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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Should Christians Stop Saying They're Blessed by Material Increase?

Affluence is a funny thing, especially in the Christian west. Many times people when they realize that they have achieved more than most feel a bit guilty of that fact. Sometimes it plays out in the way a culture seeks to help the less fortunate, or how the race relations dynamic works, or even how we talk about wealth.

Much of this kind of angst has its origin in a Judeo-Christian worldview. The Bible tells us that we are not of this world (John 18:36) and we are sojourners on this earth (Psalm 119:19). We're given examples such as Abraham who lived in tents in the Promised Land, and we read of those in the early church who sacrificed by giving up their possessions and laying them at the Apostles' feet. Jesus' teachings seemed to show that the rich man was spiritually poor, building new barns while neglecting his soul (Luke 12:13-21) or the man who went away sad choosing not to give away his money to follow Jesus (Luke 18:23).

With all that, it is no surprise that an article is currently making the rounds on social media denouncing the Christian habit of speaking of material success by labeling it a blessing. In his Huffington Post article "The One Thing Christians Should Stop Saying," Scott Dannemiller argues that when Christians talk about some success in their lives they reflexively say they've been blessed. Dannemiller admits he's done it himself, but calls it "a lie." He says things like having a good year in business or buying a new car is not a blessing and he cries with urgency that "it has to stop!" He argues:
"First, when I say that my material fortune is the result of God's blessing, it reduces The Almighty to some sort of sky-bound, wish-granting fairy who spends his days randomly bestowing cars and cash upon his followers. I can't help but draw parallels to how I handed out M&M's to my own kids when they followed my directions and chose to poop in the toilet rather than in their pants. Sure, God wants us to continually seek His will, and it's for our own good. But positive reinforcement?"
Dannemiller goes on to write:
"The problem? Nowhere in scripture are we promised worldly ease in return for our pledge of faith. In fact, the most devout saints from the Bible usually died penniless, receiving a one-way ticket to prison or death by torture."
Dannemiller is simply wrong. As I pointed out above, there are many teachings that show how those who value their material possessions above spiritual realities are in sin. But to equate that concept to saying "I've been blessed to have success" is nowhere near accurate.  The Bible does in fact make that connection.  In Deuteronomy 28:1-8, when God was imploring the Israelites to follow Him he promises their faithfulness will lead to material blessing:

"And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today… Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock."

In order not to miss the point, God emphasizes that this blessing is monetary in nature just a few verses later: "The Lord will command the blessing on you in your barns and in all that you undertake. And he will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you." Surely blessing in one's land and in one's livestock increase and in one's barns (you, know, those things that the rich man had to build because he was so rich?) would be clearly understood by an agrarian society.

But it isn't just in Deuteronomy that the theme is discussed. The psalmist equates the farmer's bountiful crops with blessing in Psalm 67. Even Satan complains to God that "You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land" in Job 1:10.

You may object at this point and say, "Those are only Old Testament passages. What about the New Covenant believers have in Christ?" Well, the concept is continued in the New Testament.
  • Paul compared the wealth of the Corinthians to the manna that God bestowed on the Israelites, so "your abundance at the present time should supply their need" (2 Cor. 8:14).
  • In Romans 15:27, Paul writes that the Gentile believers had material blessings and they could use those just like the spiritual blessings they received in becoming believers.
  • The writer of Hebrews tells us that a good crop is a blessing: "For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God." (Heb 6:7)
The problem isn't having material wealth, it is not putting it in its proper perspective. I know people who are not wealthy, but they still think of God as "some sort of sky-bound, wish-granting fairy." In fact, the reason prosperity-gospel preachers succeed is that their congregations, who aren't wealthy, want to be and believe such ilk. 1 Timothy 6:10 doesn't tell us that money is the root of all kinds of evil, but the love of money is. It's emphasis, not accumulation. That's why Proverbs 3:9-10 reads "Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine." If you understand that material blessing are truly from God, then you had better treat them as any good steward would: mange them well and hold them a loosely recognizing that they are on loan to you. But don't deny that it is God that truly works in the lives of men to bless whom He will.

Dannimiller's second point is that many impoverished Christians in poor nations would be offended by such an expression as "I've been blessed" for a raise or job promotion. I understand his angst, but this doesn't seem logical at all. If God is sovereign, then He will choose different blessings for different people, just as Paul when writing to the Romans told them that they could benefit from the poorer churches' spiritual growth while they could benefit from the Romans' material wealth. As someone in ministry who relies on donations to survive, I completely understand this point.

Throughout the article, Dannimiller seems to blur the difference between an average Christian and one who holds to the heretical prosperity doctrine, one that I highly repudiate. Of course, heresies are offensive, but is it more offensive for Christians to say "I did all this myself with only myself to thank" or "Thank God for blessing me with time, opportunity and the ability to achieve success"? I would call the first statement a lie well before I would so label the second one.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus lists several ways people are called blessed. These truly are blessings, but Jesus never meant this to be an exhaustive list. For example, the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12/14 are also blessings. There are many other types of blessings noted in the Bible as well.  The point is to not condemn people simply because they have been successful or perhaps have more than you. The point is what are you doing with the blessing of material increase that God has provided for you?  Christians are not to try and force the so-called 1% to give their wealth to the poor. Jesus calls on each of us to allow God to bless us so that we may in turn put his blessings to work.


