The Real Prosperity Gospel (Proverbs 10:22)
I. Defining Prosperity
Listen to the opening paragraphs of a recent article from the Gospel Coalition website:
“It’s difficult to imagine a more tangible sign of God’s favor than great wealth. Abraham had it. So did David and Solomon. Even Job, after his intense suffering, was restored to double his previous fortune. Conclusion? It’s God’s will that all Christians should enjoy both wealth and steady health during their earthly lives. Your present poverty and physical ailments are marks of unbelief and an unwillingness to claim what is already yours in Christ... Trust God and never get sick.
Or so the prosperity gospel tells us.
Costi Hinn, nephew of famous prosperity teacher and faith-healer Benny Hinn, used to embrace this line of thinking with passion. Having grown up in the prosperity-gospel movement and observing its power firsthand, the younger Hinn was ready to follow in his uncle’s footsteps...”
We'll continue Costi's story a little later. But please don't miss what was said about this “prosperity gospel”, especially in regard to financial matters: abundant faith in Jesus should always lead to financial abundance. But is that really what the Bible teaches? If not, what does it teach about God's provision, God's blessings, in regard to your finances?
One of the mistakes we can make in regard to this so-called prosperity gospel is to over-correct. Even though God's word does not teach the prosperity gospel described earlier, it does give us good news about real prosperity... and yes, your finances are included.
You haven't already, turn over to Proverbs 10. Let's consider what we learn here about what we might call 'the real prosperity gospel'.
II. The Passage: "The LORD Makes Rich" (10:22)
You may remember that Proverbs 10 represents the beginning of the main collection we call Proverbs. If the extended intro of chapters 1-9 was all about prizing and pursuing wisdom, the rest of the book is all about pondering and practicing wisdom, that is, what do you do with wisdom when you find it?
You might also remember that Proverbs, this collection of collections of wisdom sayings, was put together for one of King Solomon's sons. Thus, it's not surprising to find what we find in the opening verse of chapter 10, the opening verse of the main part of the book:
A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.
“A wise son” is precisely what Solomon is hoping for, right? Therefore, it's very interesting how often the topic of wealth comes up in the opening chapters of this section. Consider with me the wisdom that Solomon wants to impart to his son in regard to financial prosperity.
1. Prosperity and Blessing (v. 33)
I think we find a key verse in Proverbs 10:22. Look with me at what it reveals:
The blessing of the LORD makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.
Or here's another translation of that same verse:
The blessing of the Lord—that brings riches, and no toil can add to it.
While the last part of that saying is not completely clear, I believe the idea being emphasized here is clear: financial abundance is God's gift. Your toil, even painful toil, can never be the ultimate explanation for the financial abundance you might enjoy. It is always a result of God's “blessing”.
Now let me clarify what I mean when I say “financial abundance”. If poverty is being in need, and above that, there are those who have their needs met, then wealth is both having your needs met and being able to meet the needs of others. The ESV study bible helps us keep these ideas in cultural perspective:
“In a culture like ancient Israel, based on subsistence agriculture, “wealth” means good crops, a well-fed family, and a stable farm to pass on to one’s children, rather than the luxurious wealth a modern reader may think of.”
Proverbs 10:22 is not teaching that every follower of God will always have an abundance. It's teaching that when we do, we must acknowledge that God is the source of that abundance. In terms of what God always provides, consider Proverbs 10:3...
The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.
As someone at some point expressed it, 'God always meets our needs, not our greeds'.
2. Prosperity and Diligence (
But where things get really interesting is when we take a verse like 10:22 and place it next to verse like Proverbs 10:4...
A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
Now wait a minute. Didn't 10:22 just tell us that “the LORD makes rich”? But eighteen verses before that we read “the hand of the diligent makes rich”. Is this a contradiction? Not at all. Solomon is simply describing for his son the means by which God most often provides this financial abundance: hard work; diligent labor; a solid work ethic.
