One of the saddest things unfolding within the realms of the Christian Church is a reduction of the Glorious Gospel from a liberating message about what God has done to deliver us from our sins, into little more than a different method of achieving the American dream. The Prosperity Gospel has always played into this transformation and diminishing of the Gospel. The newest method of accomplishing this feat is in the so called last day transfer of wealth. I have spoken of this on another of these pages and I encourage you to read that material as well since my position here differs from those points.
One of the things that makes these teachings so popular is not only the charismatic appeal of the teachers who seem to have found their wealth (without mentioning their constant need for gullible Christians to support this lifestyle) but also because it appeals to our baser appetites for material indulgence. The Bible counsels us to embrace moderation and contentment precisely because it is not in our nature to do so. But beyond this many people fall for these teachings because the proponents claim to have Scripture and every believer knows that the Bible is true.
What most people fail to see is that a verse of Scripture is only true in its proper and intended context. Once lifted out of the greater narrative of God’s redemptive plan, snatched away from the cultural implications of the text or wrested from the definition of the particular word true does become false. In other words people are banking on the belief that this transfer of wealth will occur because the Bible which is true says it will happen. In this sense they are betting on falsehood because in spite of the fact that the Bible says something it is not true when misused and twisted. From that point on the belief we are espousing in spite of being a verse of Scripture is false. Let’s look closer at the claim of a last day transfer of wealth. How is this true verse being used to support a deluding belief?
The verse in question of course is Proverbs 13:22 “The wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.”(NKJV) There are several interesting points that illustrate that the truth of this verse is being turned into a falsehood.
- This is the only passage in the entire Bible which offers this point of view.1
- There is nothing in this verse specifying that this happens in the last days
- Even if it said something about the last days this period of time began on the day of Pentecost and its duration is uncertain. In other words we would have to know that we were in the last of the last days, something which even Jesus (in His humanity) did not claim to know, in order to assure people this transfer was about to happen.
We see so far how the truth is being turned into a falsehood. First by insisting a solitary verse gives us this promise; second by inserting it into an end times scenario we cannot guarantee. What else can we learn from this verse that shows us that truth is being turned into a falsehood?
To answer that question we must look not only at the verse on its own, but in its context within the passage in Proverbs, in its context within Biblical expectations, and finally in the verse itself and the usage of the word translated “wealth”.
Context of The Passage
He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will be destroyed.
Evil pursues sinners, But to the righteous, good shall be repaid. A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, But the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous. Proverbs 13:20-22
When read, in the light of the surrounding verses the overall point is that the wicked lose all that they possess while the righteous inherit everything. The question is when does this happen? As noted elsewhere the verse says nothing about transfer but that the wealth is stored up, the implication being that they do not get it now. The Hebrew words that are used for wealth riches and abundance give us some insight into when this happens as does the next area of context.
Context of The Bible
Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:2-10
These of course are known as the Beatitudes. There is no question that the blessings mentioned here parallel the verses in Proverbs 13. Another thing which is beyond question is that many of these are things which will only happen in their fullness in the future when Christ reigns as King over all the earth. Verse five’s reference to the meek inheriting the earth especially makes this point. Note the passage from which Jesus is quoting.
“For evildoers shall be cut off; But those who wait on the LORD, They shall inherit the earth. For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; Indeed, you will look carefully for his place, But it shall be no more. But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.” Psalms 37:9-11
The meek will inherit the earth when the wicked are no more. It will be taken from them and given to the righteous at the consummation of all things and not until then; a point that even proponents acknowledge.2
So then the context of Proverbs assures us that we will get what the wicked have, but the context of the Bible informs us that this will not happen in the immediate future. This is very important; The things the wicked have will not be given to us until they are no more. At that time we will be inhabiting a perfect world where the idea of material abundance as it is thrown about today will not matter. It is a metaphor then for total and complete unending supply, not a guarantee of endless wealth now.
Finally the Hebrew words themselves can provide insight into how the teachers of this popular belief are turning truth into falsehood. The Hebrew word “chayil” translated wealth in Proverbs 13:22 appears 243 times in the Old Testament but only 29 times in reference to financial wealth. There are 13 other Hebrew words that are or can be translated wealth or riches. In some cases that is all they mean. If the writer meant the money of the wicked then clearly there were other words available. But when we take into account the point above that wealth as we now know it will no longer matter in the new eternal realm we can see that this word is the appropriate one. “Chayil” is also translated army, host, strength and might. Clearly it is a word covering all of life and not just the monetary realm.
Finally one other Hebrew word provides insight into this discussion. One of the Hebrew words translated riches in found in Psalms 37:16. Although the Hebrew word is used only 4 times in reference to material abundance two of those verses actually contradict the claims of these teachers.
A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked. Psalms 37:16
He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance, with increase. Ecclesiastes 5:10
Let us end this examination of how the truth can be turned into falsehood by asking two questions. Why would God say what we have is already better than what many wicked people have only to give us what they have? And why do we insist on abundance of material monetary riches when we know that they in and of themselves cannot satisfy? When we look at the claim of an end time transfer of wealth in detail and beyond the solitary verse proponents use as a foundation for that idea we can see that is it a delusional false doctrine.
1A similar thought appears in Eccelsiastes 2:26 For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting, that he may give to him who is good before God.
Think about it and let me know what you think.
For more on the wealth transfer fallacy, see Pastor Shifflett’s book”Beware the Wolves.” The book is available in both paperback and e-book format at Amazon.com.