Note: This is part of our current series “Correcting our Misconceptions about Evangelism” adapted from Larry Moyer’s book 21 Things God Never Said. See also “Evangelism Misconception: God will Make us Healthy and Wealthy (Part 1).”

Misconception: “If you come to Me, I’ll make you both healthy and wealthy.”

In my last post, I discussed how the “health and wealth” gospel has taken several passages of Scripture out of context to suggest that God makes Christians healthy and wealthy.

Today, I want to continue this discussion by looking at some of the passages that actually say the opposite.

Many believers in Scripture did not profit physically or materially.

Believers in Scripture who experienced physical and financial trials are abundant. Yet their conversion is not questioned nor is it associated with their physical circumstances.

Consider the Book of James

James’ book was written to those undergoing trials. They were separated from loved ones. They lost their possessions. Living in a time of life-threatening persecution, they were scattered throughout the Roman Empire. James wrote to tell them how to endure trials and live the Christian life amidst difficult conditions:

Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience (James 1:2–3).

Their trials were so severe that well-deserved wages were being held back by fraudulent employers (5:4). James reminded them that their hope was in the Lord’s return not a change in circumstances:

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord (James 5:7).

Consider the Apostle Paul

Paul was such an example of Christlikeness that he could say, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Yet at times his health failed and his finances were scarce.

Whatever physical ailment he had (many believe it related to his eyes), he asked God to remove it three times. Each request was declined: 

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me (2 Cor. 12:7–8).

He found his answer in strength to bear the ailment, not healing. The Lord’s words were: 

My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).

With that assurance Paul could say: 

Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong (v. 10).

Furthermore, Paul experienced times of great lack, not great prosperity. But he wanted more of Christ, not more materially. He was grateful for the gift the church at Philippi extended to him. He reminded them that they ministered to his need not to his contentment:

I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Phil. 4:12–13).

Although a person of deep spiritual devotion, Paul did not experience uninterrupted health and physical strength. Nor did he gain wealth.

Consider the Heroes of the Faith

Hebrews 11 lists heroes of the faith whose lives were characterized by sickness, need and suffering, not “health and wealth.”

They were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy.  (Heb. 11:35–38).

 Stay tuned! On Friday, I continue the discussion.