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Does God Want You to Be Rich?

More and more Christians, all over the world, believe that material prosperity is the right of all Christians. They believe that God expects them to ask for it and to anticipate it as a sure fulfillment of his promise.

There is no doubt that both the Old and New Testaments teach that the faithful will be blessed by God.

But does that blessing necessarily always include material prosperity? Can all Christians expect to become wealthy?

Turning to the Bible dispels such an expectation.

Paul often showed that his sufferings did not take away from his fullness of life.

In his epistles, he presents his suffering as part of the evidence that he was blessed and called by God (e.g., 2 Cor. 4:8-18; 6:3-10; 11:13-33; 12:1-10; Gal. 6:17). He once described himself “as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything” (2 Cor. 6:10). In Ephesians, writing from prison, five times Paul mentions wealth—referring to the gospel and all its treasures. He himself was a poor prisoner deprived of many basic human necessities, but he viewed himself as being wealthy. 

In Philippians, also writing from prison, Paul said about his financial needs:

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Phil. 4:11-12). 

He implies that wealth is not necessarily a sign of God’s blessing, but contentment is. In fact, in this epistle the words joy, rejoice, rejoiced and glad appear 16 times. He says that we must “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4). This is also the epistle that talks about the peace of God that passes all understanding (4:7). So contentment, peace and joy characterize a truly wealthy Christian.

Some years ago, I did a study of all the places in the New Testament where Jesus is presented as a model for us to follow. Of the 29 texts I looked more closely at, four were general statements asking the readers to follow Christ, two were about forgiving as Jesus forgave (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13), and two were about meekness and gentleness (2 Cor. 10:1; 11:17).

The other 21 were about the example of Christ’s servanthood and his sufferings. [1] So when encouraging generosity, Paul gives the example of Jesus and says, “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” (2 Cor. 8:9). We can safely conclude that the New Testament does not include material success in its basic description what it means to be a follower of Christ.

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Ajith Fernando serves as Teaching Director of Youth for Christ in Sri Lanka after being National Director for 35 years. His main responsibilities are counselling, mentoring and teaching staff, leaders and pastors in YFC and the wider church. His wife Nelun and he are active in a Methodist Church most of whose members are recent believers. His grassroots ministry has primarily been with the urban poor. Ajith has written 16 books and his books have been published in 20 different languages. He serves on the translation team of a new Sinhala Bible. Ajith and Nelun have two married children who, with their spouses, are also with YFC.