  1. Typos notwithstanding, beautifully said. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for the enlightenment on this topic. I believe Dannimiller dwelt on the semantics and with this caused "blur the difference between an average Christian and one who holds to the heretical prosperity doctrine," as you pointed out.

  3. the problem is , the poeple in the west, thank God for their wealth by works, which is prominent in the |USA| Culturally, not accidentally. How does one deny oneself yet seek higher education like college university.. Denying yourself in this dead world, would take you away from personal growth and development. North Americans distinctively focus on Mammon and wealth.

    There once was innocence in it, when the economy was bad and there was a progressive effort of growth. Now its monopolized, where its hard to make choices out of faith without distinct personal destiny direction.which is easy for pure bred N/americans who have the infrastructure to build their lives comfortably, however, they are becoming a IDOL to the world, which now focuses on the fasle notion of freedom, unlimited mammon and wealth and earthly things. ALl my peers seek rich freedom, not an honest living, but the appearance there of based on the building up of mammon. Given the wealth distribution in america, weshould be more apt to create a society of equal christians, not opposite lifestyles which one can say they are living out their kingdom NOW AND |TODAY!! and others the poor, who God loves seeks the actual kingdom of God to Come! I belive thats the greatest separation in the church, especially due to the culture of materialism that is build upon money and lifestyle, which the poor cannot possess. It creates a false attraction, keeping the rich with the rich, which creates a makeshift natural selection on artificial means. The Rich can then do what the rich does, try to get richer, amalgamate companies and monopolize markets, giving small businesses and companies, which the large ones started as in more humble times,a harder time to grow, and there is strong justification in this. Everyone wants to grow at the same time, not sustain or be happy with what they have, but always growing, always building, the opposite of denying yourself. This is causing jealousy amongst the young christians, who would have no other choice to believe they are cursed and God is Biased. Many people will depart with the faith as i was close to. North America is a terrible place painted good. based on the masonic idea of positive and negative ideas, rather good and evil..

  4. When you ended with the 1% I was lost. First the idea of 1% not paying is a joke. The own most of the wealth and are NOT using it for good. Instead they lobby congress to create tax loop holes and and up saving trillions. For you to ask the 1% to allow the infrastructure of society's to drown in debt. The poor are not, getting anything except improving life for a everyone. Jesus was a socialist when he gave fish to everyone. For FREE. For you to assume the 1% would do the same is a out right joke. You too are sayings that greed is ok when you do not force to 1% to weasel out of taxes. The rich use our roads and police and still find ways to get over on the public. Sad how you defend the greedy.

    1. AngelFace, Let's take your statement that Jesus was a socialist because he fed the five thousand for free. That simply doesn't follow. There is a huge difference between an individual voluntarily giving out of his own means (which is altruism) and the government forcefully taking someone's wealth to redistribute it, which is socialism. Also, you need to deal with Matthew 26:6-13 where when the woman anoints Jesus's feet with costly perfume (a VERY extravagant action). The disciples said the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor, but Jesus said that wasn't the right way to go. All that wealth was poured out for his temporary comfort. That contradicts your socialist narrative.

  5. Psalm 21: 3 For You meet him with the blessings of goodness; You set a crown of pure gold upon his head.
    Psalm 112:2-4
    His (The Righteous) children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man.
    Proverbs 15:6
    The house of the righteous contains great treasure.
    Isaiah 3:10
    Tell the righteous, it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds.
    Proverbs 10:3
    The Lord will not allow the righteous to hunger, but he thwarts the craving of the
    Proverbs 13:21
    Misfortune pursues the sinner, but prosperity is the reward of the righteous.
    Psalm 91:16
    With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation.
    Psalm 92:12-14
    The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar in Lebanon;
    planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still
    bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.
    Malachi 3:10
    Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.

    Actually I have over 100 verses no need to post them all here. Now when poverty, shortage, scarcity, deficiency and lack of basic necessities seem to plague people who are otherwise righteous or living according to God's dictates doubts creeps in whether are they cursed or blessed. Worse when they behold people who obviously are nonbelievers living a life as if God's has bestowed them with all that would make life comfortable, their faith is shaken, and some end up even abandoning their beliefs in pursuit of happiness, prosperity and life stability.
    If indeed all the verses pointing to prosperity upon living according to God, then clearly, the Bible is wrong and misleads most into false belief as they anchor their hopes on empty and void promises.

    Here are some paradoxes:
    Psalms 84:11
    For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.
    “no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” what is a good thing? Poverty, prosperity, sickness, premature deaths, infertility, business failures and losses from fire or theft or any calamity, wars, famines and hunger, etc. does not sound good. But we still meet numerous blameless people facing some of these or more! Hence rendering Psalms 84:11 only valid to those it seems to favor whether they are blameless or not, and invalid to those it does not whether they are blameless or not.
    And this blanket condemnation that all have fallen short of glory of God thus all deserve divine misfortunes, punishment and death does not make sense since if that was the case, then whoever institutes that punishment favors some and is unfair to others.

    Proverbs 15:29
    The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayers of the righteous.
    Yet you find believers struggling with prayers to get things which those so called wicked are getting without praying at all! But when faced with such facts with overwhelming evidence, most Christians resort to the cocoon, “God work in mysterious ways, your time is coming, God is testing you, they are under God’s grace and God’s grace is free” from there, no logic appeals.
    But once what someone is doing prospers through whichever means, they readily conclude, “God heard my prayers” With such notion do you honestly think a righteous man who is faced with failures will be at ease?


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