It is an all too common thing to hear people talking about the hard times they are facing. Struggles and trials are characteristic of most of our lives – physical ailments and financial uncertainties turn even good times into momentary joys that do little to lessen the looming cloud of despair. Everyone needs a helping hand.
So often we hear people (mostly those well-to-do televangelists whose private jet is always on stand-by in case there’s an emergency ministry trip to make) telling us that God wants to pour out an abundance of His blessings upon the poor, broken, and disheartened. Pointing to the vast riches of God, it is said that “you too” can be blessed beyond your wildest dreams, because “God wants to bless you.”
The proponents of this “prosperity gospel” urge their listeners to sow the seed of a monetary donation to their own particular organization, and promise that the individual will reap a harvest of prosperity as God rewards their giving. The secret to receiving this blessing (so they say) is to “claim it by faith”; to “call it down from heaven.”
However, this false prosperity message fails scrutiny for many reasons. Primarily, the Scriptures used to support some of their claims are greatly misquoted and taken out of context. But another problem arises because there is a misunderstanding on what it means to be blessed.
Without a lengthy exposition, let us examine the True Prosperity Gospel as it is set forth in our text verses:
“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.” (Psalms 1:1)
“But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.” (Psalms 1:2)
“And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” (Psalms 1:3)
First: “Blessed is the man”
This is the aim of those hoping to follow the prosperity gospel. To be blessed requires the blessing of one greater. The important thing about the blessing is that it is a matter of grace, as opposed to a reward which is earned by works. Our text speaks not of how to be blessed, but of how to know that you are blessed. The individual is blessed by God’s grace and their life is characterized thereby. The blessed man:
- “Walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly” – Walking indicates that you are moving in a certain direction. Here, it is not in the direction of the ungodly. Because you are blessed, you are able to discern right from wrong, and you can identify those whose counsel is ungodly.
- “Nor standeth in the way of sinners” – Where are you positionally? A blessed man has a right standing with God. His fellowship is with the righteous, because his positional standing is in righteousness. His desires and affections are contrary to the way of sinners.
- “Nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful” – The chief distinction of a blessed man is his attitude. Happy people want to make others happy. Joy is contagious. A blessed man does not have a scornful attitude toward others, but desires that they be blessed themselves.
Second: “But his delight”
The delights of our hearts really have more to do with the condition thereof than any external factor. We delight in a thing as our heart is inclined toward it naturally. Because we delight in something, we will view it as important or worthwhile. The blessed man has a clean heart condition, as he has received a new nature. His affections are now according to his new nature, which is inclined to righteousness.
- “The law of the LORD” – The heart that is inclined to righteousness delights in the Law of the Lord. The blessed man studies God’s Law as that which should form his conscience. He endeavors to hide God’s Word in his heart, so that he will not sin against the Lord his God.
- “Meditate day and night” – As his heart is conditioned by the Word of God, the Word of God becomes his standard for living. The blessed man desires to glorify God with his life. He is ever-seeking to be more Christ-like, meditating day and night on his walk.
Third: “He shall be”
Here we have a series of statements that give colorful expressions characteristic of God’s blessing. As these statements give evidence of blessedness, we can rightly say they are indicators of True Prosperity. Note first that we are looking at someone that is already blessed. He has experienced the saving grace of God – the True Blessing. The evidences which flow from that Blessing are:
- “A tree planted” – A tree is symbolic of strength. The blessed man, meditating day and night, is rooted and stable. He draws strength from the Lord, who has blessed him.
- “Rivers of water” – The water is the Life-giving Holy Spirit of God. Only the saved individual has access to these Rivers of Water. He draws nourishment therefrom and has no shortage of this Source of Spiritual Life.
- “His fruit in his season” – As the tree bears fruit, so too the blessed man has spiritual fruit in abundance. He is fruitful, productive in purpose and provision. His fruit endures to maturity, and is a delight to others.
- “His leaf also shall not wither” – The leaf is representative of a healthy tree. Leaves gather sunlight (Son-Light), which nourishes the life of the tree. We can liken the leaves of a blessed man to Godly habits. Leaves also provide shade to comfort those under the tree. Godly habits certainly nourish the spirit of a blessed man, as well as those who he ministers to.
- “Whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” – The simple principle is that the only thing we truly fail at is that which we don’t carry to fruition. Whether good or bad, you will succeed in whatever you apply yourself to. The key is that the blessed man may begin to do wrong, but his Spirit-led convictions kick in; he stops short of fruition, and focuses instead on doing good. When his good harvest comes, he is blessed and he knows it.
Reader, true and genuine prosperity is not measured in the acquisition of material things. But rather true prosperity is measured according to Spiritual objectives of what God is doing in us and through us. Our text tells us the marks of a blessed man. This individual abstains from the appearance of evil, studies to do that which is good, and has fruit according to his labor. Accordingly, “whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” – he is blessed and he is a blessing to others as the Lord uses him for His glory.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:” (Ephesians 1:3)
“The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich…” (Proverbs 10:22)
The Child of God has been blessed with all spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. His value system is properly oriented, as he is able to rejoice in his blessedness, knowing that God will provide his every need according to His riches in glory (Philippians 4:19). The blessed man need not seek after material wealth and notoriety, because he knows that he is already blessed with the incorruptible riches of God. His heart’s longing then is the glory of God. What greater prosperity can there be? Absolutely none.
Let us add a word of consideration for the proponents of the false prosperity gospel. Earlier we said that there is just enough truth in these messages to convince the disheartened and desperate. The truth is that God does want to bless us and He does promise to pour out His blessing upon us in this life:
“Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom…” (Luke 6:38)
“… Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time… and in the world to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)
So there is a solid basis of Scriptural support to say that God does promise to bless His children right now, in this life. But we must be ever careful that we do not begin to view God as a robot or an ATM machine to which we walk up, punch the right buttons, and receive what we want. Nor should we lose focus of the fact that these temporal “blessings” are only evidences, or tokens, of the true Blessing of God and that the lack of evidence of these blessings does not indicate that God is not blessing the individual.
Reader, God wants to bless you. God has blessed you already. Rejoice then; lift up your head and draw comfort from the fact that our Sovereign Lord has given us the promise of Eternal Blessedness in Christ Jesus. No matter what our situation may be, or how defeated we may feel, we know that we are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. This genuine and sure prosperity is granted to us, not because of our effort or worth, but because God wanted to so bless us – that’s the True Prosperity Gospel.