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Where to find prosperity & happiness

Modern society is focused on getting you to obsess over your most basic needs and some Christians want to push you that direction too. Preachers who preach the prosperity gospel tend to dumb down God and undersell his great care for us. I don’t think most Christians would argue that he wants to p…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

Modern society is focused on getting you to obsess over your most basic needs and some Christians want to push you that direction too. Preachers who preach the prosperity gospel tend to dumb down God and undersell his great care for us. I don’t think most Christians would argue that he wants to provide for us. We all recognize that he wants to lavish great gifts on his children. Passages like those in Deuteronomy 28 describe how “it pleases God to make you prosper.”

We know intuitively that if you love someone, you will help meet their needs. The real question with prosperity gospel preachers is, “What constitutes a need?” If I’m hungry, and if you’re someone who loves me, you may prepare a great feast for me and I may honor you by eating until I’m full.

But suppose I stay at that buffet table well beyond the time of fullness, to the point of gorging and gluttony, and suppose that every time we meet thereafter, I’m looking for you to give me more food. Where’s the love in that?

The human need for food is the most basic of human needs. Maslow defines four higher order needs beyond that: Security, Belonging, Esteem, and the highest need, Actualization – the need to use your gifts in a useful way.

If I protect you and give you a nice 401k, I’ve still just addressed your second most basic need – your need for security. What kind of prosperity is that? You’ve still got unmet higher level needs.

Prosperity gospel preachers who talk a lot about money and the stuff it buys have a lot in common with an employer who pays you well at a job you don’t enjoy. Both address your two most basic needs for provision and protection, but do little to meet your higher order needs for belonging to a group, especially with people that value you, and for your need to contribute to a cause that is bigger than you.

Prosperity has to do with meeting all your needs and coming fully alive. It explains how a woman like Mother Teresa can have so little, yet have so much. True prosperity has nothing to do with cars, jewelry, or perceived status. All that stuff does is feed your small-minded ego and its fixation on lower order needs.

People who are looking to something they can buy to bring them happiness are missing the boat. True prosperity and happiness comes as we come into alignment with God’s dream for our lives by touching those places and situations in the world that break his heart. True prosperity comes when we use the gifts he’s given us in service to his purposes for reconciling a broken and hurting world to himself.
Sometimes in the past I’ve unwittingly aligned myself with prosperity preachers by fixating on basic needs. Life is too short to spend time worrying about finding the money to eat and sleep well. God wants to do much more for me and you than meeting those needs.
Where do you look for happiness?
Don’t settle for someone else’s definition of prosperity. God wants you to feel valued and to use your gifts to bring his kingdom. You deserve a life centered around those needs.

Comments (7)

  • This is great! Everything that has been going through my mind lately and yet another confirmation to my busy thoughts. Thanks!

  • Thanks Seth for this reminder. I think the most insidious malady these days is one where someone privately is passionate to accumulate and create personal financial security while in public promoting the cause of orphans, prisoners, widows and the afflicted at the expense of something “real”. That disease is far too common and spreading.

    Personally I’d rather share company with an avowed capitalist where money is their God than someone stirring a broth both bitter and sweet.

    That’s something I’m writing about.

    By the way congratulations on Talia’s news…I am excited for this new dispensation in your life, Karen’s and hers. She will be a wonderful wife, mother and model to others.

  • I agree with Butch; let’s be honest and true to our convictions (even if we don’t agree with them).

    My happiness comes from spending time with family, serving, and simple things and being open to God’s direction and teaching which admittedly currently has me on a rather steep and uncomfortable curve.

    Letting my yes be yes and my no be no and getting rid of the lukewarm and people pleasing.

  • The paradox of happiness is that I am most fulfilled when I am least concerned about my prosperity and intently focused on the betterment of others. Great post, Seth.

  • Reading this came at the perfect time as I am obsessing over finding some good American comfort foods, and maybe a hot shower from time to time! But God is standing right in front of me, offering me so much more right now.

    Good word pop’s!
    See you at debrief!

  • This is a great reminder. I think I feel my happiest when I’m living in community with others and really connecting with people. What’s really nice is to have a mentor who has similar gifts as yourself who can disciple you in using those gifts for the Lord and the Kingdom.

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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