly answered my prayers for them. They have experienced supernatural healings, vivid dreams from God, remarkable prophetic giftings, and a deep commitment to righteousness. I thank God frequently for asking me to give sacrificially many years ago. I now realize that when God asks for something, He is trying to bless us, not take something away.
This is the foundation of covenant relationships. When two people are in a covenant relationship-they have agreed that all they possess belongs to the other. God has brought us into this type of covenant relationship. The way that He allows us to access this covenant is by asking us to give what we have at His direction. If we have demonstrated faith by releasing whatever He asks, He in tum will give us access to whatever He has that we need. We effectively trade our natural resources for His supernatural resources.
We need to understand that when God asks us for something, He is looking to bless us, in addition to others. Every act of obedience toward God opens something profound to us in the kingdom of heaven. However, because of our unrenewed minds, we see most things wrongly. God wants to bless us, not harm us, by encouraging us to give freely to others. If we will obey His voice and release our material possessions at His instruction, we can redeem them for supernatural realities that are much more precious. We can really experience the kingdom of heaven, if we know our need for Him, and not just natural things.
The Laodicean Opportunity
In Revelation 3 we find a remarkable situation with the Laodicean Church. This church was devoid of passion for Jesus and spiritual realities. Their fall had occurred because their affection was centered on their wealth and abundance instead of God. Jesus described them as being neither hot nor cold-which are both supernatural states, but as lukewarm which is the natural state of all things. Called to be a supernatural people, they were most decidedly natural in all ways.
"Because you say, 'I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,' and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, "I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire, that you may become rich, and white garments, that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see" (Revelation 3:17-18).
Because their focus was on material wealth, the Laodiceans were no longer poor in spirit. They actually believed they had need of nothing- including the Lord, who later revealed that He stood on the outside of this church. Though they had remarkable material blessings, they were spiritually bankrupt and were currently living only in the worldly realm, with no access to the kingdom of heaven.
However, even though their state was so pitiful and perilous, Jesus gave them the greatest promises of any of the churches in the Revelation. Consider the opportunity He extended to those who repented and overcame "...be zealous therefore, and repent. "Behold I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me. "He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne" (Revelation 3:19-21).
These are remarkable promises. Although they had abandoned the pursuit of Him for natural things, Jesus promised His church that He would come and have intimate fellowship with them. He also promised to elevate them to sit with Him on His throne. In other words, Jesus offered to grant profound spiritual authority the right to sit with Him on His throne, to those who overcame their fallen focus on being increased and full.
Jesus extended these remarkable promises to those who heard His voice and opened the door for Him. We must hear the Lord's voice calling us to return to a life as stewards of His resources instead of consumers of His blessings. And we must open the door for Him, by obeying His instruction to extend these resources to others as He directs. If we are zealous in this repentance, the results will be astounding.
We will experience intimate fellowship with Him and experience a more full spiritual authority than we can now imagine. We must choose poverty of spirit and continue seeking the Lord, redeeming the natural blessings for supernatural realities. The purpose of prosperity is to use it wisely to open the doors of the kingdom of heaven.