But wait, didn't I just say, “Your toil, even painful toil, can never be the... explanation for the financial abundance you might enjoy”? No. I said, “Your toil, even painful toil, can never be the ultimate explanation for the financial abundance you might enjoy.”
It is God who provides both your vocational opportunities and your vocational ability so that you can provide for yourself and others. Being productive does not replace God's provision. It IS God's provision.
This is precisely why Solomon is clear and firm when it comes those who reject this lifestyle. IN verse 2, he warns about those who promise 'easy money', about “treasures gained by wickedness”. And in verse 5, he expands on the “slack hand” of verse 4...
He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.
This same kind of individual is later condemned as “the sluggard” in verse 26. Idle, lazy leeches are not only condemned throughout Proverbs, but also in the NT. Here's Paul's advice, or we might say, Paul's wisdom in II Thessalonians 3:10–12...
...If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.  For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.  Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.
If you are a follower of Jesus, then please know that if you are able, God has called you to work, and to work hard. Col. 3:23... Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men...
But Proverbs also provides us with a warning when it comes to hard work:
Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist.  When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven. [Proverbs 23:4-5]
3. Prosperity and Generosity ()
I think that warning brings us to a third idea when it comes to prosperity. We've talked about prosperity and blessing. We've thought about prosperity and diligence. But we also need to consider what Proverbs tells us about prosperity and generosity. Look at Proverbs 11:24, 25
One gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.  Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.
Remember what I said earlier: “wealth is both having your needs met and being able to meet the needs of others.” Yes, God provides for us to provide for ourselves. But he also provides for so that we can provide for others in their time of need. And as we read here, when we 'pour out' in this way, God 'fills us up'. Again, Paul confirmed this in the NT. II Corinthians 9:10...
He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.
If you read through Proverbs, it becomes clear that this generosity-prosperity connection is not a formula to followed. No, it is driven by a concern for the poor. As Proverbs 19:17 puts it...
Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.
This is why Proverbs 21:13 warns the one who “closes his ear to the cry of the poor”. You see, God doesn't prosper the generous for the sake of their prosperity. He prospers the generous for the sake of their generosity.
And for the man or woman who clings to their money because of fear or greed, Solomon offers this reminder in Proverbs 11:28...
Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.
III. Your Prosperity, His Poverty
What does all this OT wisdom mean for the disciple of Jesus? Well, I think one thing it means is fairly straightforward: live in light of these things. I love the way Paul brings together these wisdom principles for the believers in Ephesus in Ephesians 4:28...
Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. (ESV)
What a beautiful, everyday picture of real prosperity! God blesses you with both the wisdom, work, and wages to provide for yourself and others. We see this in 10:16 as well...
The wage of the righteous leads to life [flourishing], the gain of the wicked to sin.
If you haven't already, would you take a minute to carefully consider how God has blessed you? Would you carefully consider the abundance you enjoy, and how that abundance can bless those in need? Would you carefully consider how you work and why you work?
That distortion of the gospel called the 'prosperity gospel' should drive us to formulate a truly biblical definition of prosperity. But as we do that, let's not allow warped and worldly ideas about wealth lead us to over-correct and exclude our finances from the provision that is ours in Christ. God cares about our finances. But they are meant to point us to something bigger and better.
Is prosperity really a part of the gospel message, the good news about Jesus. It is. Paul confirmed that when he wrote in II Corinthians 8:9... For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. Rich? Yes, but with what Jesus called “true riches” in Luke 16:11.
That online article I mentioned at the outset goes on to describe the amazing change that took place in Costi Hinn's thinking. We read:
“Hinn recognized that the “gospel” his uncle and father had been broadcasting for decades is a paltry imitation of the real thing. Christ died and rose to give us the priceless treasure of sins forgiven and a relationship with God, not to line our pockets with temporary riches.”
By his grace, may God help us to think and truly live in light of that “priceless treasure”.