There has been too much prosperity preaching about wealth, health, and happiness. Those individuals who are preaching and teaching that believers not only have a right to God’s wealth, health, and happiness blessings but also that believers can obtain these blessings through their positive confessions of faith and through their “sowing of seeds” (their faithful payments of tithes and offerings) have neglected or abandoned the weightier issue.
That weightier issue is spiritual prosperity. That’s right. Preaching and teaching a spiritual prosperity Gospel is more important than preaching and teaching a give-to-get, name-it-claim-it, blab-it-grab-it, and/or believe-it-receive-it gospel, which focuses primarily on getting physically rich in the here and now! In fact, no matter who is preaching and teaching this prosperity gospel, the central message of financial increase ALWAYS declares to believers that when they study and apply God’s biblical principles of increase (financial prosperity) that these biblical principles also will help them to obtain divine healing (health) and emotional stability (happiness).
It is important to note that God does not condemn wealth. In fact, He wants His children to prosper financially, but He does not want them to hoard their wealth, or spend it solely on themselves. Because God is omniscient, He knows that just as impoverished conditions can cause people to rebel against Him, and even cause them to forget about Him, the same is true about people living in affluent environments (cf. Proverbs 30:8-9 and Hosea 13:6). Basically, both wealth and poverty can distract people.
However, in the Bible, God speaks more about the distractions of wealth than He speaks about the distractions of poverty. In fact, the Laodiceans (wealthy believers) are the best New Testament example of how spiritually dangerous wealth can be when it distracts believers. Because the Laodiceans are very affluent, they no longer look to God for their necessary provisions. Instead, they trust in their own power and ability to meet their needs (cf. Revelation 3:17).
Since money has the power to distract believers (can be the main reason why they take their focus and trust off of God), God wants His children to understand that the more they try to possess money the more money will end up possessing them. God also wants His children to know that anyone who looks at the wealth he or she has and thinks, “God has blessed me with this, and, therefore, God is pleased with the way I am living,” this person is like the Laodiceans and, thus, is in for a rude awakening. The truth is that God is not pleased with the Laodiceans, because their complacency disgusts Him to the point that He wants to vomit them out of His mouth. In other words, God is incensed by these believers’ self-satisfaction!
God wants the Laodiceans to realize that HE is the One who blessed them with a great harvest—with much wealth—and not so that they would use their considerable riches for their own enrichment, but rather so that they would use their substantial wealth to help other people who have an urgent need. Therefore, ANYONE who thinks that God will bless him or her with wealth just so he or she can be self-satisfied will find out that he or she is spiritually bankrupt—spiritually naked and spiritually blind! The richest person who ever lived, King Solomon, understood this truth very well. In Ecclesiastes chapters 2 and 5, King Solomon declares that people who are self-satisfied with their wealth often feel like something is missing; thus, they personally do not really enjoy their riches.
Also in the Old Testament, specifically in Proverbs 28:11 and Jeremiah 9:23, God warns the wise, strong, and wealthy people who glory in (become self-satisfied with) their own wisdom, strength, and wealth. God’s Word makes it clear that these kinds of self-satisfied individuals would become artificial, proud, or arrogant people. Ironically, God adds that it would be a physically poor person with spiritual discernment who would be the one to see right through these self-satisfied wise, strong, and wealthy people!
Wealth, thus, has the power to distract even the wisest and the strongest in the faith individuals. Wealth also has the power to lead these distracted people down an unrighteous path, like it did with King Solomon. This truth is why God wants His children to know that:
- money can buy a house, but money cannot buy a home
- money can buy healthy food and drinks, or buy expensive medicine or surgeries, but money cannot buy good health
- money can buy all kinds of entertainment, but money cannot buy happiness
- money can buy romance and sex, but money cannot buy real love
- money can buy connections and sycophants, but money cannot by true friends
- money can buy an exterior tranquility and worldly contentment, but money cannot buy God’s inner peace and joy
- money can buy the finest garments to clothe the body, but money cannot buy that which clothes the soul
- money can buy gold or silver crucifixes, but money cannot buy the Savior who hung on the cross
- money can buy a “good life,” but money cannot buy an eternal life with God!
