What does it mean to truly be prosperous?
When I was a kid, my idea of mainstream prosperity could be best summed up in the lyrics of Nickleback’s hit song “ROCKSTAR” – not that I wanted those things for myself, but if you’d asked me what it meant to “have it all,” I’d probably list off 90% of what was in that song. For most, the notion of “prosperity” likely evokes flashes of top-line cars, mansions, and at least three swimming pools.
Yet as I’ve grown up, I’ve found my outlook on prosperity taking a steady shift. Do you know how many people have those material treasures and yet feel empty inside? Suicide rates are at an all-time high, and not just among the widely-labeled “meager” or “destitute”. Prosperity, success, to be thriving—those are actually not a standard of living. They’re a way of being, flowing from the inside out. You can have all the money and nice things in the world and not be truly prospering; and you can live a prosperous life and never set foot on a street fancier than lower-middle-class suburban.
I think of Mister Spock from Star Trek; when he bade his friends “Live long and prosper,” was he really telling them to go get rich and die with pockets lined? Or was he wishing them a lengthy and fulfilling existence built on real contentment—the kind not won through money, but through inner success?
Knowing Spock, probably the latter. And, come to think of it, that pointy-eared hobgoblin might’ve been onto something.
What is Prosperity?
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines prosperity as “the condition of being successful or thriving.”
Prosperity has become one of the most widely-discussed issues in modern Christianity—so much so that there is now a movement in many popular circles called “prosperity gospel” that teaches people to speak blessings into being by the “Word of Faith”. There’s a whole spate of popular preachers and televangelists who purport having the “keys” to opening the door of prosperity for their congregants, essentially by encouraging them to “positively confess” their desires into fruition.
One thing we have to be clear about is that Christian prosperity is never defined anywhere in Scripture as having everything you want in this life. In fact, we’re told in many places that Christians will face persecution and troubles. It’s the nature of living in a fallen world, and our belief and the gift of holy spirit in us are not guarantees of an easy life. While a lot of people do seem to get rich and live successful lives off these “name it and claim it” practices, there’s much more involved to it than first meets the eye. Occasionally the practices by which the funds or materials are acquired border on extortion or charlatanism, and God warns us that “treasures gained by wickedness profit nothing.”
So we may have to shift our perspective on what it means to be “successful” or “thriving” in the first place. Is prosperity relegated to material wealth, or something more?
What Does the Bible Say About Prosperity?
Psalm 1:3 – [The one who delights in Yahweh’s Law] will be like a tree planted by the streams of water that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also does not wither. And in whatever he does, he prospers.
2 Chronicles 32:31 – And every work that [Hezekiah] undertook in the service of the house of God and in accordance with the law and the commandments, seeking his God, he did with all his heart, and prospered.
Proverbs 28:25 – An arrogant soul stirs up strife, but the person who trusts in Yahweh will be made prosperous.
How Can I Become More Prosperous?
Scripture makes it clear that prosperity is not merely financial or material wealth we acquire by asking God for it or speaking it into being; it is the success and quality of life we experience when we are walking within God’s will and living our lives in a way that pleases Him. So to become more successful and to thrive in our ventures, we must first align those ventures with God’s desires.
God designed us with free will, and the will of mankind is strong. Each of us has things we would love to do or attain—from life experiences to material things and more. But just because we want something very badly doesn’t mean it would be to our benefit to have it, or that our desiring it is in line with God’s plans and purposes.
So in order to prosper in this life, we need a combination of things: wisdom in how we steward our gifts, talents, thoughts, and material resources; and willingness to define prosperity not by having what we want, but by prioritizing the things of God.
When we are using our God-given talents and abilities to further His purposes and make our lives to the praise of His glory, He is faithful to prosper us, as He has proved many times throughout human history.
How is your perspective on prosperity? Do you think it’s in alignment with God’s view? If not, how can you change your perspective?