‘God wants you to be rich—cars in the garage, a prosperous business. Just believe in him, open your wallet, and give him everything you can.’
SUCH is the message promoted by certain religious groups in Brazil, according to a newspaper printed there. It is a message that many take to heart. Regarding a poll taken in the United States of people who claim to be Christians, Time magazine reports: “A full 61% believed that God wants people to be prosperous. And 31% . . . agreed that if you give your money to God, God will bless you with more money.”
Ideologies of this sort, often called prosperity theology, proliferate especially in Latin-American countries, such as Brazil, and people flock to churches that promise material blessings from God. But does God really promise riches to those who serve him? Were all of God’s servants in the past wealthy?
It is true that in the Hebrew Scriptures, we often find God’s blessing associated with material prosperity. For example, at Deuteronomy 8:18, we read: “You must remember Jehovah your God, because he is the giver of power to you to make wealth.” This assured the Israelites that if they were obedient to God, he would make them a prosperous nation.
What of individuals? The faithful man Job was enormously wealthy, and after Satan brought him to poverty, Jehovah restored Job’s wealth “in double amount.” (Job 1:3; 42:10) Abraham too was rich. Genesis 13:2 says that he was “heavily stocked with herds and silver and gold.” When the combined armies of four Eastern kings captured Abraham’s nephew Lot, Abraham “mustered his trained men, three hundred and eighteen slaves born in his household.” (Genesis 14:14) With 318 “trained men” capable of bearing arms, Abraham’s household must have been of considerable size. The fact that he was able to maintain such a large family indicates that he was a very wealthy man, with great flocks and herds.
Yes, many of God’s faithful servants in the past—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Solomon, to name just a few—were rich. Does this mean, however, that God will make everyone who serves him rich? On the other hand, does the fact that someone is poor mean that he or she does not have God’s blessing?