(117) Inscrption 22_True Prosperity

Notes & Transcripts

Inscription: Writing God’s Words on Our Hearts & Minds

Part 22: True Prosperity

Deuteronomy 28-30

June 6, 2010

Main Point(s) of sermon:

· God himself is the highest blessing – beware seeking lesser things.

· Sin always being suffering, but not all suffering comes from sin.

Objectives of sermon:

· Seek the eternal blessings and avoid the eternal curse.



·         Deut. 28-30

·         HP 2010, 087, Leftovers 1st page

Scripture reading: Deut. 30:15-20 (Erin Kaplan)

Deut. was Moses last words to Israel, his final sermon to them – he had five weeks to teach them everything they needed. This is basically the last of his three part series.

The first week was about loving God with all your heart soul and mind, the second was loving your neighbor as yourself. This third part is basically how it pans out for us.

·         Today’s topic is deeply personal to me.


You are a good and loving father. Help us see your love for us and your desire to give us what we really want. Recalibrate us to understand your true blessings.


My freshman year at college, I decide to reconnect with a gal I had been friends with on a mission team who lived in the area. The fact she’d a bit flirty might have influenced that decision.

As we talked, I figured out that a classmate of mine (Nathan) was the pastor’s son at her previous church, so I used him as a topic of conversation. Bad call (first clue: “previous church”).

A year or two prior, her little brother had been killed by a garbage truck, and their church (Nathan’s church) had responded by telling the family it was because they had somehow sinned.

Q   How on earth do you tell a grieving family that?

Because you believe God always bless obedience with prosperity, health, and protection from any things bad happening to you, so therefore if someone suffers, it is because they have sinned.

You build this up into a through system that protects you from thinking that anything bad will happen and you will guard this system with fanatic zeal.

·         So whenever something bad happens, you have to figure out how they have sinned.

I also know of a pastor who taught if you have enough faith, you won’t get sick. When his wife was diagnosed with cancer, he basically had to choose between his beliefs or his wife.

·         When she died, he said she didn’t have enough faith

This is personal

Prior to talking to Sara, I’d heard of the “Health & Wealth” theology, aka “the Prosperity Gospel” or “Prosperity Theology.” I had rejected it as unbiblical and even argued with Nathan.

·         This was the first time I saw its destructiveness firsthand.

I hate this doctrine. It’s insidious and destructive, damaging believers like Sara’s family (who sometime leave the faith) but also those for whom it works.

Q   So how do I deal with things like today’s passage?

Deuteronomy 30:15   15 ¶ See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 

Two Caveat

First, I believe that these folks are fellow Christians who love Jesus, yet I believe that their teachings are unbiblical and damaging. There is a difference between error and heresy.

·         It’s a fine line: equipping you while being charitable towards our brothers and sisters – it’s speaking the truth in love.

Second, even as we will look very closely at these teachings and their error, but don’t think it’s just about them – they simply make doctrines of how each of us think.

·         We all want happiness more than holiness and earthly blessings more than eternal blessing.

Blessings and curses

Deut. was a covenant, a binding relationship between Yahweh and Israel, like marriage. Like wedding vows, it lays out the expectations and conditions (“for better or for worse...”).

A standard part at the end of a covenant was the “blessings and curses” which lays out all the good things that will happen if you abide by the covenant and all the bad things if you don’t.

·         We don’t have these in weddings, but it might be interesting.

Deuteronomy 28:1-6  If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.  2 All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God:  3 You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.  4 The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock-- the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.  5 Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.  6 You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.

Moses then talks about what happened if you don’t obey:

Deuteronomy 28:15-19   15 ¶ However, if you do not obey the LORD your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:  16 You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country.  17 Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed.  18 The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.  19 You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out.

Doesn’t this sound like the “Prosperity Gospel”? Does this mean that is we are suffering it is because of sin? Does this mean that Sara’s brother died because of their disobedience?

That is what Deuteronomy teaches: If you do what is right, you will be blessed financially and physically. If you do what is wrong, you will suffer.

Q   So what do we do with this?

It gets even more complicated: While the OT treats riches prosperity as a blessing from God and a sign of obedience, the NT largely treats riches as negative (or at the best neutral).

Mark 10:25   25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

1 Timothy 6:9-10   9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.  10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

I can’t think of any place in the NT that clearly speaks of riches as a sign of God’s blessings. Rather, it’s dangerous, a temptation and a trap, one that God want to protect us from.

Q   This is a huge shiftwhy? (Pause for internal A’s)

Q   Is it as simple as saying that Deut. is obsolete?

It’s very clear Jesus and the Apostles didn’t think it obsolete. While many of the individual practices may have been meant for ancient Israel, the principles of the OT still hold true.

This is where it becomes very important that we read the Bible carefully, that we use good hermeneutics (interpretation principles), because things can get complicated.

·         Most doctrinal error in America comes from treating a complex problem as simple, while ignoring contrary evidence.

People say “I take the Bible literally” run into problems when it literally contradicts itself!

Q   So what is happening here?

A major shift

Jesus changed everything.

He said he came to fulfill the Law, including the “Blessings and the Curses.” After Christ there were three massive, cataclysmic shifts that forever changed the meaning of the OT:

1. From national to universal

These were promises made specifically to Israel. If you weren’t Jewish, you were out of luck. The blessings for the Jews came at the expense of everyone else.

·         God’s plan from the beginning was that all nations would be blessed through Israel, but in a very different way.

2. From temporal to eternal

Deut. 28:20-68 is a detailed description of what will happen if Israel disobeys God. Simply from a literary standpoint, it is rich and powerful. It’s on par with anything in Dante’s Inferno.

·         Sky of iron, earth of short, it is a description of hell on earth.

