God gives power to become rich.
So after 15 years of studying the issue I was convinced that the Bible teaches that God wants us to prosper. Now, I’m so convinced of it that opinions to the contrary seem really silly. Silly, except I used to think the same things. Let me show you what I discovered the Bible says about prosperity.
Let me start with this scripture, because it will eventually lead us to connect with the Christian scriptures in the New Testament.
But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today. Deuteronomy 8:18 NIV
God gives ability to produce wealth.
It doesn't say God gives the ability to get by, or survive, or subsist. It says, God gives the ability to produce wealth. Wealth! Like Pastor Price used to say, I bet you never heard that in your church. Here’s that bit from some different translations:
…It is he who gives you the power to become rich… The Expanded Bible
the Lord your God is the one who makes you wealthy… God’s Word
gives you the power to become rich… Good News Translation
God gives you the power to gain wealth… Holman Christian Standard Bible
he is the one giving you strength to acquire wealth… Lexham English Bible
It is he who gives you the power to become rich… New Century Version
He is the one who gives you power to be successful… New Living Translation
God gives power to become rich, gain wealth, be successful!
If God gives power to become rich, wealthy, successful, then he must not be against riches, wealth and success. He must want us to be rich, wealthy, and successful.
No, not spiritual riches.
I think most Christians’ first take on this scripture is that it can’t mean what it appears to say. The first thought that came to me was, ‘This must mean spiritual wealth and riches,’ whatever that means.
But, if you look at the rest of the chapter, you’ll see it’s talking about plain old, this world, ordinary, wealth and riches.
7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land —a land with brooks, streams, and deep springs gushing out into the valleys and hills; 8 a land with wheat and barley, vines and fig trees, pomegranates, olive oil and honey; 9 a land where bread will not be scarce and you will lack nothing; a land where the rocks are iron and you can dig copper out of the hills…
…11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. 12 Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, 14 then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God … 17 You may say to yourself, My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.Deuteronomy 8
He’s talking about food, land, houses, herds, silver, and gold, not spiritual things.
This chapter is a picture of how things are supposed to be, of how God wants it to be. Plenty to eat, no lack, fine houses, herds and flocks increasing, silver and gold multiplying, all that you have multiplying. This is God’s will not just for the children of Israel but for all of us. This is the way things are supposed to be.
No, not the ability to work hard.
My second try at explaining this scripture away focused on the “power” part, the “ability” part, of that promise. I figured it had to be referring to the ability to work hard. That’s the power, the ability, God gives us, life, breath, strength to work hard. Yeah… that’s the ticket!
If that’s what power to get wealth means, it doesn’t mean much. Giving power to get wealth is supposed to be God’s side of the covenant. It’s what God does when the children of Israel keep their side of the covenant. If they keep His laws, commands and decrees then He will give them power to get wealth. If all God gives Israel is the same life, breath and strength to work that every other person in the world has, there’s not much point in keeping his laws, commands and decrees. There’s not much to commend Him as a God. If that’s all it means, then God’s promises are kind of a sham.
Besides that, life, breath, and strength to work never produce wealth. They may produce subsistence, but they never ever produce riches. 99.99% of the people who live now, or ever have lived, have life, breath, and strength, and work so hard it would wreck most of us who live in the West. They work this way all the days of their life, and never begin to approach even within eyesight of wealth, riches and success. No, if this power that God gives truly produces wealth it is a power beyond the common experience of humankind.
And a couple chapters earlier, in Deuteronomy 6 the prosperity is specifically described as not resulting from their own efforts:
10 When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
And the whole point of the chapter, Deuteronomy 8, is to warn the Israelis about the temptation to credit their prosperity to the work of their own hands:
17 You may say to yourself, My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me. 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he whogives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today. Deut. 8:17-18
In other words, God is warning them not to credit their prosperity to their hard work. There has to be some difference between your power producing wealth and the power God gives producing wealth or these scriptures are meaningless.
Maybe you could argue he’s telling them to give God the credit even when it’s their own power, strength, and hard work, that produces the wealth, but that would turn God and his promises into mockery.
It’s not your hard work that produces the wealth God promised. God’s promise to give power to get wealth is something uncommon, it is something supernatural. It is something that works apart from your hard work. It is something that is not dependent on your hard work. This power to produce wealth operates even when you are too young, or too old or too infirm to do any kind of work. This power to produce wealth is not dependent on conformity to the world system and its way of doing things, but on the oath sworn by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
He does it to keep the promise
The King James version of this scripture reads a little differently:
But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day. Deut. 8:18 KJV
Some people take the expression “establish his covenant,” as meaning something like, spread the Gospel. So they claim that God gives power to get wealth to finance the spread of the Gospel. But the Hebrew word translated “establish” in this verse is translated “perform” a few verses later, even in the King James Bible:
Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the Lord thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Deut. 9:5 KJV
The verses are very similar. The first says:
…that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers
The second says:
…that he may perform the word which the Lord sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob…
What is a covenant but a word sworn? So I suggest Deuteronomy. 8:18 makes more sense translated like Deuteronomy 9:5, i.e.:
But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish perform his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.
