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Does God really want us to be sick and poor?

Revisiting the prosperity gospel

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Question:  I almost get the idea that you believe being dirt poor is the answer to godliness. And that being sicker and more disabled is how God identifies "blessing". I've followed the prosperity message for a few years and they teach the responsibility of tithing and giving cheerfully. I am not corrupt with greed, and my wife and I do live in better health because of God's living word. We used to be sick quite often. I don't believe God our Father is impressed with either wealth or poverty. He is big on faith in Him. He doesn't encourage us to trust Him and then when we take the step, pull the rug out from underneath us. How could one trust that? We love Jesus with all our hearts and believe there is a balance in good teaching. By balance I don't mean half faith, and half unbelief. There are some who do go overboard with health and wealth, but that doesn't mean God thrives on His people being broke. There is absolutely nothing wrong with a nice home and nice clothes. There is a poverty gospel out there too. Jesus did have a home - remember they took His roof apart to let down the lame man? And did He see their faith and tell the sick man, "It's not My will, nor My Father's to heal you"? Is there anywhere in Jesus ministry where He said "I wont heal you "? Where in God's word can you find anyone giving praise to God for remaining sick? I find lots of versus that show people receiving healing and all present gave glory to God. God bless.

Response:  I agree with a lot of what you say. However, I don't believe you could have gotten very deep into the teaching at this site and feel your statement "you believe being dirt poor is the answer to godliness" is supported by anything I've said, let alone by the tone and tenor of the teaching overall. As is often the case in scripture, extremism in either direction is a mistake, be it the teaching and practicing of an extreme “vow of poverty” on the one hand or embracing an extreme version of the “prosperity gospel”:

Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die; Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or I may become poor and steal and so dishonor the name of my God.
Proverbs 30:7-9   NIV

God does bless. He does heal and restore. He also tests us to demonstrate our faith. Using your logic here, wouldn't Job's comforters have been correct in seeing him as a sinful man? How else to explain his losses and disease except that he had been stricken by God for unbelief, and that he had failed to pray to God and trust Him for relief? Timothy had frequent illnesses (1Tim.5:23) - I trust you will agree that this does not reflect on any lack of spirituality on his part. And Paul was purposely given a "thorn in the flesh" (2Cor.12:7) - not to punish him but rather to help him avoid becoming puffed up on account of the surpassing greatness of the revelations given to him. He did ask God to remove this thorn (three times), but God would not, telling Paul instead "My grace is sufficient for thee". Paul's response is indeed to give glory to God, to boast of his weakness, even to delight in it, and to teach us that it is in weakness that we truly experience the power of God (2Cor.12:9-10; cf. 2Cor.13:4).

I don't want you to be confused about my position here. I don't choose for you or for me to be sick or poor, and I don't recommend either state. I do not encourage anyone to do anything that would make them either sick or poor. Would that we might all be healthy all the time. Would that we might all be prosperous at all times. But in the scriptures we see that "all who would live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted" (2Tim.3:12; cf. Acts 14:22). This is a principle that has played itself out in the lives of all of the great believers of the Bible (e.g., Heb.11). The fact of the matter is that testing is essential for us to grow past a certain point, and that everyone who truly wants to grow closer to the Lord will be tested - and these tests may include illness, loss of prosperity, or any other manner of worldly pressure whereby we are given the opportunity to show that, no matter what, we are more interested in the Lord and His Word than we are about anything in this decaying world. I do not seek testing. I do not seek pressure. I do not like sickness or poverty. And I would certainly not seek them out - God does not honor pointless self-flagellation of any sort. But I want to be ready for whatever testing the Lord sends my way that He may be pleased with me and glorified thereby.

Jesus told us to seek first the kingdom, then all the material needs we had would be met. The kingdom comes first - then whatever prosperity and health God has for us come at His own time and in His own way. We put Him first, His Word, faithfulness to Him, then He takes care of us - in His perfect way. Health and wealth are relative things, after all. No one is without aches and pains, and few are wealthy as Croesus; on the other hand, as long as we draw breath we can follow Him, even if sick, and we must have at least some rudimentary level of substance to keep body and spirit together, even if by the world's standards this is poverty. The primary question we should be concerned with as Christians then is not really even the state of our health or of our wallets (though as human beings in this world we may be hard put to dismiss them from our minds even for a moment), but rather how to please the Lord with whatever abilities, resources and opportunities He has given us.

I don't advocate poverty or sickness. But if you takes the position that the presence of either is an indication of failed spirituality (or conversely that health and wealth are indications of great spirituality), then you have only set yourself up for a fall. Hard times lie ahead, times in which the world as a whole will come to forget even what prosperity and well-being may mean (please see the series: Coming Tribulation). Just as the Lord told Baruch not to seek great things for himself in a time of universal judgment (Jer.45), we too may find ourselves counting ourselves blessed just to escape with our lives (and we may even be called upon to give them up for the Lord's glory).

Of course God heals. Of course He prospers. But as for me, I plan to continue praising Him in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, till death reunites me with the Lord who bought me. I very much hope that you and all my brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ will commit themselves to do the same.

You may also find the following links helpful:

The "Prosperity Gospel".

Are health and wealth a part of the gospel?

The Dangers of the Prosperity Gospel.

Habakkuk's Prosperity Prayer: Habakkuk 3:17-19.

In the One whose sufferings we are sometimes called to share, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill

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