By nature I am not an angry, hater-kind-of-person, but I am working on it. I heard prosperity teaching again that was both inadvertent (I hope) and loathsome.

A highly respected Bible teacher was talking about a particularly wretched month in his life: a frightening diagnosis from his physician, a late night call from a congregant who blasted him as a good-for-nothing pastor, a car accident with few injuries but a totaled car, and other miseries. He described a bleak picture. Everyone in the church was silent, riveted.

Then, after a couple of faith-filled but difficult weeks, everything worked together for good. His health was restored, the congregant apologized (it sounded like a manic episode), and basically, all was well. Isn’t that like our God? He blesses his faithful people with the desires of their hearts.

There was applause and “Amens” as some people saw analogies in their own lives, and others hoped that one-day they, too, would be able to make similar claims for God. Meanwhile, there were people present whose experience was quite different. Unlike the teacher, they were not recovering from an ominous diagnosis, nobody even thought about them enough to blast them with a late night call, their clunker of a car had not been replaced by a brand new one, and nothing seemed to be well.

We usually want to be pleased for the pleasant circumstances of others, but remember that Scripture consistently warns us about the dangers that such favorable circumstances pose (e.g., Deut. 6:10-12). It is better then to rejoice with those who rejoice over the spiritual benefits that God has given because they are eternal, rather than rejoice over the evanescent good things that are seen—but are not eternal (2 Cor. 4:16-18).

Favorable circumstances are secondary to the signed and sealed blessings we enjoy in Christ. If our teaching illustrations do not make that clear, we will be guilty of three things: 1) we will bring heretical teaching into our churches, 2) we will further isolate those whose present hardships have become chronic, and 3) we will put people’s faith at risk because we are implicitly telling them to look at what is seen more than what is unseen.

The teacher’s story was a good one—he was blessed with unwavering faith in God’s love, presence and sovereign care, even in the midst of a miserable time. The epilogue—the reversal of his misfortunes—was anticlimactic.