Therefore, although the apostle John says in the Word of God, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in every way and [that your body] may keep well, even as [I know] your soul keeps well and prospers” (3 John 1:2, Amplified Bible), it is evident that this apostle is not just referring to financial riches and material possessions. Indeed, the apostle John makes it clear that God wants the increases in His children’s financial, materialistic, and physical (healthy body and personal happiness) to correspond with the level of spiritual prosperity their soul has achieved. For sure, real wealth of the soul is achieved only when believers have conformed their mind, will, desires, and emotions to the mind of Jesus the Christ and to God’s Perfect Will, Desires, and Emotions.
Just for the record, the Bible does not condemn those who are wealthy, per se. The Bible, however, does condemn some of the means by which people become wealthy, and the Bible does warn that when God blesses people with wealth, He expects them to keep their priorities straight and guard their body, soul, and spirit against the captivating effects of wealth.
What also is true about money is the fact that believers need to know that God NEVER intended for them to NEVER have any. The reason why God does not want His children to be financially poor is because money has its place in the Kingdom of God. This last truth is why Jesus the Christ emphasizes how foolish believers are when it comes to money matters.
In the Parable of the Unjust Steward, Jesus the Christ says:
The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd. And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light. Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home. (Luke 16:8-9, NLT)
The Lord teaches that the unjust steward in this parable is vindicated, is admired by his wealthy master, because this steward completely trusts in his rich master’s generosity, mercy, and good reputation. Thus, this parable is not only a plea from the Lord for His believers to learn how to use their natural wealth so that it is in harmony with spiritual matters, but also this parable is a plea from the Lord for His believers to understand the nature of God.
Like the unjust steward’s well-to-do master, God also is a God of judgment, mercy, grace, love, a good reputation, and generosity. Furthermore, God’s nature far exceeds the nature of the unjust steward’s master, who accepts the price on the reduced bills without demanding justice. God’s nature is such that He accepts the astronomical price that needs to be paid for mankind’s salvation—He accepts the fact that He must munificently, lovingly, and graciously send His only begotten Son to Earth to sacrifice His life so that humans can receive an eternal life with Father God.
This parable, thus, should make believers ask themselves this question: If the unrighteous steward is praised for being wise enough to put his trust in his rich earthly master, how much more should righteous believers expect to be rewarded for trusting in a holy, righteous, and generous God who will bless them from His inexhaustible riches? Likewise, Christians also should ask themselves: How much more should righteous believers expect to be rewarded for trusting that their true and holy Master, who is the Lord Himself, will bless them with the TRUE RICHES of Heaven—bless them with Spiritual Prosperity? For sure, it is this Spiritual Prosperity that teaches believers how to use all of the natural resources God has given to them, including money, so that OTHERS can benefit financially, materially, emotionally, or spiritually from believers’ increase.
Spiritual prosperity also causes believers to understand God’s reason for blessing them with worldly wealth, which once again is so that they will share their riches with the people who have a greater need. When this kind of spiritual prosperity is attained, believers’ hearts will be in the right place, which is where their heavenly treasures are!
In contrast, the people who pursue wealth solely because of their desires for personal pleasure—so that they will be able to live off their wealth and enjoy the life of leisure—have an unspeakably selfish heart. Without a doubt, God neither desires nor commands believers to get wealth so that they can store up enough money to fulfill their own dreams of relaxation and/or retirement. Thus, since these individuals are lacking the real riches that come with Spiritual Prosperity, their hearts are in the wrong place, which is where their earthly treasures are!
Even though the Bible does include lessons on how God’s people have obtained wealth, health and healing, and material possessions, God’s biblical principles that pertain to increase are NEVER meant to ensure that the tangible evidence that proves God has blessed His faithful and righteous children is their financial prosperity. Regardless of God’s biblical principles that pertain to increase, the sad truth is that many people, Christians included, who tenaciously pursue wealth often obtain their riches and material possessions immorally, dishonestly, and/or unjustly!
Jesus the Christ’s perspective on money supports this last statement. The Lord not only declares that wealth often is obtained immorally, dishonestly, and/or unjustly but also He declares that NO ONE can serve God and the false god called Mammon—wealth personified, avarice deified. Here is one example of Jesus the Christ’s view of money:
If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own? ‘No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.’The Pharisees, who dearly loved their money, heard all this and scoffed at him. Then he said to them, ‘You like to appear righteous in public, but God knows your hearts. What this world honors is detestable in the sight of God.’ (Luke 16:10-15, NLT)
This view of money is why Jesus the Christ renounces wealth as proof of godly faithfulness and rightness! Indeed, this view of money is why people can be economically and materially blessed yet, at the same time, be so spiritually impoverished!
