Struggling with ostensible prosperity gospel sayings in the Bible

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Wretched Man

Puritan Board Freshman
I've recently been going through the wisdom books and am struggling with how to handle the recurring promises that the righteous will be rewarded. Just as an example, I read Proverbs 13:22, which promises a sinner's wealth will be laid up for the righteous and I know this isn't always the case, as is confirmed throughout other portions of the Bible.

I am of course inclined to assume this ultimately refers to eternal rewards and punishment (i.e. Psalm 1:5 which refers to "the judgment"), but have recently been trying to reassess my affinity to overspiritualize or allegorize Biblical text. I'm wondering if anyone can help me with this?


Puritanboard Clerk
In general providence Proverbs teaches that godly wisdom leads to success, and that's true. Prosperity doesn't have to mean Creflo Dollar.

And you are correct not to overspiritualize the text. A spiritual meaning would have had no meaning to the original audience.

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
I've recently been going through the wisdom books and am struggling with how to handle the recurring promises that the righteous will be rewarded.

I have to ask. Why is that a problem? Wealth is not an absolute promise, but neither is poverty the norm for faithful believers. We should expect the labor of our hands to yield an increase of even temporal things.

E.g., We should expect (not demand) faithful tithing to yield and even greater return, both in eternity and in the here and now. I for one have found it so. Working six days a week is another practice that is likely to increase wealth.

Deuteronomy 8:18 (ESV)​
You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day.
Ecclesiastes 5:19 (ESV)​
Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.
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Puritanboard Clerk
And when Americans react against "prosperity," we usually think of carnal things like a new Mercedes. When Christians in the Global South hear the prosperity passages, they usually understand it as God's providing enough bread today so that I don't starve to death.

Chad Hutson

Puritan Board Freshman
First: principles not promises.
Second: wealth is relative. What are you considering to be wealth or prosperity? I remember our indigenous Filipino missionaries moved to tears when visiting our church because we served sandwiches after the service. They said that was rich man's food (bread)!
There is a difference between not having enough and not having as much. If we apply the principles of Proverbs and the Bible to our lives (work hard, live prudently, make good decisions) we should, generally speaking, be successful, if success is defined as providing for our families and supporting the work of the Lord.
A personal case example: I work hard, live modestly, pay my bills, provide for my family, support the church, own my home and farm. I consider this to be success. I think God has been good to me. By comparison, my brother works hard, built his own business, owns his own jet, lives in a $10 million dollar home, is worth $100 million+, employs thousands of people, supports his church and many other charitable works. He is a success, and I'm proud of him. By whose standards are we to compare the level of success? Am I to feel like a failure because I don't have as much as my brother?
What we must always keep in mind is the degree of faithfulness we display in whatever station of life God providentially places us in. Proverbs 24:30-34 instructs us to learn from the example of the lazy who will inevitably fall into poverty, not because of some supernatural intervention, but rather due to their own laziness. Proverbs 28:6 instructs that a poor man with integrity is better than a rich, perverse man.

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
recurring promises that the righteous will be rewarded
First, you're going to struggle if you read the proverbs and think they are promises in the same way that something like "Surely, I am coming soon" is a promise. Proverbs are proverbs—general truisms that are wise to live by, but not absolute.

Second, you need to read each proverb in context—both in the context of other proverbs, and in the context of the rest of the Bible. There are proverbs that contradict each other if you take them as promises, but wisely balance each other when you remember they are proverbs. Also, read Proverbs in context with Ecclesiastes to see that God is not promising certain financial prosperity (nor a host of other worldly satisfactions) in this life. Godly wisdom comes not so much from embracing a single proverb but from wrestling with the wisdom literature as a whole, including its baffling, seeming contradictions, and also fitting it into the life of suffering, dying to self, and waiting in hope that the rest of Scripture tells us to expect and embrace.

Charles Johnson

Puritan Board Sophomore
Perkins has good things to say on this.
"Wherein doth this blessednes of the meeke consist? name∣ly, in their inheriting of the earth. And this is a great happinesse, for a man to be Lord of the whole earth. But how can this be true? sith ma∣ny of Gods dearest seruants, haue beene strangers on this earth, thrust out of house and land, and constrained to wander in mountaines, and desarts, afflicted and miserable, yea destitute of conuenient foode and raiment, Heb. 11. 37, 38. Ans. The meeke are here called Inheritors* of the earth, not for that they alwaies haue the possession thereof; but first, because God giues a meete and conuenient portion of the earth,* either to them, or to their posteritie: thus hee dealt with Abraham, I∣saac, and Iacob, they had sufficient for themselues, and a promise of great possessions, which their posteritie did enioy. Secondly, if it fall* out, that meeke persons die in want, or banishment; yet God giues thē contentation, which is fully answerable to the inheritance of the earth: so Paul saith of himselfe, and other Apostles, mthey were as men hauing nothing, and yet possessed all things: meaning through contentation, with the peace of a good conscience. Thirdly, the meeke haue this in∣heritance,* in regard of right, being the members of Christ, who is Lord of all. Hence Paul saith to the beleeuing Corinthians, nall things are yours, whether it be Paul, or Cephas; or the world, things present▪ or things to come, all are yours, and ye Christs. Fourthly, the meeke are made kings* by Christ, and after the last iudgement, they shall rule and raigne with him for ever and ever. 5. 10. And in these two last respects, the meeke are more properly said to be the inheritours of the earth. Obiect. Yet here it will be said againe, that wicked and carnall men are oftentimes the greatest Lords of the earth, as Nimrod in his time, and the Turke* at this day. Answ. The right vnto the earth is two-fold; Ciuill and Spi∣rituall: Ciuill right is that, which stands good before men, by their lawes and customes; and in regard therof, men are called Lords of such lands,* as they haue right vnto in the Courts of men: and so the Turke at this* day, is a mightie Lord of a great part of the whole world. Spirituall*right is that, which is warrantable and approoued with God himselfe;* and such right and title had Adam to all the world, before his fall, which he lost by his sinne, both from himselfe, and all his posterity: but yet in Christ, the same is recouered to all the elect. And of this right, Christ here speaketh, when hee calleth the meeke inheritours of the earth: in regard whereof, the Turke, & all vnbeleeuers and vngod∣ly persons, are but vsurpers of those things, which otherwise ciuilly they doe lawfully possesse."
From his commentary the Sermon on the Mount.


Puritan Board Sophomore
Another thing to add - I do think in the very physical new heavens and new earth there will be wealth in abundance. Our inheritance in the Lord is both physical and spiritual and very great indeed.


Puritanboard Clerk
Good type of spiritualizaiton: typology, seeing how Jesus fulfills promises

Bad type of spiritualizaiton: getting rid of the physical to allow for a more Platonic interpretation.

The following example is tongue-in-cheek but you see this in "spiritualizing" all the time. Take Proverbs 5 where it talks about a husband enjoying his wife's breasts. Obviously, that's not very spiritual. Solomon probably means that the two breasts are the Old Testament and New Testament, or maybe Law and Gospel.
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