Jesus taught us the exact opposite of how the world tells us to get rich. “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where they can erode away or may be stolen,” he warned. “Store them in heaven where they will never lose their value.” This is inner wealth you build with God. “If your profits are in heaven your heart will be there too,” Jesus said.
But he also speaks of real money. “You cannot serve two masters: God and money. For you will hate one and love the other, or else the other way around.” Jesus was clear: if you really love God and live in his grace, you can’t also love money.
Jesus puts you in conflict with our money-obsessed culture. It has seeped into everything: education, hospitals, and even established religion, as it did in Jesus’ day. The one time he flashed anger was at the money changers who had set up inside the temple. Everything seems to be measured by money. If someone has one more dollar than you, he thinks he’s better. What a bizarre way to judge people! Character means nothing, and possessions mean all. The race to the top of the money pile is a fool’s game. Yet the vast shift in wealth from the great majority to a greedy few has left millions of Americans and billions of people around the world in danger. Getting that next dollar is not a game for most people, as it is for those getting their next million. It is a matter of survival.
Those living in poverty focusing on money is not the same as the super-rich needlessly obsessed with it. Jesus was well aware of this. There were great disparities of wealth in his time as well. He too lived in a time of empire and perpetual war directed by a handful of wealthy, powerful men. Here’s what he said our attitude towards money should be: “Don’t worry about things—food, drink, and clothes. For you already have life and a body—and they are far more important than what to eat and what to wear. Look at the birds!” he said. “They don’t worry about what to eat—for your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are. Will all your worries add a single moment to your life?”
Of all his words, this may be the hardest for us to follow—maybe even more difficult than non-violence. How often are we faced with a violent situation? But we are faced with hunger every day. We need a roof every night.
Yet Jesus told us: “Don’t worry at all about having enough food or clothing. Why be like the heathen? For they take pride in all these things and are deeply concerned about them. But your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well that you need them, and he will give them to you if you give him first place in your life and live as he wants you to.”
This is the essence of my message about prosperity: put God in the first place, follow his Commandments and all your needs will be met. I know this takes tremendous faith. That is what you must bring. I can only advise you. But I speak from experience. I have never sought money. I have never been obsessed with money. It has never been an aim in my life. And yet I have more than I’ll ever need. I live in tremendous comfort in Southern California, though I never dreamt of this. I did not seek this out. Instead I put my love of God and his Commandments first in my life. And everything followed. It’s not enough to put money completely out of your mind. That could leave you at the mercy of unscrupulous people. You must combine it with loving God within you and following his way. You will never know if you don’t try. I guarantee you’ll see results in a little more than two months if you stick to it.
My message, based on Jesus’ words, is the polar opposite of what many so-called Christian preachers in a movement called the Prosperity Gospel are teaching. They have written perhaps too many books with religious themes that promise to make the reader happy and rich. These authors have been tremendously successful and have made lots of money—for their publishers, their agents, and themselves. But Jesus said, “It is almost impossible for a rich man to get into the Kingdom of Heaven.” And: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.”
These prosperity preachers have been criticized for misleading people about religion’s relationship to money. They are modern-day Elmer Gantries. It’s not their theology I’m concerned about. But their relationship to money should raise giant red flags. It runs completely contrary to Jesus’ teachings against seeking material wealth. And St. Paul’s admonition that money is the root of all evil.
Jesus warned against such preachers in the Sermon on the Mount. “Beware of false teachers who come disguised as harmless sheep, but are wolves and will tear you apart,” he said. “You can detect them by the way they act, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit.”
You don’t need to trust these preachers or the political leaders who hold out promises of comfort in exchange for votes. You have God within you; by connecting with him you will be able to follow the Commandments and truly have both happiness and prosperity in this life.