We had entered the second half of the year and now we have nearly come to the end of the first month of it and I couldn’t help but reflect upon my successes so far and really just “where I was at.” This prompted me to share a message which was given by Father Ozele at a retreat organized at the Catholic Church of Divine Mercy, Lekki, Lagos. When he mentioned biblical prosperity, I was so close to rolling my eyes, as I thought “Oh no! Here as well?” However, as he took us through the biblical principles of prosperity, I underwent a mental reorientation.
We all know that God gives the Holy Spirit to those who so desire Him. However, Father Ozele asked us “why we would ask for the fruit when we could simply have the whole tree.” He assured us that when we are consistent in service, worship, prayer and study, we prosper as long as the Holy Spirit resides in us.
He stressed that there is a seamless line between the physical and spiritual and that angels walk with us each day due to God’s burning desire to be so intimate with us. It is this passionate love of God which yearns for us to be prosperous as echoed in 3 John 2 “…may everything go well with you and may you enjoy health of body and soul.”
We know the popular verse of John 10:10 where Jesus says that he has come so that we “may have life and have it abundantly.“ This fullness of life is what Father Ozele sought to make us understand, as he stressed that blessing and prosperity is more than money. He referred to the several translations of prosperity in Strong’s Concordance and mentioned “SHALOM” as one of the Hebrew words used.
When I heard the word “shalom,” I immediately thought of peace and the song that is sometimes sung at mass when we exchange the sign of peace with one another. However, Father Ozele stated that shalom is much more that peace. He explained that shalom is the completeness and fullness of the life of God so when we utter this word, we are in essence saying “I wish you the soundness, well-being and fullness of the life of God.” We are wishing the entire well-being of God where nothing is missing or broken.
Shalom prosperity entails that the loving God wants only the best so it goes beyond just being good; it is very good. He stressed the absence of deprivation and lack and reminded us of the perfection which was abound in Gen 1:31 as part of God’s original plan. The original creative purpose of God is wished when we say “shalom” which is total sufficiency. He warned us not to fall for the temptation to believe that prosperity is about money which leads one to see himself as a man-made God as the serpent succeeded in doing with Eve in the Garden of Eden.
Shalom prosperity is about being fruitful as we are partners in the action of constantly perfecting creation. This fruitfulness is not confined to giving birth, but also to bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit and doing God’s work to bring forth His Kingdom on earth. He referred to Jeremiah 29:11 where Yahweh says “For I know what my plans for you are, plans to prosper you …”
He also stressed that since the power of life and death is in the tongue as said in Proverbs 18:21, we should be aware of the power we have to break curses by the utterance of the word “Shalom!”
FAVOR AND GRACE
After completely making me look at the word “shalom” with reverence, Father Ozele went on to explain that having grace or favor means to enjoy the goodwill of God. He pointed out that the salutation of “Hail Mary, full of grace” in Luke 1:28 by the Angel of God to Mary showed that she was truly prosperous in the biblical sense. She had the fullness of joy, peace, favor and lacked nothing.
He also explained that the Holy Family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus was also a complete family which enjoyed the goodwill from God. Indeed, great blessings are released in similar families as God endows them with good health, protection and good opportunity.
He explained that favor is God’s signature and that where God’s signature is on your life, it does not matter what comes since you must be honored. He gave the example of a man with an unpleasant appearance walking up to a bank teller and presenting a cheque duly signed. It did not matter how dubious he appeared, that cheque presented must be honored and he must be paid! Favor is God’s signature and His loving kindness where one thing positively leads to another and broken things start getting into shape.
He cited the example of Joseph who found favor with his father and with God. He also referred us to Potiphar who prospered just by being in the presence of Joseph. This favor found Joseph when he was put in charge of all prisoners as a result of being thrown unjustly into jail and it is this same favor which led Joseph to interpret Pharaoh’s dream, elevating him to the second in command of all Egypt. Now, THAT is favor!
Father Ozele mentioned that we often do not recognize God’s hand in our lives and His favor upon us and gave an adage that “unless the tea bag goes through hot water, it never releases its flavor.” He referred to God’s protection over those He favors as seen in Job 10:12 “You have granted me life and favor, and Your care has preserved my spirit” and Job 29:17 “I broke the jaws of the wicked and from his teeth forced out the prey.”
He referred to the Hebrew word “tsalach” which means to push forward. Under this meaning, biblical prosperity or success comes from assistance from a stronger power which pushes you on and excludes you being in control of your life. You are unable to go forward by yourself, as God pushes you and guides you and continually does so until you experience a breakthrough to the fullness of success in every aspect of life. He referred to those who persevered and followed Jesus for healing and were eventually made whole and also to Ephesians 3:20 – “Glory to God who shows His power in us and can do much more than we could ask or imagine.
