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Is It Possible to Develop a “Balanced” Argument for Prosperity?

Author: Amos Yong
Date: 03.10.2010
Category: Poverty and Wealth, Prosperity Gospel

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Originally Posted in English

A fifth type of argument for prosperity actually consists of arguments against certain forms and expressions of prosperity. Here I consider the quest for a “balanced” rationale for prosperity, one that at least strives to take into account the entire biblical witness. Much of the thinking along these lines acknowledges a good deal of all four of the preceding types of arguments and grants that the scriptural traditions do not speak with one voice on the topic. So while no one biblical or theological formulation of a theology of prosperity will suffice, there might still be a set of guiding themes from the Bible that would not only inform ideas regarding prosperity but also shape a life of prosperity. Three themes are deserving of explicit.

First, any way of life should take care not to stumble others, especially those who are less mature in the faith. This is a pragmatic maxim about living prosperously: do not flaunt one’s prosperity, but rather live in simplicity. More important is to embody the habits of the Puritan work ethic. The issue here is both to be sensitive to others and to embody a certain set of dispositions and behaviors toward the world and its material blessings and comforts. Prosperity in this framework is neither a set of accumulations nor a mode of consumption. Instead, it is an attitude of gratitude that recognizes that the providential and undeserving character of divine blessings beholdens the prosperous to modesty as a way of life and to responsible stewardship.

One expression of such prosperous stewardship – and this is the second biblical theme – is in philanthropic giving which builds up or edifies others. This is especially the case for those who are more affluent. The motivation here is less “Give, and it will be given unto you…” (Luke 6:38) – which may appeal more to motivate the “have nots” in light of the promise of receiving something even greater in return – than “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). In the minds of many, the combination of a life of simplicity and hard work with charitable generosity and benevolence is the appropriate response for those blessed with plenty.

The issue of “balance” in prosperity suggests to some that prosperous stewardship is a relative notion depending on the context. A community of people who pool their resources in an impoverished region may be considered prosperous, as were the first followers of Jesus the Messiah in Jerusalem, of whom it was said, “There was not a needy person among them” (Acts 4:35). Such a vision of a shared and communal prosperity, a central apostolic theme, has motivated many experimental projects, one manifestation of which is the now globally diffused Economy of Communion.

The Economy of Communion (EoC) was founded in 1991 by Chiara Lubich (1920-2008), an Italian Catholic activist and foundress of the Focolare Movement. Whereas much of the modern economy is motivated by rational self-interest, the EoC argues that this modality of economic life is only a fairly recent development and that it had been preceded for millennia by other forms of reciprocal and community exchange. Thus EoC engages the poor with a vision of holistic and communal way of life. While embedded in the market economy, EoC is deeply informed by a form of solidarity in which all profits are reinserted back into the community for the common good. Each member of the community gives and receives with equal dignity.

Keywords: balance in theology of prosperity; Focolare; Economy of Communion; philanthropy

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Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down PChristopher_1 (-1)
United States

I love the holistic approach versus individuality thinking of “I got mine, you need to get your own” ideology. I believe there should be a balance. Therefore, I do not believe one should give away everything they pose to someone but there should be a sense of obligation to be a blessing to someone who is need. Therefore, I love the idea and the strategic approach of Acts 4:35. This text shows the inclusive approach for the entire community. If on chooses to preach prosperity, it should never be based of individuality but certainly of togetherness. The mindset should be, if one is blessed everyone connected to that individual should partake in his or her blessing as well.


06.10.2014
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Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down withoutborders (0)
United States
@ PChristopher_1:

 


I agree  that a holistic approach is best when it comes to this type of theology.  Prosperity is not a curse, but greed and selfishness certainly is.  God takes pleasure in the prosperity of his saints.  His saints know that blessings are to be used to meet the needs of others.  Several wealthy biblical characters were blessed to bless others, even put in position to sustain a nation. Prosperity is a means to be a blessing, if one only has enough to meet his/her own needs, then how can he be a blessing to anyone else? A greedy or stingy Christian is an oxymoron; to the poor-the good news of the gospel is life changing!


13.11.2014
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Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down japhia1906 (0)
United States

Agreed. It all comes down to how we can use the blessings we receive to help those around us. That is the truly abundant life.


28.11.2011
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Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down jdb11583 (2)
United States

Thank you for your perspective. I enjoyed reading your article. The idea that one’s prosperity be measured by what he or she gives to others instead of what he or she has in the bank and material goods is a wonderful message that our churches, especially here in the States, needs to hear. If we adopted this understanding, I can only imagine the difference we could make given today’s economic state.  Not only would many have their physical needs met, but also their social and spiritual needs because of the sense of community and a sense of belonging this type of giving would instill. This would definitely be a step in the right direction to fulfilling God’s kingdom here on Earth!


27.11.2011
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Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down japhia1906 (0)
United States
@ jdb11583:

Agreed! Prosperity is truly about how we may enhance the lives of others through the blessings that God gives us.


28.11.2011
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Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down friar58 (1)
United States

Even being from the west, I can see how this is true prosperity.  I also live and work and minister with people who would miss that.  Pray for us that we can truly see the blessings God has given us, and be willing to share that accordingly.


21.04.2011
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Reply Flag 0 Thumbs Up Thumbs Down Mariusbrand (0)
South Africa

Community farms: (Kibbutz)

 4 land & wealth redistribution, to evangelise the community: To train, educate, work,  live and have a base from where to launch missionaries into the community. A community farm is where the Christians in the community corporately owns the property. Our corporate finances provide 4 cost of the farm, infrastructure & accommodation for those working on farms while they are discipled.  Investors, invest directly in the crops to secure food and jobs for the people. Thousands of jobs will be created where people could be evangelise, reconciled, unity restored and worldviews changed to a Biblical one. Farms will act as a place of employment, a basic income, a missionary training School, an orphanage and launching pad to send trained missionaries. Here Christ Jesus will be a way of living where the community will see what we preach!

Three legs: (Operating separately)

 1.   Accommodation and employers Lodges/Hostels on farms with infrastructure:

2.   Education, “Skills” development, Discipleship training & orphanages.

3.   Agricultural projects – investment arm. (Project financing). Outside investors.

      Full scale business to create a holistic cosmos to the missionary to have the infrastructure needed to live and operate in without lack or limitations.

 Shammah Foundation: Marius Brand: Cell 082 9210 275, e-mail - mariba@zsd.co.zawww.koevoet4christ.co.za


18.10.2010

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