By Daniel Juster
Luxury, Poverty and the Historic Debate
The issue of God's standards
for material wealth has been a source of debate for centuries.
In the sixteenth century, Cardinal Wolsey, the Archbishop of York,
built an enormous palace, larger and more luxurious than anything
even King Henry VIII possessed. Henry was quite good at executing his
opponents, even his wife Anne Boleyn. So when word came to the Cardinal
that the king was jealous, he wisely decided to donate his Hampton Court
Palace to the king! It is still standing today.
Yet at the same time as Cardinal Wolsey built his palace, monastic
Catholics were arguing that only giving up all possessions and taking a
vow of poverty reflected the ideals of Yeshua. Meanwhile, the
Reformers railed against the financial abuses and opulent living of Roman
Catholic Church leaders. So to quote Solomon, "There is nothing new
under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
The Debate on Prosperity Today
Today some prosperity gospel teachers assert that it is God's will for
all of His children to live in a prosperity which they define almost as a
right to opulent living. The teacher 'proves' the truth of his
teaching by himself making a huge salary and benefits. Some with broadcast
ministries have even told their listeners that to become prosperous, they
need to contribute to these ministries! In his later years, Kenneth Hagin,
himself a prosperity teacher, began to address these abuses.
Some of our young millennial believers are forming urban communities where
simple living and modest compensation are the rule. And what of business
leaders, sports figures, entertainers and others? How do we look at the
enormous compensation packages that they receive? And what about the idea
of socialism to level out compensation?
People hold widely varying views on this subject. But what is
God's view of prosperity? What are we really promised?
Surveying the Biblical Promise of Prosperity
Recently, Creation House published my book on prosperity, with the same
title as this article. The book surveys the whole Bible on this subject,
and seeks to show that there is indeed a promise of general prosperity
and well-being for those who walk in faith, who tithe, and who give
generously. However, it is not an unqualified promise to live in
opulent wealth. (Actually, for those who live in 'First World'
Nations, our middle class standard of living already looks opulent to the
rest of the globe.)
God's promise for prosperity is connected to calling,
and I summarize it in the following words:
God will abundantly provide whatever you need for whatever you are
called to do.
God's standard for those who make a living in full time Gospel
ministry, is a standard I call modesty. The testimony of history is
very clear that this was the example of Yeshua and the 12, the other
apostles that followed after them, and especially the great apostle Paul.
Paul warned against using the Gospel as a means of getting rich and against
the desire to get rich (1 Timothy 6). Yeshua Himself promised abundant
provision for those who left all to follow Him. And of course, that
provision can be applied to those who are suffering and imprisoned for the
Gospel, and to those who find themselves in all kinds of societies today.
So how is modesty defined for those who live by the Gospel? This is
basically connected to compensation packages that fit the region where one
is called to minister. This should include adequate shelter, food,
education for the children, a modest vacation and recreation and saving for
retirement. Most ministers of the Gospel by this standard are
underpaid. But when one goes much beyond this standard of modesty, the
compensation packages tend to discredit the Gospel and those who profess
it. People will look at wealthy ministers as involved in a
money-making racket for themselves. Witness Newsweek's recent report
on ministers with the largest compensation packages and those who have the
highest net worth. Many of you would recognize the names. Newsweek did
not hold up wealth as a proof of the ministers' great faith! I
understand that through diligent saving and investing a minister could be
well off in the senior years, but it should not be through an exorbitant
What of the business leader? If his heart is to use his wealth mostly to
extend the Kingdom, I believe there is much more flexibility for his
lifestyle. He does not have to maintain a testimony of living from the
Gospel. Yet even here, flaunting wealth is not according to the spirit of
This book has important advice for all, regarding how to spend, save,
invest and steward resources. I urge you to read it.
"Praise the LORD!
Blessed is the man who fears the LORD,
Who delights greatly in His commandments.
His descendants will be mighty on earth;
The generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches will be in his house,
And his righteousness endures forever."
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moth and rust destroy
and where thieves break in and steal;
but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where neither moth nor rust destroys
and where thieves do not break in and steal.
For where your treasure is,
there your heart will be also."