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Is Poverty a Curse from God?

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.