Moreover, Jesus the Christ’s perspective on money is why He issues many warnings against the misuse of it, as opposed to His favorable statements about how to use money. In fact, there is either an explicit or implicit reference to money in nearly one-half of Jesus the Christ’s parables. Moreover, nearly one out of every six verses in the Gospels deals with the correct and/or incorrect use of material possessions.
Indeed, the LOVE of money truly is the root of every kind of evil. This truth is evident in the life of Judas, the first follower of Jesus the Christ who lets his love for money ruin him (cf. John 12:4-8). Then too, the first sin in the early church is a lie about money that results in ruin and destruction—the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira (cf. Acts 5:1-10).
Still, even though Jesus the Christ renounces wealth as proof of godly faithfulness and rightness, He does not renounce the wealthy people who are concerned about the Kingdom of God. In other words, Jesus the Christ does not reject individuals just because they are rich, but He does call the people to whom God has given much wealth to a higher commitment. This last statement is why Jesus the Christ makes it clear, in His parables that deal with money in one way or another, that SPIRITUALITY goes hand-in-hand with money matters—that a PROSPEROUS life is NOT measured by what a person has in the bank, but rather a PROSPEROUS life is measured by what a person has in his or her heart (the motives).
Jesus the Christ maintains that believers must make a deep commitment to sharing with others whatever God has blessed the believers to have. Ultimately, where people’s finances are concerned, the fruit a person sows will be the same fruit that eventually betrays that person. In other words, people ALWAYS reap what they sow, and the harvest is ALWAYS greater than what is sown. For this reason, there is NO ONE who can fake living a Christian lifestyle (there is no one who can fake godly standards, morals, or charitable giving for a long time), because, unless there is supernatural intervention, their wrong motives will tell on them.
Indeed, the Word of God declares: “But if you don’t do what you say, you will be sinning against God; you can be sure that your sin will track you down” (Numbers 32:23, Douay-Rheims Bible). This verse means that when givers are professing with their mouths that they are doing what God desires, yet the motives in their hearts are not in harmony with God’s Desires, these givers eventually will reap the motives in their heart!
The bottom line is that because so many Christians have been caught up in the wealth, health, and happiness prosperity gospel for selfish and greedy reasons, in addition to reaping a temporary financial blessing, they will reap a serious spiritual debt—a spiritual poverty. This kind of spiritual poverty should not be confused with those who are “poor in spirit,” because the “poor in spirit,” through God’s Grace, the mighty workings of the Holy Spirit, and the preached Word, are convinced/influenced about their need to recognize and acknowledge that they must be born again so that they can be reconciled and restored back in the right relationship with God.
This spiritual poverty that the “poor in spirit” people have is a spiritual debt that could not be avoided, meaning it is the spiritual debt that every human is born into, and the main reason why God has to send Jesus the Christ to die on Calvary as payment for mankind’s sin-debt. The Lord’s atoning sacrifice not only cancelled out mankind’s sin-debt once and for all, but also the Lord’s atoning sacrifice makes it possible for anyone to seek God for both His physical and spiritual provisions, but only after that person is born again, spiritually, and is saved by God’s Saving Grace through God’s faith in Jesus the Christ as Lord as Savior.
Unfortunately there is another kind of spiritual poverty—the kind of spiritual debt that results from the choices believers make, which leaves them spiritually impoverished. In essence, spiritual poverty is the absence of spiritual prosperity! This spiritual debt, thus, is avoidable, and in order for believers to be released from this spiritual poverty they first must repent (change the way they have been thinking), change the motives in their hearts, and stop making the kinds of choices they have been making.
Without a doubt, this spiritual poverty comes on people who are saved, and does so primarily because these believers have the wrong motives for receiving God’s blessings, specifically His financial and material blessings. Their motives are wrong usually because these believers have not experienced very much spiritual growth! For the most part, many believers’ spiritual growth is hindered because of their ignorance about their own spiritual condition—their ignorance about their self-deception.
Once again, the Laodicean believers are the best biblical example of the kind of believers who become spiritually impoverished. However, it is important to note here that, in God’s economy, it really does not matter if people have wealth or not, because God knows that people can be spiritually impoverished in spite of how much money they might have.
