By Kathy Smith
Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. 3 John 1:2
Where has your journey taken you?
Prosperity is a relative term and it can be defined in a variety of different ways. It may be associated with financial assets. Or it may be indicative of a prominent career, or a happy and healthy family life. Others identify prosperity with owning a fancy house with a pool in the backyard and a sports car in the drive. What do you think? Is it related to fame, fortune, or notoriety? What does prosperity look like to you?
The word “prosper” in the Greek refers to having a prosperous and successful journey. As we know, life itself is a journey. It is a journey we can take with the Lord, or without him. The choice is ours. We get to choose how we want to live it. The choices we make directly effect the outcome. Do we take time to consult the Lord? Or do we plunge ahead on our own? We know that God has a plan for our journey, and he intends to make it a prosperous one.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11
God planned in advance for you to prosper. God planned for you to have a future and a hope. God’s plan for your prosperity starts with making him your source. He wants to fund your education in life, and your future in him. Getting into the stream of heavenly provision requires that we align our own personal will to his.
Many times we walk through life thinking that IF only I had a big bank account, or a highly successful career, that will give me security. Owning a home or having a business, making lots of money in real estate or having a highly lucrative career in law or medicine… these things will make me prosperous.
They may give a false sense of security for a season, but security in the end is elusive. The stock market can fail, or the housing market plummet, the business you work all your life to create can be stolen out from under your nose. Then what do you do? Where can you turn? When you make money, fame, a job or career your source of security you only set yourself up to fail.
There is so much one can say in regards to prosperity, financial success, and security, I found myself grappling with where to begin? As I began to pray, the word PRIORITIES came to mind. What are our priorities and how do they line up with God’s plan for our prosperity? What happens when our priorities become misaligned?
We can borrow an illustration from anatomy and physiology; what does a misaligned spine look like and how does it affect the rest of the body? Anyone who has suffered with a bulging disc or an out of place vertebrae knows the excruciating pain it can cause and how it affects the entire body, not just the spine. Vertebrae that are out of line, even just one, can cause a loss of flexibility, pinched nerves, and even a decrease in blood flow to other areas of the body. It is so important to keep everything in proper alignment to insure that the whole body is functioning at the optimal level. One part that is out of line can throw everything else out of order. The whole body will suffer from one minor misalignment.
Priorities that become misaligned or worse yet, were never aligned properly in the first place, can hinder the prosperity of the individual believer and their family. We must make certain we keep our priorities in proper alignment with God’s word and his purpose for our life. For instance, in the general sense we need to prioritize our overall life plan to make God first, family second, and job, church, ministry, and or career third. You get them out of order, and you can expect a problem sooner or later.
For instance, the workaholic often puts his job before his or her relationship with God or family. If not corrected, this can have devastating results on family relationships, one’s relationship with a spouse, and even one’s own personal relationship with the Lord. Those called to full time ministry can also fall victim to misaligned priorities, placing the ministry and the church before family. Sometimes there is confusion over serving the Lord, and nurturing a personal relationship with him. Please understand there is absolutely nothing wrong with serving the Lord in ministry or doing work in one’s church. Those things are necessary and the people who do them are to be highly commended. We do need to make certain we do not neglect our own family or our personal relationship with the Lord in the process.
So, how does misalignment of priorities affect our finances? Understanding God’s financial plan for our own wellbeing is highly important. Keeping our financial priorities in proper order insures us of God’s provision. For instance, what about the widow who had run out of food to feed her family in 1 Kings? She gave part of her last meal to Elijah the prophet, and her provisions did not run out.
Then Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go, do as you have said, but make me a little bread cake from it first and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son. 14“For thus says the LORD God of Israel, ‘The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain on the face of the earth.’” 15So she went and did according to the word of Elijah, and she and he and her household ate for many days. 16The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke through Elijah. 1 Kings 17:13 -16.
She had nothing left, she was about to eat her last meal and die. But God had plans to provide for her. What was her part in the resolution to this dilemma? Obedience and faith, they were paramount to seeing God’s provision. Would she put God first? Often when we see our own provisions getting low, we are tempted to cut back on God’s portion. This practice would be equivalent to eating our seed.
