Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. – John 14:13-14
You may hear it called the prosperity gospel, health and wealth gospel, or the gospel of success, and much of it is based on verses like the one from John’s gospel above. The basic message of the prosperity gospel is that if you believe and follow Christ, you’ll be prosperous – healthy, wealthy, and wise.
Over the years I’ve been exposed to more than a fair share of prosperity theology. I’ve known people who were convinced they would never grow old (they did) and I’ve seen the price people have paid by losing their homes when they gave to television ministries instead of paying their mortgage. And I wonder if James isn’t addressing this kind of thought in the following verses.
“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions”(James 4: 1-3).
We embrace passages that encourage us that “whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours”(Mark 11:24), but stay a safe distance away from promises of persecution from “men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles” (Matthew 10:17).
Instead of pursuing health and wealth maybe we should seek to learn the secret discovered by Paul:
“…I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).