How do you measure success? Does God view prosperity in the same way in which the world defines prosperity? Should the church or Christians define prosperity in the same way that non-Christians define prosperity?
Should prosperity or success be defined according to the assets you have, your social status, the size of your bank account or even the power you have? For example, can a person who owns a vehicle and a house be defined as being more prosperous than a person who doesn’t own these things? Even within the church setting – can a person who owns more possessions and has more money be defined as being more spiritual and more Christ-like than a person who owns less possessions and money?
Genesis 39:2-3 KJV
And the Lord was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. And his master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord made all that he did to prosper in his hand.
The New King James Version translates the word prosperous as “successful.”
When we look at part of the life of Joseph, we get a picture of what Biblical prosperity is like – because the word of God identifies Joseph as being a prosperous man and that all that he did prospered.
Yet from a natural or worldly view point – Joseph could hardly have been classified as being successful, but yet God’s word clearly says that he was a “prosperous man”.
Joseph in the natural or worldly viewpoint was the following:
(A). A slave of a powerful, influential and wealthy man by the name of Potiphar. Therefore if Joseph being the slave and Potiphar being Joseph’s wealthy master – how could Joseph the slave be the prosperous man and not Potiphar? Why isn’t Potiphar, being the one with all the assets and wealth classified by the word of God as being prosperous?
(B). As a slave, Joseph did not own any assets or material possessions. He owned nothing to his name. As a slave, not only did Joseph not own assets, but it is most certain that he was not entitled to any sort of pay or remuneration for any work that he did. However, it is interesting that at this particular time in his life, God called Joseph a “successful” or “prosperous man”. Why?
(C). Joseph was purchased by Potiphar as if he were an animal or an object. Therefore in the eyes of society and the world, Joseph was insignificant and had no social status because he was a slave. Society obviously had no regard for his human dignity or human rights – yet even with such a low social status, God STILL called Joseph a “prosperous man” or “successful man”.
(D). Joseph’s own brothers had attempted to kill him but then later decided to sell him to the Ishmaelites (Genesis 37:12-36). Therefore most of his immediate family members did not like him and did not want anything to do with him. Yet after going through such a traumatic experience, and being sold into slavery by his brothers, at some point in his life Joseph was seen as being a successful or prosperous man.
What is Biblical Prosperity?
The answer to why Joseph was successful and prosperous is found in the first 5 words of Genesis 39:2 “And the Lord was with Joseph…”
(1) BIBLICAL PROSPERITY IS NOT MEASURED BY THE ACCUMULATION OF ASSETS – (Luke 12:15 – And Jesus said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”
In our natural or worldly thinking we equate being prosperous with the measure of assets that we own, eg. Cars, houses, furniture, clothes, land and the like. Therefore worldly philosophy & thinking teaches us that our possessions define us and who we are. However, Christ-like / Biblical thinking shows that our possessions should not define us nor should our possessions define the quality of our life.
Joseph didn’t own assets, but the reason God’s word says that he was prosperous or successful, is because God was with him, and God guided his every direction even as a slave. Therefore God Himself defined Joseph’s prosperity and not the ownership of assets. Joseph clearly lived an obedient life towards God and he enjoyed a close fellowship with the Lord. Joseph did not allow his slavery to define him, but rather it was his close relationship and obedience to the Lord that defined him. Joseph also did not allow the fact that he did not own any assets to define him, but rather it was his close relationship with God that defined him.
In Luke 12:15, Jesus advises us that the quality of our life does not consist in the abundance of our possessions. The thing about possessions, is that they come-and-go. Possessions are temporary. When we die, we will leave our cars, our houses, our clothes and the like. But the things of God are everlasting. And God’s judgment will not be based upon what we owned on earth, but His judgment will be based on whether we were obedient and faithful to Him and His word. (Matthew 6:19-21 – “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.)
(2) BIBLICAL PROSPERITY IS NOT MEASURED BY YOUR SOCIAL STATUS / POSITION – (Genesis 39:5 – So it was, from the time that he (Potiphar) had made him (Joseph) overseer of his house and all that he had, that the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had in the house and in the field.)
Joseph may have been the slave that owned nothing – but God blessed Potiphar’s house because of Joseph’s presence in that house. Joseph above all, was a faithful servant of the God Most High and whatever Joseph did, it pleased God. Therefore Joseph’s social status as a slave did not bring influence & blessing in Potiphar’s house – but it was Joseph’s close relationship with God that brought influence and prosperity to Potiphar’s house. So without Joseph, God would not have blessed Potiphar’s house.
In contrast, Potiphar could not draw to his home the blessing of God even though he was a powerful and influential person. Potiphar obviously did not have a relationship with God but God was not attracted to Potiphar’s social position so that He might bless him. Potiphar may have had assets; he may have had the adoration of society and he may have had influence and be revered by men – however, he did not have the blessings of God on him. (Mark 8:36-37 – For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?)