How many farmers do you know that eat their seed? A wise farmer guards his seed closely, for he knows that without the seed, there will be no new crop to harvest in the fall. The cycle of sowing and reaping would come to a complete halt and the farmer would lack all future provisions. When we make the Lord our first priority, he is good and faithful to provide for all of our needs. We may never be rich, but we will be cared for. In God’s kingdom there is no lack of provisions.
The Principle of the Tithe
Our heavenly Father owns the cattle on a thousand hills according to Psalm 50:10. In actuality, he owns everything. He allows us to keep 90% of all that he entrusts to our hands. Can you imagine telling the financial consultant managing your investments to keep 90% of the proceeds? I think that would be highly unlikely; however that is exactly what God does. He says, here… just give me the first 10% and keep the rest.
Those who do not know the Lord or his financial provisions may not understand the concept of tithing. Deuteronomy 14:22-28 tells us we are to give the tithe to the Lord. The word tithe in the Hebrew means tenth. The bible says we are to give off of the top or the first fruits before giving to anything else. The concept of tithing is introduced pre law, in other words it came before the Ten Commandments. Many people try to discredit tithing as being a part of the old covenant and no longer applicable to those of us living in the New Covenant. You know the concept, old things have passed away and all things have become new. That may apply to the old man but it does not apply to tithing.
Tithing is also a New Testament principal and it was taught by Jesus. In Matthew 23:23 and in Luke 11:42 Jesus instructed the people to tithe. So what is God’s promise to us in regards to tithing? Obedience to all of God’s commandments holds the following promise.
Promise of Blessing in Deuteronomy 28:1-8
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 on 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.
7 The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven.
8 The Lord will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The Lord your God will bless you in the land he is giving you.
God promises to bless the remaining ninety percent. As we see in the scripture above, those who keep God’s commandments will be blessed of the Lord.
Often the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, or the parable of the pounds found in Luke 19 are referred to in teachings on becoming wise stewards of God’s gifts. While some interchange the two due to a multitude of similarities, there are some remarkable differences. One of the major differences can be found in the terms pounds and talents. While the talents were dispersed in varying quantities determined by the Holy Spirit, the pounds were given in equal portions.
The most significant lesson we can take from the two parables is this, God blesses those who are wise stewards of all God has given. This is not in terms of our financial resources alone, but in all of the bountiful blessings he has entrusted to each of us. Those who use the blessings entrusted to their care wisely can expect a harvest and increase.
When you rob God, who suffers the loss?
Finally, in Malachi 3:8-12 we find the following discourse:
“Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.9“You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! 10“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows. 11“Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes,” says the LORD of hosts.12“All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land,” says the LORD of hosts.
I do not think anyone wants to be guilty of robbing God. However those who do not understand the significance of paying one’s tithe are doing just that. They are robbing God, but not only God; they are also robbing themselves of the blessings he has promised. Faith in God’s provision and obedience to pay the tithe according to God’s financial plan, gives us the security of knowing that we will always be provided for, just like the widow about to eat her last meal. Making God and his financial plan our priority insures of us of prosperity, in this life and the life to come.
This is the only place you will find God encouraging you to put him to the test. As one who has done so and proven that God’s provision is more than enough, I encourage you to take him at his word. Prove him; see if he will not make your harvest so plentiful that you do not have room to receive. He will rebuke the one who devours your seed and will bless you with more than enough. Prove him for yourself, and you will see. Test him, for he will pass the test, it is guaranteed.
I remember at one point earlier in my life, having nowhere to turn. My finances were in a mess, with threats of losing my home, having utilities shut off, etc. It seemed I had no money to pay a tithe, and yet I did not have money to not tithe. I needed God to make up the difference as I could not do it on my own. The situation appeared hopeless. So I prayed over the tithe and paid it first, then I did what I could with the rest. What seemed impossible suddenly began to turn around. I can honestly tell you that it was nothing short of a miracle, a miracle of God’s provision.
I speak from firsthand experience that God is a miracle working God, and he wants to do a miracle in your life. Trust God, be obedient to his word, and put him first in all that you do. Make God a priority in your life. When you do, your prosperity is insured. We are all on this journey called life together; let us make it a prosperous one. God Bless!