The prosperity gospel, or health-and-wealth teaching subscribes to the belief that if you “name it and claim it,” you as a Christian can be rich. It is something we can all be susceptible to. Concomitantly, preachers who teach this can advocate that if someone donates to their ministry, God will in turn bless them.
This way of thinking is not Biblical. It is twisting the arm of the Lord in Jesus into saying something he never said. The truth is that in life we have many struggles, be they financial, health, relational. Certainly Jesus can help you through them if you come to Him in prayer, but it is not a guarantee that if you donate to such-and-such a ministry or such-and-such a charity that you will reap abundantly afterward.
The Hebrew world Shalom is an all-encompassing word for peace, or well-being. Whether coming or going, Jewish people greet one another this way. It does not focus exclusively on your material blessings. This is what Jesus Christ brings to us.
Sometimes Christians in the West get so tied up in the mind-body-matter distinction embedded within Greek thinking that they forget the Jewish conception that we are an integral whole, with each part of ourselves influencing the other. Spiritually-speaking, Jesus wans to set us free from the sin that so easily entangles, and to walk with us on a daily basis through life (Heb. 12:1).
The Rich Young Ruler Revisited
The real problem with the Rich Young Ruler is that his priorities were misplaced. The good news is we don’t know what happened after the man went away. Maybe he later committed himself to the cause of Christ. Maybe he did sell his possessions and followed our Lord. I would hope so.
We all exhibit similarities to this young man. Sometimes our priorities are out of whack. Or we idolize our possessions. Instead, we need to come to Him on His terms, submitting to His will, joyfully. The cost of following our Lord involves making sacrifices. He whittled down the crowd when people had other “excuses.” They were legitimate in that they were worthy causes, like burying relatives, taking care of your family or seeking a level of comfort in life, but not compared to the Great Cause of living for Jesus (see Matt. 8:18-22; Lk. 9:57-62). Christ should command ultimate authority in Christians’ lives.