Thursday, October 6, 2011

Joshua 1:8 - Is This Verse a Key to Finding Financial Prosperity?

Joshua 1:8 states:
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
In my years as a member of a borderline Word-Faith movement, I cannot tell you how many time I heard this verse used as a proof text that God wants Christians to prosper financially. The problem I saw with this particular use of the scripture is that I never saw financial prosperity as the topic in question. Based on the context of chapter one, the prosperity meant by God was military.

The conquest of the land by Joshua and the armies of Israel hinged on Joshua's commitment to meditate on and obey God's Word. The prosperity that God spoke of to Joshua included the fulfillment of God's promises in the Abrahamic covenant (Gen. 12:1-3). Just before his death, Joshua urged the people to continue living in submission to the Scriptures (Josh. 23:6).

Nero Burning Christians
What the Prosperity teachers fail to realize is that Jesus never promised His followers a life of prosperity and health.  In fact, He promised the opposite, adversity and tribulation. The illustration above, is a representation of that tribulation in which the Roman Emporer Nero dipped Christians in pitch and set them on fire in order to light his courtyard so that he could engage in chariot races at night. All through the Gospels and Epistles we see Christians encouraged to face persecution and tribulation with courage and hope.

Paul called the persecution and tribulation he faced a "momentary light affliction" when compared with "the eternal weight of glory". Sadly, I know of one church pastor that once told me that this hope for the hereafter was "not enough" to get people into church. He said that he needed to offer the people something for now. Interestingly, Jesus never spoke about having abundance in this life. He taught His followers to pray for our "daily bread". Meaning that we are to be content with what God gives us.

The prosperity movement is based on contentment, but on greed. In order to justify this greed, Prosperity teachers insist on ripping verses from their context in order to justify their greed and desire for a lavish lifestyles and fleecing of the people they are charged with caring for.

So what is the lesson in this abused verse? Very simply, do not smuggle ideas into the text that are not there. In this case smuggling an idea of financial prosperity into a text that promises military prosperity. We also see the importance of "not reading a Bible verse" but looking at the paragraph and chapter of the verse in order to  draw out the meaning of the verse. So remember whenever a person or a pastor wants to proof text.

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