Having just finished preaching through the Old Testament, book-by-book, one of the things that stuck out were the promises of prosperity to God’s people for their faithfulness to God. When we read those texts, we need to pause and think through how this relates to us today. To what degree are the promises and assurances of prosperity ours?
It’s important to think about this because more than ever, it seems, we have prosperity preachers telling us that if we’re just obedient enough, if we just believe enough, then all the money in the world can be ours! The promises of the old covenant are quoted verbatim and applied directly to the church–God’s people should be healthy, wealthy, and wise. And if they’re not, it’s because they are not faithful enough to God.
So what do we say to this? First, we need to point out that what God did in Israel was unique in the history of his dealings with humanity. Unlike any nation before or after, there was a blending of faith in God with political leadership, governing law, and agricultural prosperity. In every sense, Israel was a theocracy. Part of the relationship between God and his people in this relationship was blessings for faithfulness, cursings for unfaithfulness–in all areas of life (Deut 30:11-20).
But we aren’t Israel today. Under the new covenant in Christ, there has been a massive shift in the nature of God’s people. Instead of drawing the nations to God, we go to the nations for God (Matt 28:18-20). Among other things, that means that now, there is a call to a life of urgency and sacrifice for the sake of the nations. Now, our life isn’t bound up with any one land; our home is in heaven with Christ.
Furthermore, he’s called us to a life of sojourning, as we wait for his return. We have to think of our life as Paul did: ambassadors in a foreign land, representing King Jesus (2 Cor 5:11-21). In the end, all that we have—time, money, family, learning, health—all of these things are now oriented, not just towards God, but towards the mission of calling the nations to Christ. So, what we need most is not more money, or land, but the spiritual blessing of God himself to finish this task. We need God more than money.