Some professing Christians have been taught that God promises wealth and prosperity to those who obey Him and, conversely, that poverty is a curse from God. The Bible, however, does not support this so-called “prosperity gospel.”
The Lord Jesus Himself exemplified obedience in the midst of want (Luke 9:57-58), as did Paul the Apostle (1 Cor 4:9-13). The Bible puts both Jesus and Paul forth as examples to imitate (cf. 1 Pet 2:21; 1 John 2:6; 1 Cor 4:16; Phil 3:17).
The Lord Jesus called His disciples to deny themselves, not seek prosperity, when they follow Him (Luke 9:23; 14:33).
The Lord Jesus exhorted His disciples to seek eternal prosperity in heavenly matters and not in the possessions of this world (Matt 6:19-20; John 6:27; cf. 1 Tim 6:17-19; Jas 5:1-6).
The Lord Jesus warned His disciples that great material prosperity hindered entrance to His Kingdom (Mark 10:23-27).
Christians are to be free from the love of money (II Tim 3:1-5) and to seek contentment with what the Lord has provided (Prov 30:8-9; Phil 4:11-12; I Tim 6:6-10), for He will never forsake His people (Heb 13:5-6).
The Bible teaches Christians that obedience is more important than riches (cf. Prov 19:1; 19:22; 28:6, 11; Eccl 4:13). While obedience may lead to riches, as with Abraham, it may also lead to material ruin, as with Job.
Hard work, for Christians, is for the purpose of sharing with others (Eph 4:28), even giving sacrificially out of one’s poverty (2 Cor 8:1-5).
The Bible teaches that God often appoints suffering for His people, for His eternal purposes (Job 40:6-42:6), for their benefit (2 Cor 1:8-9; 4:17-18; Rom 8:18-30; Heb 12:1-11) and for the benefit of others (Gen 50:19-21; John 12:24-26; 2 Cor 1:8-9).
The Gospel is spread by the suffering of Christians (Phil 1:12-14; Acts 8:1; 11:19-21; Col 1:24) and admonishes rich Christians to be rich in good works (1 Tim 6:17-19).
A “prosperity gospel” makes false promises to the poor, leads people to equate the Christian faith with material wealth, rather than bearing the cross (Gal 2:20), and encourages people to seek gifts above the Giver, which is idolatry.
We must therefore conclude that those “who suppose that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Tim 6:5) have missed the point of the Gospel entirely. Here is a helpful video from John Piper (via Justin Taylor) which discusses the implications of the prosperity teaching in stark terms.