And very specifically “on earth.” At this point in God’s progressing revelation, he had not yet revealed much of anything about the afterlife.

·         They had some vague sense of existence after death, but by the time of Jesus, God began to reveal the meaning of eternity.

It was in fact through the persecution and the suffering of the righteous (“it” wasn’t working anymore) that God revealed the afterlife as we understand it, as seen in the book of Daniel.

Q   Why is this important?

Because the clearest description of hell that Moses could give focused on temporal, earthly. But Jesus and the Apostles spoke from an eternal perspective:

Matthew 10:28   28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

They both describe the destructiveness of sin. They are very real, not just illustrations. But they serve the same purpose of warning us of the destruction of rebellion against God.

Q   What does this have to do with OT promises of blessings?

The Law could only offer temporal, earthly blessings and curses. God now offers eternal blessings and warns of an eternal curse.

Wrong blessing

Prosperity Gospel has something right – an eager expectation that God wants to bless his children. God is a good father who delights in taking care of his children.

·         The problem is dictating how God must bless us.

Q   What is his best gift, the thing we want and need the most?

Himself. He is the source of all that is good and pleasing. He is everything we really want, not “eat your vegetables because they’re good for you,” but “I can’t believe I get to do this.”

·         All the joys of this world are just reflections of the joy that is in him.

The problem with the Prosperity Gospel isn’t wanting too much, but it wants too little. God wants give us the absolute desire of our hearts and they (and we) just want money and health.

·         The lowest of God’s blessings are the earthly ones, but it is the one we value the most.

We are like kids who ignore their Christmas present and instead playing with the box it came in.

·         Our perspective must be shaped so that we see God himself as our greatest blessing and $1,000,000 as nice little candy bar.

It’s like when we bought our house, they gave us a really nice set of towels.

Q   Evaluate yourself: What do you treasure more, money or God?

Serve one master

Someone from the Prosperity group would argue, “But we do want God too, not just prosperity.” First, having read their sermons and websites, I would beg to differ.

More importantly, we are not capable of seeking God and money:

Luke 16:13-14 “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.

Seeking means serving, to pour your energy into finding and you cannot seek God and money. You can only seek one or the other.

·         If you seek God, you may get the money thrown in, but if you seek money, you will never develop an appetite for God.

To put it another way: If we seek God with all our heart, we may very well be blessed financially, especially because righteous livingworks.” But it’s foolish to think about it too much.

To put it bluntly: By embracing temporal blessings, we risk missing eternal ones. By avoiding temporal suffering, they are in danger of eternal ones.

Am I being too pessimistic? Read what Paul said more carefully:

1 Timothy 6:9-10   9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.  10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

3. From external to internal

Just as profound as the shift from temporal to eternal is the shift from external to internal. The commands of the OT typically address external actions. But even the “internal commands” (love God, love neighbors) were rewarded externally.

·         The promise of prosperity was a carrot in front of horse – but this wasn’t God’s objective.

Q   How many parents used punishments and rewards to get your kids to do what is right?

Q   How many of you want to be doing that the rest of their lives?

·         I remember seeing parents who still had to physically restrain their kid, but he was big boy, and soon they would be stuck.

We want our kids to do the right things for the right reasons, so we begin with external, but move to internals.

In the same way, in the NT God moves from external behavior and rewards to internal heart change. God wants us to do the right thing for the right reasons.

I will obey you if...

The Prosperity Gospel can make obeying about the rewards. It’s not the doctrine, but a natural human response. And from this I have seen people not follow God when he doesn’t pay up.

·         They still want to be treated like 4 year olds, but God expects us to grow up!

We all do this, seeking and obey God for what we get, not for the joy of knowing him and the joy of righteous living.

Q   Are you currently having a temper tantrum because God is paying up?

Pain and suffering

This leads us to another important point, and a key problem with the Prosperity Gospel:

Q   Do you think God is more concerned with our temporal happiness or eternal joy? Our external wellbeing or internal holiness?

And since his highest goal for us is eternal and internal, isn’t likely that we will allow us to suffer temporary pain in order to make us holy and give us eternal joy?

·         cf. Marriage: When you tell your spouse that they annoy the hell out of you, it’s a profound truth, not swearing!

We suffer for many reasons. Frequently it is because of our sin or the sin of others (sin is that which hurts us, others, and our relationship with God).

·         Some suffering just comes as a part of life in a fallen world.

Being a Christian in no way removes suffering, in fact it can being more – many of God’s greatest servants have suffered the most. The difference is that the suffering gains meaning.

NIV Romans 8:28 ¶ And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Contrast that with this teaching, from Kenneth Copland’s website:

One of the major deceptions Satan is sowing in the Church today is that our problems, our trials and our temptations are sent to teach and develop us spiritually, physically and in other ways....The basic principle of the Christian life is to know that Jesus bore our sin, sickness, disease, sorrow, grief and poverty at Calvary.

This is blatantly unbiblical – Jesus bore our sins, but not sickness, disease, grief, and poverty. They can all be used to purify us and make us holier and (in the end) happier.

Q   If you think that the only reason you are suffering is because you didn’t have enough faith to claim Jesus victory, how much can you learn from it?

Many bad things happen to people here on earth, things that grieve God’s heart. But the question is will you allow God to use them to draw you closer to him and eternal happiness or will they drive you further away?

Closing: Choose life

To tie all of this together, the blessings and curses are even more applicable, and even more profound today than when they were written, Moses’ final plea even more urgent:

Deuteronomy 30:19-20   19 This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live  20 and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.

We have a choice: Choose to pursue God as your highest joy, and to obey him and find the eternal life that only comes from him.

Or you can go your own way, be your own god, and find that sin is a cruel task master and hence choose death.


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