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PASTOR’S CORNER: Prosperity in the sight of God

In this life, there are two ways to obtain the desires of your heart – the world’s way and God’s way.

You have probably guessed by now that the way of the world is far inferior to God’s way. There are multiple reasons why: the world’s way is lust–driven, highly competitive and ultimately leads to conflict and violence, as we fight with one another for what we want.

A few of us struggle along that path for years before finally enjoying a small measure of success, while most of us continue the struggle, never succeeding and never realizing where we went wrong. Anyone unfortunate enough to be in this worldly rut needs only to consult scripture. There, and only there, can one find God’s way, so let’s start with a few relevant scriptures.

Scripture assures us that God is not opposed to our becoming prosperous in life. He actually is pleased with our prosperity (Psalm 35:27) and gives us the desires of our hearts if we do one simple thing – delight ourselves in him (Psalm 37:4).

This phrase describes a heart condition that focuses on submission to the will of God in one’s life. In this condition, our heart’s desires mimic his, guaranteeing his giving us the desires of our hearts.

All these gifts will be totally good and perfect, meaning all gifts from him are beneficial and complete. None need bolstering to be effective. God makes this promise in James 1:17.

At this point we need to clarify prosperity from God’s point of view, as found in Psalm 35:27. The word is translated from the familiar Hebrew word shalom, which has a variety of possible meanings: safe, well, happy, welfare, health and peace. As used in the Psalm, the word refers to one’s overall quality of life; that all needs are met; that one is happy and at peace.

Contrary to the opinions of some, the word does not refer to anything material, i.e. money, nor does the text contain a promise of material wealth from God. As a matter of fact, there’s no mention of materiality anywhere in this psalm. It is totally a prayer from David, the psalm’s author, petitioning God to rescue him from his enemies.

The reference to God and his view of prosperity is simply an expression of the nature of God in his interaction with his people. Our prosperity, including in the material arena, gives him pleasure. But, in our pursuit of material gain, we must never forget God’s words to us in Exodus 20:3, “thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

Once that pursuit becomes our prime focus in life, we are in direct violation of that commandment; and, consequently are then, in God’s view, idolaters. Not where anyone should want to be!

So, in your daily life, strive to keep the idea of prosperity in perspective. God comes first in all things; no exceptions.

Rev. O.L. Johnson, a retired LAPD lieutenant, is an associate pastor in his home church. Greater New Zion Baptist, 501 W. 80th St. in Los Angeles. 

Pastor’s Corner is a religious column that looks at the relevancy of scripture in life today. The column will appear monthly in The Wave and on its website, www.wavepublication.com.