(3) BIBLICAL PROSPERITY IS NOT MEASURED BY YOUR MONEY & RICHES – (Matthew 19:21-22 – Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions).
The Bible says that the young rich man had “great possessions”. So from a worldly viewpoint this rich man was successful or prosperous; From a worldly viewpoint this rich man was invested for life because it is most likely that his “great possessions” would take care of him so that he probably wouldn’t have to work another day in his life; From a worldly viewpoint the rich man’s “great possessions” gave him security. The rich young man was also a religious person who knew and claimed to follow various scriptures (Matthew 29:20). However, when it came to choosing between following Jesus and remaining with his great possessions, the young rich man preferred to remain with his possessions than to be with the Lord. Without his great possessions, the rich man felt insecure and probably thought that he would have more to lose if he sold his possessions and followed Jesus than if he kept his great possessions. The problem with the rich man was not that he had great possessions – but the problem with the rich man was that his great possessions were a hindrance from him having close fellowship with the Lord. He was unwilling to give up his possessions because he thought his possessions to be of more value than for him to follow and have fellowship with God. His possessions owned him.
In contrast Joseph did not own any possessions as a slave, but yet Joseph was an obedient
servant of God who was viewed by God as being both successful and prosperous (Genesis 39:2-3 KJV). Therefore we see that having riches and great possessions are not always a sign of Biblical prosperity because Biblical prosperity is not defined by material wealth alone, but it is mainly defined by whether or not a person has a genuine & obedient relationship with the Lord. Our security in life is not determined by the material possessions that we accumulate – but our security in life is determined by our relationship with God and who we are in Christ Jesus. Even though the rich man was told by Jesus to sell his material possessions, Jesus assured him that he would not be left with nothing. Jesus assured the rich man that by following Him, he would “have treasure in Heaven” (Matthew 29:22)
(4) BIBLICAL PROSPERITY IS WHEN YOU HAVE FAVOUR WITH GOD AND MAN – (Genesis 39:3-4 – And his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favor in his sight, and served him. Then he made him overseer of his house, and all that he had he put under his authority).
Like Joseph, it is possible to be prosperous and successful simply because God’s favour is upon you in everything that you do. It is not always about what material and monetary possessions you acquire. It is the Lord who makes people to prosper and it is the Lord who makes the little and the big deeds that we do to prosper. If the Lord is a participant in whatever we do and if we yield to God’s direction, then prosperity and success is certain. Joseph’s work and service did not acquire him material possessions and wealth, but rather whatever Joseph did, it acquired the favour of God and whatever Joseph did and experienced, it was all being orchestrated by the hand of God. Joseph’s work and service even made a heathen like Potiphar to notice something very special about Joseph. Potiphar noticed that God was with Joseph and Joseph even found favour in the eyes of Potiphar. Therefore according to Genesis 39:3, God made ALL that Joseph did to prosper in his hand. Therefore, Joseph may have owned nothing, but it did not stop him from prospering even though he did not own any material possessions. Joseph’s prosperity and success was driven by God’s favour. Jesus Himself was not concerned with acquiring material wealth and possessions whilst on earth, because His prosperity and success was not defined according to worldly standards, but according to the work and favour of God (Luke 2:52 – And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men).
(5) BIBLICAL PROSPERITY IS WHEN YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE IN CHRIST & THE PRIVILEDGES THAT COME WITH BEING A CHILD OF GOD – (Philippians 3:20 – For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ)
The reason why Jesus tells us to store our treasures in Heaven where moth and rust do not destroy (Matthew 6:19-21) is because as children of God, we are ultimately citizens of Heaven. Therefore, while we are on earth, it makes more sense to do deeds that will store for us treasure in Heaven rather than earth. We are on the earth temporarily, and as Christians we are not of this world even though we (temporarily) live in it. It therefore does not make sense for us to simply focus most of our earthly lives trying to accumulate temporary possessions when we should be focusing on accumulating treasure in Heaven where we will be for eternal life.
It is therefore really important that we understand who we are in Christ and what it means. To know more about who you are in Christ click here : Bible Verses on Who You Are In Christ Jesus
(6) BIBLICAL PROSPERITY IS BEING CONTENT WITH WHAT GOD HAS GIVEN YOU AT A GIVEN TIME – (1 Timothy 6:6-10 – Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows).
CONCLUSION OF BIBLICAL PROSPERITY – PART 1
Should we then say that people should not desire to look for better work salaries; or desire to live in a better house; or desire to buy a beautiful car? Of course not. There is nothing wrong with wanting to have a better life. However, what we should ensure is that the desire for riches and possessions do not hinder our relationship with God because the moment we desire riches and possessions more than God, we end up becoming like the rich young ruler who chose his great possessions over following Jesus. Our role as Christians is not about living so that we can accumulate possessions, but our role as Christians is to make disciples of all nations and to give glory to God.
God’s plans for our lives are never of poverty – but he has great plans for us that are meant to glorify Him.
Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.