Many teachings circulating in the church today concern the kind of prosperity believers should experience.
To properly understand Scripture, we must realize that God revealed Himself in a progressive way. If a principle is mentioned only in the Old Testament, it is for the people in Old Testament times. It illustrates the character and trustworthiness of God as we watch how He always keeps His promises.
But if a principle is mentioned in the Old and New testaments, or if it is mentioned only in the New Testament, it applies to us today.
It is true that in the Old Testament, material wealth often was, though not always, a sign of God’s favor and blessing. The New Testament changes from “Come” (to Jerusalem) to “Go” (to the nations). There, the sign of God’s blessing is no longer houses and lands and material possessions.
In fact, because the primary New Testament command is to go, houses, lands and property tend to become dead weight. We are told that those are things that the heathen seek.
We are told to seek the Kingdom first, and the Kingdom is not visible. Prosperity now is measured by faith. Faith is nothing more than believing God and showing it by doing what He says, trusting the outcome to Him.
As believers, we are told to crucify the lusts of the flesh, including material greed. Jesus issued stern warnings about how few rich people would be in heaven. That astounded His disciples, who were operating under the Old Testament understanding of wealth. When Jesus talked about how the rich could enter heaven, He used the analogy about a camel. The way a camel got through the “Eye of the Needle” gate in Jerusalem was by kneeling down and ridding himself of his load.
That is a perfect analogy of the New Testament lifestyle. It is on the go, and the only way to do that effectively is to stay as free of cumbersome burdens as possible. Why would He tell the rich man to sell his stuff and give it to the poor if great wealth was the sign of God’s blessing? How would anyone know God was blessing him if he was poor? In the New Testament, believers who had anything of substance gladly sold and distributed it so there would be no lack in the body.
Unregenerate man always will seek after the things that satisfy the flesh. Do we believe that we need to have material wealth and all its trappings for the unsaved to want to follow Jesus? Be very careful. Sometimes God may answer our lustful prayers, but send leanness to our souls.
Jesus is looking for those who will drop their nets to follow Him, without asking questions about where He might be leading them. The Apostle Paul referred to material possessions as dung compared to the joy of knowing and following Jesus. Are you a net dropper or a dung collector?
Rayman is the dean of academics at Coastal Georgia School of Missions and a member of the United Ministerial Alliance.