A number of people apparently believe that if they are devout in their relationship with God, He will bless them with prosperity (i.e., wealth, success, etc.). But, does the Bible support this belief?
During Old Testament times, God blessed with prosperity certain men, including Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who were among the earliest ancestors of the Israelites/Jews. Be that as it may, the Bible is somewhat ambiguous as to whether or not all of these men – particularly, Isaac and Jacob – were devout in their relationship with God when He blessed them with prosperity.
Subsequently, the Nation of Israel was told that God would prosper them if they remained faithful to Him. The scriptures that seem to be the most relevant in this regard are the four that immediately follow.
[Note: When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible, unless indicated otherwise. When words in a quoted scripture passage are shown in bold print, the emphasis is our own.]
Deuteronomy 6:3 states: “Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the LORD God of your fathers has promised you—‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’”
Neither Strong’s Concordance of the Bible nor any of the Bible commentaries that we consulted provide helpful insights about this scripture, but Explore the Bible: Leader Guide (Winter 2019-2020), which is a quarterly publication used by a number of Christian churches as a Bible study guide, makes the following statements as to whether or not devotion (or faithfulness) to God leads to prosperity:
[Deuteronomy 6:3] is not a guarantee that no faithful believer will ever suffer want or go through hard times, and it is certainly no endorsement for the “prosperity gospel.” The Bible never promises that righteousness leads to riches.
Deuteronomy 29:9 is the second scripture regarding prosperity that is directed to the Israelites/Jews. This scripture asserts, “[K]eep the words of this covenant [with God], and do them, that you may prosper in all that you do.”
The Hebrew word translated as prosper in Deuteronomy 29:9 means “to be prudent, act wisely, give attention to, ponder. . . ,” according to Strong, which goes on to say that the basic meaning of this Hebrew word “seems to be ‘to look at, to give attention to.’” Thus, this scripture evidently does not refer to the term prosper in the sense of material wealth and/or success and, therefore, it is not relevant in assessing whether or not God blesses those who are devoted to Him with prosperity, as usually defined.
The third scripture to consider in regard to the prosperity of the Israelites/Jews is 2 Chronicles 20:20, which says, “So they [the people of Judah] rose early in the morning and went out into the Wilderness of Tekoa; and as they went out, Jehoshaphat [the king of Judah]stood and said, “Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the LORD your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper.”
In regard to this scripture, Strong states that the Hebrew word that is translated as prosper means “to succeed” and goes on to say, “This word generally expresses the idea of a successful venture. . . . The source of such success is God.” Thus, this scripture indicates that God will bless with some form of success those who believe – and, inferentially, do – what the prophets of God tell them to do.
The fourth scripture that seems to be relevant is Proverbs 28:25b, which declares, “[H]e who trusts in the Lord will be prospered.”
Although Strong does not provide useful perspective regarding the connotation of the word prospered in this scripture, several Bible commentaries do.
Barnes’ Notes on the Whole Bible states that the word prospered that is mentioned in Proverbs 28:25 refers to “abundance and tranquility.”
John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible says the person who trusts in the Lord “shall want no good thing.”
And, Matthew Poole’s English Annotations on the Holy Bible declares that the person who trusts in Lord “shall live happily and comfortably.”
These Bible commentaries indicate that the prosperity referred to in Proverbs 28:25 pertains to enjoying a quality of life that is evidently a result of having ample wealth.
In assessing whether or not people who are devoted to God are the only people who can reasonably expect to have prosperity, it is necessary to consider that, although God may have blessed with prosperity a number of people who were devoted to Him during Old Testament times, wicked people also were prosperous during those times, as indicated in several scriptures, including Psalm 73:3, Jeremiah 12:1, and Lamentations 1:5.
In any case, there apparently are not any New Testament scriptures indicating that people who are devoted to God will be blessed with prosperity.
Furthermore, empirical evidence indicates that people in our own country who are devoted to God do not prosper more than those who are not devoted to God, and they may prosper less, since attaining prosperity is not as likely to be as important to people who are devoted to God as it is to people who are not devoted to God. As for people in other countries of the world, it is even more evident that being devoted to God does not assure prosperity. The fact is that most people throughout the world who are devoted to God are not prosperous and a significant percentage of them are destitute.
Summary and Conclusion
None of the scriptures we have cited provide a valid reason to believe that God will prosper everyone, or even most people, who are devoted to Him. The only people whom God promised to prosper were Israelites/Jews. Thus, the Bible does not support a prosperity gospel which asserts that anyone who is devoted to God can expect to prosper in the form of wealth and/or some other measure of secular success.
Therefore, we should not expect God to bless us with prosperity just because we are devoted to Him. And, if we are blessed with prosperity, we should not assume that it is because we are more devoted to God than less prosperous people are.