Here’s a few more translations which I believe get this part right:
…That’s how he keeps the promise he made to your ancestors. CEV(Contemporary English Version)
…that he might fulfil his covenant, concerning which he swore to thy fathers… DRA (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)
…He does this because he wants to keep the agreement that he made with your ancestors… ERV (Easy-to-Read Version)
…keeping the ·agreement [covenant; treaty] he promised to your ·ancestors [fathers], as it is today. EXB (Expanded Bible)
…keeping the agreement he promised to your ancestors… NCV ( New Century Version)
…that shows he stands by the terms of his covenant. He promised it with an oath to your people long ago. And he’s still faithful to his covenant today. NIRV (New International Readers Version)
…By this He may keep His agreement which He promised to your fathers, as it is this day. NLV (New Life Version)
…in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath. NLT (New Living Translation)
…so He can keep the covenant promises He made to your ancestors, as He is doing now. Voice Translation
God gives them power to get rich to keep the promise that he made to their ancestors.
Put differently, God swore to their ancestors that He would give them power to become rich, prosperous and successful and He is now giving them that power in in fulfillment of the promise.
He swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
One last point before we move on. When it says, “fathers” or “ancestors”…
But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today. Deut. 8:18,
…that’s short hand for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
You can see that in these verses.
8 See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land the Lord swore he would give to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—and to their descendants after them. Deut. 1 (NIV)
10 When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, Deut. 6 (NIV)
5 …the Lord your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Deut. 9 (NIV)
19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land heswore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Deut. 30 (NIV)
So when you read “fathers” or “ancestors” it means Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
What I want you to see is that the promises made to the children of Israel are rooted in the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. As in the following verses:
31 For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your ancestors, which he confirmed to them by oath. Deut. 4 (NIV)
12 If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the Lord your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your ancestors. 13 He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers. He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land—your grain, new wine and olive oil —the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you. Deut. 7 (NIV)
12 You are standing here in order to enter into a covenant with the Lord your God, a covenant the Lord is making with you this day and sealing with an oath, 13 to confirm you this day as his people, that he may be your God as he promised you and as he swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 14 I am making this covenant, with its oath, not only with you 15 who are standing here with us today in the presence of the Lord our God but also with those who are not here today. Deut. 29 (NIV)
These aren’t new promises. These aren’t new blessings. They are the same blessings. These are the same promises, God swore to Abraham.
God gives power to become rich to keep the promise He swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
God promised he would make them rich!
So that's pretty definitive. If God gives power to become wealthy then he must be in favor of people being wealthy. Once you strip away all the reflexive Christian objections, and just look at what it plainly says, it becomes quite radical and revolutionary.
The Bible says if you serve God He will give you power to become rich. Not power to subsist, or get by, or have your basic needs supplied, but power to become rich. Power to have more than enough. Power to be abundantly supplied. Power to be un-dependent on the world system.
This power to become rich is not limited to people who are young and strong and able to work hard. This promise to give power to produce wealth is not limited to people born in good circumstances. This power to become wealthy, not just have your basic needs supplied, is available to all, young and old, first world and third world, strong and weak, smart and not so smart. This power to become rich is what God has promised to do, it is what He desires to do, for those who worship Him.
If I was of a more leftish mindset I'd say that Christian ignorance of this scripture is the result of a conspiracy to keep the masses of humanity enslaved to THE MAN, a scheme to keep us dependent on the systems of this world, a plot to keep us serving Mammon the god of this world system and those who run it.
Where is it?
You'd think that would have settled the case for me, but then I had this thought. If this scripture really means that God gave them power to get wealth to keep the promise God had sworn to Abraham then God must have sworn a promise to Abraham, that He would make him rich. In other words, somewhere in the Bible there had to be a story where God promised Abraham that He would give Abraham power to become rich.
I wanted to find that story, the story where God swore a promise to Abraham that He would make him rich. As far as I was concerned that would, pretty much, seal the deal. If God promised Abraham that he would make him rich, then God must be in favor of prosperity. If that was true then the Bible did teach that God wants us to prosper.
So I turned back to Genesis chapter 12 and began reading the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, looking for this incident. But I couldn’t find it. I kept rereading Genesis thinking I had somehow overlooked it.
It was a little disturbing.
It seemed like some kind of Bible contradiction.
It wasn’t there!