Does the Bible Promise Prosperity to Believers?

By Emmanuel Oluwatoba | Niger, Nigeria


The prosperity gospel states that God’s plan is always for us to be wealthy and that if one has enough “faith”, then they will experience great material blessings. If God intended for believers to be prosperous, why do we read of so much affliction, persecution, scorn, and trials experienced by the apostles and early believers?

Is material wealth, achievement, fame, victory, or success proof of God’s reward or approval? Does God also approve of wealthy criminals, dishonest businessmen, and embezzlers? Does lack of wealth show God’s disapproval? An honest answer to these questions begins to expose the issues with such “gospel.”

Old Testament prosperity

Some Old Testament passages link material prosperity with God’s blessing. For instance, God gave material wealth to Abraham (Gen. 13:1-7), Isaac (Gen. 26:12-14), Jacob (Gen. 39:2-6), etc. He also promised the Israelites that He would reward them materially for faithful giving (Deut. 15:10, Prov. 3:9-10, 11:25, Mal. 3:8-12). Are the Old Testament promises of prosperity applicable to Christians? To get an answer to this question, let us point out some differences between the Old Testament and New Testament views on prosperity.

In the Old Testament, material blessings were given for obedience (Deut. 28:2), but in the New Testament, several of the saints were poor (Matt. 8:20, 2 Cor. 11:27, James 2:5). And the same is true for believers today, especially in countries with poor economic situations.

In the Old Testament, emphasis was laid on enjoying worldly wealth (Deut. 28:11, Josh. 1:15, Prov. 15:6), but the New Testament lays emphasis on giving away possessions (Mark 10:17-21, 1 Tim. 6:17-18).

By their obedience, the Israelites avoided persecution (Deut 28:7), but by their obedience Christians incur persecution (Matt. 5:11-12, 2 Tim. 3:12, 1 Pet. 1:6).

It is easy to understand the reason for the disparity in these two dispensations when we read the declaration of Hebrews 8:6 which says that the New Covenant is “founded on better promises” than the Old. God determined that the beneficiaries of the New Covenant will understand that their home is not of this world, the steady fulfillment of God’s promise of material blessings under the Old Covenant should only inspire us to have confidence in God to fulfill the promises of our future heavenly blessings. The New Covenant does not bring about temporal inheritance promised to Israel, but an eternal inheritance (Heb. 9:15).

God demonstrated to the nations surrounding Israel His superiority over their gods by prospering the children of Israel when they obeyed Him. He now wishes to display Christ’s presence to the world around us through better faith and morality, not a higher standard of living.


1 Timothy 6:6-11 gives us a warning about pursuing or expecting prosperity and lays emphasis on contentment. “Now there is great gain in Godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into this world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” Jesus says in Luke 12:15, “take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Rather than teaching us to pursue prosperity, the bible teaches us to be content and to find fulfillment in God through Jesus Christ, Paul speaks of his hardship in the book of Philippians, and in Phil. 4:11-12, he writes “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”. Contentment is finding fulfillment in our earthly lot and ultimately finding joy in Him alone. If we are content, then we are truly prosperous.

Spiritual blessing

The inheritance promised to a believer is spiritual, future, and eternal; God promises treasures in heaven (Luke 18:22). And yet, with all the blessings spoken of in the scripture, God’s pleasure and favor upon the Christian does not necessarily mean that He will make each faithful person rich. Some experience financial poverty because of their faithfulness to God, like Jeremiah, Paul, Jesus, and many other believers. Poverty and wealth happen to all kinds of people and Jesus teaches that God causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45). But spiritual blessings only come upon those who are faithful to God.

Jesus says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:19-21).

Our greatest resources are spiritual, not material. Even in the worst of circumstances, it is possible to experience a fulfilling life as that is what set Christians apart. Poor believers who are living in oppressive circumstances can be far more joyful and satisfied than unbelievers who are living in luxury and plenty.


The New Testament promises that in this life Christians will experience tribulation (Acts 14:22), suffering (Rom. 8:17), and even persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). But nowhere does God promise to make Christians materially prosperous. Any teaching that claims that believers are promised prosperity in this life is a satanic deception. When God raises us from the dead, Christians will be given glorified bodies and will dwell in perfect fellowship with God. At that time God will “wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). However, Christians are called to endure “slight, momentary affliction” that is “preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17). We are called to “count it all joy” whenever we face various trials (James 1:2). We can endure the trials and sufferings of this life because we know that if we suffer with Him, we will also be glorified with Him (Rom. 8:18).

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