In the case of the wealthy Laodiceans, even though God declares that the they are truly spiritually poor, they think that they are naturally and spiritually rich. This obvious ignorance (self-deception) about their own spiritual condition has hindered their spiritual growth, because it has caused them to make some gross mistakes. For example, they erroneously think that their knowledge of God is what religion is all about, and they erroneously believe that their religiosity means they trust in God. In reality, they are believers who “…love only themselves and their money…” (2 Timothy 3:2a, NLT). Their loves for self and money make these last days’ Laodicean believers “…act religious, but they…reject the power that could make them godly” (2 Timothy 3:5a, NLT).
In this state of spiritual poverty, these last days’ Laodicean believers often try to be more spiritual than others. However, since they are poor-in-their-relationship with God, their attempts to not demonstrate socio-economic or spiritual inferiority only result in these spiritually weak and powerless believers coming across as being:
…boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. (2 Timothy 3:2b-4, NLT)
So, while in their own eyes, and in the world’s eyes, these spiritually bankrupt believers might look well-clothed, well-fed, and well-educated about their secular responsibilities, when it comes to their Christian responsibilities, in the eyes of God these believers look just like what they really are: spiritually naked, spiritually malnourished, spiritually self-righteous, and spiritually blind (spiritually ignorant … unable to understand spiritual principles, spiritual truths, or spiritual maturity)! Once again, in order for these believers to be released from their spiritual debt they first must repent (change the way they have been thinking), change the motives in their hearts, and stop making the kinds of choices they have made that have resulted in them being so faithless in carrying out their responsibilities to Jesus the Christ.
Here are definitive ways believers can avoid spiritual poverty, though the list is not exhaustive. Believers should:
- Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness above EVERYTHING else (cf. Matthew 6:33)
- Be humble when standing before the Lord (cf. 2 Chronicles 7:14, James 4:10, and 1 Peter 5:6)
- Obey God’s commands (cf. John 14:15, 23-24 and 1 John 5:3)
- Develop a love-affair with God and Christ (cf. Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30; and Luke 10:27)
- Fellowship with God and Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:9; and 1 John 1:3, 6-7)
- Increase prayer time (cf. Luke 18:1, 21:36; Romans 12:12; Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; and 1 Peter 4:7)
- Increase study time in the Word (cf. Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 2:15; and James 1:21)
- Get power from God’s Word and His Holy Spirit (cf. John 1:1; Acts 1:8, 2:4; 1 Corinthians 2:5; Ephesians 1:19, 5:18, 6:17; 2 Timothy 3:16; and Hebrews 11:3)
- Live the life of a disciple—live the true Christian’s lifestyle (cf. John 13:35)
- Examine current motives for seeking God’s wealth, health, and happiness blessings (cf. Psalm 26:2, Psalm 139:23-24, and Matthew 19:16-22, 20:1-16); then, if need be
- Repent—change the thinking that causes a wrong perspective on biblical increase—and repent of any known sins, including carelessness, laziness, and negligence (cf. Proverbs 23:7a; Matthew 13:22, 15:18; Mark 7:15; Luke 11:38-41; Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:23; Hebrews 13:9; and 1 Peter 1:14)
- Make sure the new money perspective is a balanced one (cf. Proverbs 11:1, 30:8-9)
- Adopt the WHOLE biblical view on prosperity/increase instead of half-truths (cf. Leviticus 23:22; 25:25, 35, 39; Deuteronomy 15:4, 11, 24:19-21; Proverbs 19:17, 22:9, 28:27; Isaiah 58:6-7; Matthew 6:33; Romans 12:20; 2 Corinthians 9:6-8; 1 Peter 4:8; 1 John 2:15; 1 John 3:17-18; and 3 John 1:2)
- Don’t be distracted by wealth (cf. Proverbs 28:11; Ecclesiastes 2:4-11, 5:8-15; Jeremiah 9:23; Hosea 12:8; Matthew 6:19-21, 6:24; Luke 16:10-11, 13; James 4:4; and Revelation 3:17)
- Don’t be distracted by vain conversations (cf. Ecclesiastes 10:12; Matthew 12:34; Ephesians 4:29; Colossians 4:6; and Hebrews 13:5-6)
- Don’t allow spiritual strongholds to hinder spiritual growth (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:4-5; and Ephesians 4:14, 6:11-13)
- Fellowship with others who really have an intimate relationship with God (cf. Acts 2:42; and Hebrews 10:25)
- Be a good steward (cf. Proverbs 13:4; Matthew 25:21, 23; and 2 Corinthians 9:6-10)
- Be faithful with God’s blessings, including financial blessings (cf. Luke 12:15-21, 16:10-12; and Revelation 2:9-10)
