There is no doubt that God wishes for the fullness of joy in our lives (John 15:11). The question that comes next is how are we to obtain that joy? If we keep Jesus’ commandments are we really more blessed or joyful? Does God love the people who follow the rules more than he loves the people who don’t? Is it OUR responsibility to increase or decrease God’s presence in our lives?
To answer these questions and more here are two ways of looking at it.
The ‘Prosperity Gospel’ is…
… a Christian doctrine that teaches us if we believe in God and follow God’s commands, then we will be made healthy, wealthy, and wise.
In this belief structure we are told that in order for God to “bless” us with the things we desire we must first follow the commands in the Bible; specifically, giving money to the church.
However, there are MANY versions of this religious attitude. For example, ideas that people who go to church every Sunday, pray everyday, sing the loudest, commit the least amount of sins, etc… are more connected, hear more clearly, or are “blessed” by God more than people who do not do those things.
The problem with this sort of belief is that it backhandedly supports the idea that if you AREN’T blessed with a healthy family, or a well paying job, or intimate interactions with God that either (a) you are doing something wrong or (b) you don’t love God as much as you say you do.
This belief is unbiblical and does not align with what Jesus taught us. For THAT reason, we must conclude that the ‘Prosperity Gospel’ is disconnected from the Christian Gospel, what Christ has taught us.
Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”
The poor are not poor because of their sin, the sick are not sick because of their sin, and those who don’t see or hear God clearly are not that way because of their sin. Likewise, the rich, healthy, and ‘Godly’ are not that way because of their righteousness, love of God, or their ability to follow 2,000+ year old rules. That much is clear.
Now, if following God does not GIVE us more or MAKE us more blessed, then what’s the point?
(What I call) ‘Joyful Living’ is…
…believing in God, following God’s commands, and doing so joyfully regardless of earthly circumstance.
The point of living joyfully is to fight our natural self-attribution error (the idea that all good things are because of ourselves and all the bad things in our life are other people’s faults). Joyful living recognizes that ‘all good things are from God’ (James 1:17) and that the negative things in life are a result of sin (Romans 7:16-17).
The Bible is clear that we are born with the very image and breath of God (Genesis 1:26, Job 33:4). When we come into this world God is as much a part of us as our heart and lungs. We cannot make our lungs pump blood, we cannot make our heart breathe air, and we cannot make God bless us in ways that he does not choose to.
If you think that you have ANY control over whether or not God blesses you look to Jesus’ words in Matthew 5 for clarification.
He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.
God does not play favorites when it comes to passing out ‘blessings’ (Matthew 20: 1-16). So again I ask, what is the point of obeying God if it is not directly related to what we receive from him?
The answer is joyful living.
Even if we cannot coerce our heart and lungs to do more than they were made to do, we can surely exercise and make them more efficient at what they were made to do.
As we follow God’s commands we can exercise his presence and know him more. As we grow in our understanding of who God is we will naturally have our eyes opened to, develop gratitude for, and become joyful over the blessings already in our lives.
Long story short, the Prosperity Gospel tells us to obey God and God will give us things that we want; Joyful Living tells us to know God and we will develop an appreciation for what we have already been blessed with.
Let me end with one final question, do you think we will receive the fullness of the joy of the Lord that Jesus speaks about in John 15 from things that we want or from things God has already blessed us with?
Let’s go on and live our best life now… with what we already have!