Biblical prosperity may not look like what you'd expect. (Flickr/Creative Commons) There has been much written in recent years about the Christian's role in producing wealth on the earth. The following are common misconceptions in the church regarding prosperity and wealth creation that need adjustment for us to have biblical balance and integrity, and to experience transformation in our families, communities and nations.
1. Prosperity is automatic for all Christians.
Although God desires prosperity for all His children (3 John 2), nowhere in the Bible does it say that saints are automatically blessed financially because they are saved. The book of Proverbs is replete with principles of wealth creation, which deal with activating the laws of sowing and reaping, wisdom and integrity to produce financial wealth principles redeemed people do not necessarily practice after their conversion to Christ (read Prov. 6:6-8, 10:4-5; Gal. 6:7; 2 Cor. 9:6).
2. God only claims 10 percent of our finances.
There is a common misconception that God claims only 10 percent of our finances and that we can do what we want with the remaining 90 percent of our money. The truth of the matter is God claims all of our money; the tithe is simply a minimum of 10 percent that should go directly to the ecclesial realm for the spread of the gospel.
Luke 14:33 teaches that disciples of Christ are to relinquish ownership of 100 percent of their possessions because we are merely His stewards of what we own when we make Him our Lord. "The earth belongs to the Lord, and its fullness, the world, and those who dwell in it" (Ps. 24:1).
The Bible not only teaches us to tithe, but to get out of burdensome debt (Prov. 22:7; debt that causes a depreciation of our wealth), to invest wisely (Matt. 25:27), to be shrewd in our business dealings (Luke 16:8), to save for our future generations (Prov. 13:22) and to create business plans (Luke 14:28). The Bible also teaches us against co-signing for those you do not know well (Prov. 11:15) and to deal honestly with others (Prov. 11:1).
So you see, how we steward 100 percent of our money will determine how wealthy we will become, not just how we steward 10 percent of our money.
3. God wants us prosperous so we can be happy.
God tells us clearly in Deuteronomy 8:18 the primary purpose of wealth is so we can finance the spread of His covenant on the earth. The deal is this: If we seek first His kingdom with our finances, then He will give us what we desire anyway (read Matt. 6:33; Ps. 37:4). Biblical prosperity has more to do with pleasing the Lord and making Him happy than obtaining wealth so we can experience personal happiness.
4. All Christians are called to be very wealthy.
Although God has called the corporate body of Christ to leverage great wealth, not all individual Christians or even pastors can handle large amounts of money. God will only give a people that which they are able to properly manage and administrate (read Deut. 7:22).
Taking it a step further, some pastors and churches could even be damaged if certain billionaires came into their churches and gave them their tithes. The tithe on a billion dollars is $100 million. How many small to mid-sized churches can properly steward that kind of wealth? Also, how many people who have won the lotto have kept their wealth, health and family?
Jesus came to give every person an abundant life (John 10:10), but not every person has been given the same amount of talents (Matt. 25:14-15). Some have been given five talents, some two and some one, all according to their God-given ability and assignment. Hence, not everyone in your local church is called to be a multimillionaire.
5. All pastors are called to be in business.
Because Paul was a tentmaker (Acts 18:3), many pastors think they are called to be entrepreneurs and wheeler-dealers in the marketplace (real estate, the stock market, venture capital, etc.) and many of them have had disastrous results and lost their shirts! It is one thing for a pastor to be bivocational because their church cannot afford a full salary. It is another thing for a pastor to think they are called to create much wealth by starting their own business because they think Scripture makes it normative.
The context regarding Paul is this: Since he was receiving many accusations because people were trying to insinuate he was an inferior apostle, Paul preached the gospel without receiving an offering from the Corinthian Church to silence his critics (read 2 Cor. 11:7-15; 1 Cor. 9:18) even though he had the full right to make a living from the gospel (1 Cor. 9:9-14). Also, he came to an area that was filled with clergy corruption because the temple priests in Corinth peddled religion and sex for money. So Paul did his best to distance himself from any semblance of clergy greed and vice (1 Cor. 4:12).
In light of this, I believe that only some pastors are called to have their own lucrative business; not every pastor has the grace to multitask between marketplace and ecclesial business and be successful. Only some are hyphenated ministers with calls to both the business and ecclesial realms.