- Be honest with monetary gifts (cf. Acts 5:1-10; Luke 12:15-21, 16:10-12; and 2 Corinthians 8:20-21)
- Be responsible with all spiritual gifts, especially monetary gifts, realizing that how the gifts are used will determine the road the gifted person ends up traveling (cf. Proverbs 13:22; Matthew 7:13-14, 21-23, 25:14-30, 25:37-41; Luke 19:12-28; 1 Corinthians 12:4-26; Galatians 6:7; Ephesians 4:11-13; 1 Timothy 6:17-19; and Hebrews 2:4)
- Acknowledge that being blessed with wealth means being exposed to special temptations (cf. Deuteronomy 11:16-17; Matthew 4:1-11, 13:22-23; Mark 10:17-27; and 1 Timothy 6:9)
- Have a passion and a higher degree of devotion, commitment, and total dependence on God and His Word (cf. John 13:31-38; Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 3:20-21; and Philippians 4:19)
- Let God’s Holy Spirit teach, prompt, direct, empower, and transform (cf. John 14:26; Romans 8:14-15; 1 Corinthians 12:4-26; 15:51-53; Ephesians 3:16-19, 5:18-19; and 1 John 2:20, 2:27)
- Search the Scriptures daily for God’s proof of whether what has been preached and taught is correct (cf. Acts 17:11)
- Learn how to rightly divide the Word of God (cf. 2 Timothy 2:15)
- Share out of the abundance God gives with the lost and the needy (cf. Psalm 36:8; Luke 6:38; 2 Corinthians 9:8; and 1 Timothy 6:17-19)
For sure, the persons who follow these mentioned ways to avoid spiritual poverty will regenerate the Holy Spirit’s progressive sanctification process in them, which is the process that helps believers in their spiritual growth. As previously stated, Jesus the Christ links spirituality—spiritual maturity—with physical prosperity. Thus, being naturally and spiritually responsible with the physical and spiritual gifts/blessings of God is a must, if believers want to be spiritually prosperous—if they want to receive heavenly rewards.
Now, most people will not dispute the fact that every person comes into this world without ANYTHING. Most people also will not dispute that every person leaves this world without any money, material possessions, and so forth. However, believers know that if they hoard their money and other blessings and, thus, NEVER do anything (or ONLY do a little) for Jesus the Christ with the riches they get from God while they are in this world, there is the possibility that they also could leave this world with NO laid up heavenly treasures (or with very few of them).
Who knows better than King Solomon how the emptiness associated with the pursuit and attainment of money and/or material possessions only will reap the worldly reward of self-satisfaction? Moreover, who knows better than King Solomon that this self-satisfaction is ALWAYS short-lived?
In the next biblical passage, King Solomon describes the problems humans have with earthly riches. He makes some very poignant statements about the physical riches people have in this world, and he says exactly what people will be able to take with them when they die. King Solomon writes:
Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! The more you have, the more people come to help you spend it. So what good is wealth—except perhaps to watch it slip through your fingers! People who work hard sleep well, whether they eat little or much. But the rich seldom get a good night’s sleep. There is another serious problem I have seen under the sun. Hoarding riches harms the saver. Money is put into risky investments that turn sour, and everything is lost. In the end, there is nothing left to pass on to one’s children. We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us. (Ecclesiastes 5:10-15, NLT)
Apostle Paul says something similar to King Solomon. Apostle Paul says:
After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:7-10, NLT)
There is no doubt that both King Solomon and apostle Paul’s words should help believers develop a healthy perspective on what it is that should demand their focus and what it is they should pursue in this world, especially since NONE of their monetary and material possessions will go with them when they die. Sadly, too many believers end up as the Apostle Paul says. Without doubt, most of those believers who have an intense yearning for money “…have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10b, NLT).
Per se, it is not wrong to save money or to have material possessions, but believers should be focused on the fact that they ALWAYS are in the season in which the laying up of their treasures in Heaven is expected—the season of doing those holy and righteous good deeds for Jesus the Christ so that, when believers stand before the Bema seat of Christ, the Lord will reward them for their holy and righteous deeds.
