Can’t Stand Prosperity

Prosperity! The very word conjures up myriad definitions and concepts. Prosperity means different things to different people.   The word in general has a positive connotation, kind of akin to “human flourishing”.  Its most common meaning is “success, affluence, wealth, fortune” in connection with material prosperity. This is the way most in America, and in most western cultures, define prosperity. It is defined as having an impressive home, a sound portfolio, and an accumulation of things.  There was a bumper sticker going around during the go, go 1990’s that said, “He who dies with the most toys, wins!” It was widely criticized even while the reality of that sentiment was being played out in society in rabid materialism and unstaunched greed. We were literally living out Gordon Gecko’s mantra from the movie 1987 movie “Wall Street”; “Greed…is good.” The idea of prosperity was front and center.

But there are many categories of prosperity; physical prosperity in which we enjoy health, social prosperity in which we enjoy a bevy of positive human relationships, mental prosperity where we are of sound mind, familial prosperity in which we enjoy a large and loving family dynamic. We even have a “prosperity gospel” that spiritualizes our materialism.

And then there is such a thing as spiritual prosperity.  Of all the categories, this is the one usually at the bottom of the list in the minds of most in terms of importance.

In Israel’s history, God promised the theocratic nation “prosperity” when they obeyed him and lived according to his Word (Deut. 28:11; 29:9; 2 Chron. 7:10; Job 36:11; Jer. 33: 6-9; 36:11; 1 Kings 2:3, et. al.). Being a literal land-based theocracy, God’s “blessing” and “prosperity” were manifested largely in material, military, and societal prosperity.  The mistake that many who read the Bible today make is to superimpose those temporal and material blessings of Israel as a nation, to individuals today. Those blessings to them were mere illustrations and foreshadowing of the eternal and spiritual blessings that were to be secured in Christ.

But Israel never could stand its prosperity. When they prospered, they strayed from God. Jer. 22:21 says, “I spoke to you in your prosperity, but you said, ‘I will not listen.’ This has been your way from your youth.” Israel’s “ear for hearing” grew duller and duller as they prospered more and more. This was characteristic of the dynamic in the book of Judges. Whenever they would suffer at the hands of the Philistines or other native peoples in Canaan, God would send them a Judge and deliverer who would free them. They would follow the Lord and prosper while the Judge lived but after he died, they would return to sin and servitude.  They could not stand prosperity.

We just recently marked the 244th birthday of the United States of America. Our country has been, especially in the last 100-125 years, the most prosperous on the face of the earth and in the history of the world. By nearly any measurement – liberty, safety, standard of living, economy – we have been a prosperous people. But it just does not seem like we can handle prosperity.  Like most nations that once enjoyed great prosperity but are now footnotes in history, America is rotting from the inside out. We are not satisfied to be thankful for our history, marred as it may be, and build upon that foundation. The force of progressive thought today is to tear it all down and dismiss from our history any who led in the building of this prosperous Republic, because they had flaws…they were not perfect people.

But not satisfied to tear down the history of the nation, there is a long-standing agenda to remove the moral and spiritual history of this people. Christianity and Christian morality were the foundation that formed our society.  It is now lampooned, attacked in the Supreme Court, and being driven from the public square and discourse.  All in all, we just can’t seem to stand prosperity.

But there is one prosperity that can never be assailed; the spiritual prosperity that comes to the soul of one who is a redeemed child of God. Regardless of whether or not we have material, political, or physical prosperity, those who have trusted in Christ as Lord and Savior have an eternal spiritual prosperity that cannot be taken away. That is the prosperity we must have.

Even while national prosperity fades, our spiritual prosperity can grow exponentially.  May it ever be so.


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