God’s favor and blessing is not for sale. If there’s one thing our recent series on indulgences has made clear, it is that simple point.
Yet we now live in a day where Johann Tetzel has been emulated and duplicated by prosperity preachers. While Tetzel sold bogus promises about the afterlife, the prosperity gurus of today sell bogus promises about our bank accounts. The prosperity they sell is a lifestyle of affluence and ease in return for giving generously to their “ministry.”
So many people have now been scarred or scared off by the false gospel of health and wealth that they’re understandably wary of anything to do with prosperity. But there is a true biblical form of prosperity.
The critical difference between the prosperity gospel and true Christian prosperity is that the former is man centered, while the latter is God centered. One feeds our lusts and carnal cravings—the other furthers God’s kingdom. One relies on extortion—the other flows out of godly generosity.
In his sermon, “The Path to Prosperity, Part 1,” John MacArthur examines the New Testament pattern of Christian giving and the cycle of divine blessing it produces. The message centers on 2 Corinthians 9:6–11, which opens with the familiar words, “He who sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Corinthians 9:6).
The paradigm John lays out is in stark contrast to the inherent greed of prosperity theology. As he explains, true biblical prosperity is utterly selfless.
The reason God gives back to you with such overflowing generosity is so you can use it to do more good deeds. It is not to consume it on your own desire. You will be given by God all you need to meet the demands of your generous heart so that you are able to do every good deed you desire to do. God will just replenish your supply. When God finds a giver, a generous giver, He sets an unusual element of His affection on that generous giver and keeps replenishing in abundance because He knows the heart of a giver is going to continue to give. You just get into a constant flow—you give, God replenishes so you have more to give, and your generous heart is allowed to express itself and do every good deed it desires to do.
Second Corinthians 9:6–11 describes a glorious cycle of Christian prosperity—a pattern of joyous giving, being blessed in return, and then using that blessing to continually grow in God-honoring generosity.
Even so, giving cheerfully doesn’t come naturally to many Christians. Spurgeon said, “It takes a great deal of grace to make some men cheerful givers. With some the last part of their nature that ever gets sanctified is their pockets!”
In a world full of spiritual sharks and charlatans it is easy to grow cynical. Our fallen instincts gravitate toward stinginess, born out of a lack of personal contentment. But “The Path to Prosperity, Part 1” rightly points out that discontentedness is usually the result—not the cause—of our own miserliness. In fact, John MacArthur considers the lack of generosity of many believers to be the reason they miss out on so much of God’s generosity in their own lives.
There are God-glorifying purposes in both our generosity toward the Lord and His reciprocal generosity to us. New Testament giving is not to be done “grudgingly or under compulsion” but freely and joyfully according to our own convictions, “for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
“The Path to Prosperity, Part 1” reminds us that all our possessions ultimately belong to God. Consequently, we should embrace a lifestyle of godly generosity and break free from the crippling cycle of worldly greed. John’s message sheds much-needed light on how we should give as Christians, and how we should examine our hearts as we do so.