Thus, earthly treasures are insecure, because money can be lost through faulty investments, inflation, stock devaluation, bankruptcies, and so on, and material possessions are perishable or subject to theft. However, heavenly treasures are secure, because spiritual treasures are imperishable and NOT subject to theft. Indeed, Jesus the Christ is the One who guards believers’ treasures, which they lay up in Heaven, and He sees to it that believers’ hearts never suffer disappointment—He sees to it that NOTHING can take away believers’ heavenly treasures.
Jesus the Christ says:
Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. (Matthew 6:19-21, NLT)
In Luke 12:32-33 and Luke 18:18-27, believers can see clearly how Jesus the Christ is connecting His teaching on giving to the idea of being poor, for the purpose of accentuating His teaching about laying up treasures. Therefore, in Matthew 6:19-21 and the parallel Scriptures in Luke 12:32-33 and Luke 18:18-27, Jesus the Christ is actually saying that instead of believers stockpiling or stacking their money on Earth (instead of letting their money lay horizontally; instead of letting their money be inactive), believers should invest their money in the Kingdom of Heaven (should let their money rise up vertically; should let their money be in active use) by giving their money to those individuals who are in great need.
Even the apostle Paul connects his teachings about sharing wealth to his teaching about laying up treasures in Heaven. The apostle writes:
Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
Both Jesus the Christ and apostle Paul make it clear that people neither can buy their salvation nor an eternal life in the presence of God. In other words, it is God’s Grace that saves and transforms believers and not humans’ good works! However, the point here is that believers’ giving to the poor not only frees up their hearts and minds from covetous (idolatrous) living and thinking, but also their giving helps them to lay hold on their true rewards that are in Heaven. This last point is what Jesus the Christ means when He says: “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be” (Matthew 6:21, NLT). In other words, whereas the laying up of treasures on earth makes that person earthly, the laying up of treasures in heaven makes that person heavenly!
Thus, Jesus the Christ’s commands to not lay treasures up on Earth but instead to lay them up in Heaven point to the condition of believers’ hearts—His teaching describes believers’ attitudes toward what they have. To this end, in God’s economy, people are either rich or poor not because of the money and material possessions they have, but they are either rich or poor because of the kind of character they display. That is why for God, it is not what people earn/receive that makes them rich, but it is what people give to others that makes the givers richer!
Now, this type of give-to-get is commendable and awardable, for when believers are doing the Lord’s business—doing those good works that become their heavenly treasures—God says that there will be great rewards given to them in Heaven, just because they lived faithful Christian lives. However, God also says that the opposite is true. There will be a loss of rewards, in some cases a GREAT loss, for the people who live unfaithful Christian lives, which simply means that some believers will get into Heaven with the smell of smoke on them (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15).
It should be noted here that believers’ works are going to be judged according to their quality—whether gold, silver, precious gemstone; or wood, hay, straw (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:12). Whatever believers do for Jesus the Christ that is of the wood, hay, and straw qualities will fail the Fire test and be burned up, which signifies the loss of rewards! Conversely, whatever believers do for Jesus the Christ that is of the gold, silver, and precious gemstone qualities will past the Fire test and earn rewards.
What are those heavenly rewards? The rewards that Jesus the Christ will give at the Bema Seat in exchange for believers’ holy and righteous works are:
- Crowns (Stephanos or victor’s wreath/crown, for faithfulness in the Christian life; Diadems or royal crowns, for a king, like the one Christ wears when He returns to Earth [Revelation 19:12]; Incorruptible Crown, Stephanos crown for faithfulness to running the race, for living a disciplined life [1 Corinthians 9:25-27]; Crown of Rejoicing or Crown of Joy, Stephanos crown for witnessing, doing follow-ups, and ministering to others; the soul-winners’ crown [1 Thessalonians 2:19-20; and Philippians 4:1]; Crown of Life, Stephanos crown for enduring tests, trials, and overcoming temptations [James 1:12; and Revelation 2:10]; Crown of Righteousness, Stephanos crown for faithfully using gifts and opportunities in the service of the Lord, and for expecting His appearance [2 Timothy 4:8]; Crown of Glory, Stephanos crown for Elders who have been discharged for their faithful shepherding duties, and for being godly examples for their Flocks [1 Peter 5:2-4]; Casting of Crowns, Stephanos crown for throwing at the feet of Jesus the Christ in thankfulness for God’s grace that made it possible for believers to do good works for Jesus the Christ [Revelation 4:10-11])
- Secured Undisclosed Imperishable Treasures (Matthew 6:20; 1 Peter 1:4)
- Accolades or Commendations like “well done, my good and faithful servant” and whatever “praise” is due (Matthew 25:21; Luke 19:17, 1 Corinthians 4:5b)
- Overcomers’ special blessing of rewards like “eating from the tree of life,” “not experiencing the second death,” “eating the hidden manna,” “receiving a white stone on which is a new name,” and “power over the nations” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26)
- Special Authority over and Responsibilities for the Lord’s property, goods, and cities (Matthew 19:28, 24:45-47, and 25:21, 23; Luke 19:17-19, 22:29-30; and Revelation 2:26)
Now, believers might be asking: Are there any other ways to earn these rewards besides investing in the Kingdom of God? No! What is important to note about this question, however, is that it underscores the major problems facing most of the Christians in this world. The major problems are that ONLY a very few Christians really believe in the teachings of Jesus the Christ, and only a few of them can be seen living how He says believers are supposed to live!
Perhaps this lack of genuine trust in and obedience to the Lord’s teachings on Mammon and the necessity to lay up treasures in Heaven is why it is so easy for prosperity gospel preachers and teachers to bully believers into “sowing their seeds” into some well-known television, Internet, or church ministries. This lack of genuine trust and obedience also might be why so many preachers and teachers of the prosperity gospel can get away with declaring that wealth ALWAYS is a sign of God’s blessing given to believers who are spiritually sound. Likewise, this lack of genuine trust and obedience could be why prosperity gospel preachers and teachers also get away with declaring that poverty, sickness, and premature deaths ALWAYS are signs of either God’s curses or humans’ curses on believers who lack faith and spiritual maturity.
The truth of the matter is that believers should NEVER buy into the prosperity gospel’s lie, which claims successful Christians’ abundant material possessions, monetary wealth, and good health and happiness are signs of their vibrant faith. Such nonsense has polarized believers, with the wealthy believers who are considered to be in God’s favor and positioned for His blessings on one side of the lie, and the monetarily and materially poor believers who are considered to be out of God’s favor and, thus, because of their lack of faith, positioned for either God’s curses or the curses’ of mankind, on the other side of this lie. In actually, God says that the opposite is true about the believers He knows are the strongest in the faith. James writes: “…Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and in their position as believers and to inherit the kingdom which He has promised to those who love Him?” (James 2:5, Amplified Bible; cf. Matthew 5:3, 5)?
Clearly, God’s economy is upside down, for it appears that He usually financially blesses and confers His favor upon those individuals who are monetarily and materially poor yet spiritually wealthy!!! These are the people who can be seen living out the teachings of Jesus the Christ. These are the people who will be laying up treasures in Heaven. These are the people who will be avoiding spiritual poverty, because these are the people who will be seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Indeed, these are the believers who will not be asking what can God do for them, but rather they will be asking: What can I do for God? Instead of asking what they must do in order for God to favor and bless them financially, materially, spiritually, and so on, these believers will be operating in the Divine Truth, which is that God wants to bless them so that they can be a blessing to others!
Ultimately, in order for believers to be able to avoid becoming spiritually impoverished, they must be sure to never flip-flop the means and the end of God’s blessing, which is what prosperity gospel preachers and teachers have done. These preachers and teachers have switched the focus off of the end or eventual purpose of every blessed Christian, which is for believers to fulfill the Great Commission by being a blessing to others, and have put more importance on the means. In essence, these prosperity preachers and teachers are more concerned with church members being financially blessed than they are interested in seeing to it that their members are being a blessing!
When the focus is back where it needs to be, which is on being a blessing to others, then there will be fewer spiritually impoverished believers who are like those Laodiceans. Again, the Laodicean believers are unaware that their love for wealth and their possession of it have caused them to choose to put their trust in their own strength and power to get more wealth instead of choosing to put their trust in God’s ability to bless them. When people put their focus on and trust in God, then being poor in spiritual qualities or poor in terms of a relationship with God—their spiritual poverty—will have been avoided.