Tsalach success entails enjoying the life of heaven here on earth and living in the words of the “Our Father” when we pray “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” He referred to Psalm 16:11 referring to the fullness of joy in God’s presence and to Ezekiel 16:11 where Israel is described as being adorned with jewels.
This is where I would normally switch off, as this stance would often lead to people making reference to the fact that Abraham and Moses and Solomon were rich and prosperous and so too should we. Instead, I continued to pay attention as Father Ozele explained God’s ever-readiness to release new favors upon us and to continuously nudge us towards completeness and biblical prosperity.
He enjoined us to learn of what God desires of each of us and to know what to do to receive these great blessings so they are not abused. He urged us to seek for eternal everlasting life as he distinguished eternal life and everlasting life by pointing out that eternal life is to have the life of God while everlasting life is to have a life that lasts forever.
MISUNDERSTANDING BIBLICAL PROSPERITY
So, here I was soaking up all the shaloms and tsalachs teachings when Father Ozele changed gear and delved into 6 myths surrounding biblical prosperity.
1. PROSPERITY IS AUTOMATIC
He explained that God desires us to be prosperous but there is nothing in the bible which mentions that this is an automatic blessing. He further explained that the Book of Proverbs and other parts of Scripture are filled with the principle of wealth creation and that of sowing and reaping which goes against the myth that prosperity is automatic, once you are a child of God.
He referred to Proverbs 6: 10 which says “A little sleep, a little drowsiness and your laziness creeps upon you and then like a tramp, poverty comes bringing misery like a vagabond.” He also referred to Galatians 6:7 which clearly states “Do not be fooled. God cannot be deceived. You reap what you sow” which is echoed in 2 Corinthians 9:6 – “Remember: the one who sows meagerly will reap meagerly”
2. 10% FOR GOD /90% FOR ME
The issue of tithing is a sensitive one perhaps because it has to do with money. However, he explained that 10% is the barest minimum we should offer God since we have been bought and paid for through Jesus’ death. He reminded us that we are no longer our own and that as a slave of a master, all we are and own belong to the master. He stressed that we have been baptized into death and resurrection and freed so we are at the service of God, who is the one who bought and paid for us as stated 1Peter 1:18.
Indeed, this makes much sense, especially when we reflect upon Psalm 24:1 which says, “the earth is the Lord’s and fullness thereof.”
Father Ozele went on to distinguish between the use of the phrase “paying tithes” and “giving tithes.” He explained that we pay tithes since we do not offer it or give it like charity because we are paying a debt. He stated that we pay for the goods and services we enjoy that are not provided for by ourselves and this is so with tithes, since we are all in debt for the sin that Jesus took away by His blood and we can never pay up enough for this sacrifice. He stressed, that we are in debt for the very air that we breathe and so we should not argue over a fixed amount to tithe since it involves a payment to someone you owe your very life and existence. He warned us not to force God to tell us to keep our payment since we know that He does not need our tithes. By unnecessary arguments on tithing and putting a limit on tithes, he pointed out that we are putting a lid on our ability to be prospered by God; more so since God preserves us when we tithe.
3. PROSPER US FOR HAPPINESS
Father Ozele was point blank when he stated that God wants us to be holy not happy. I remember immediately frowning when he said that. What did he mean? Ofcourse God wants us to be happy. He explained that when one is holy, happiness follows and what will make you happy will come looking for you.
He gave the example of a marriage by stressing that the purpose of marriage is to be holy not happy. This did not take away the fact that one could be happy ofcourse; it just meant that when you are holy, you don’t need to look for who will make you happy. He also pointed out that one can be happy but not holy so God is more concerned with holiness.
Biblical prosperity has to to with pleasing God and making Him happy not you! He stated that God blesses us more when we make Him happy and so we should focus on Him first as Matthew 6:33 reminds us “Set your heart first on the kingdom and justice of God and all these things will be given to you.” Deuteronomy 8:18 further reminds us to “Remember Yahweh, your God, the one who gave you power to be prosperous” while Psalm 37:4 tells us to “make the Lord your delight and He will grant your heart’s desire.” 1 John 3:22 sums up this focus of ours which must be to please God in order to be prosperous – “ Then whatever we ask, we shall receive, since we keep His commands and do what pleases Him.“
4. DESTINED TO BE RICH
Now this was a preaching that always used to rub me the wrong way and I was glad to see Father Ozele consider it a myth. He explained that it is not all people who can handle large amounts of money and that we are not all called to be financially wealthy. He referred to the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-15 which saw each person being given according to each one’s ability. After all, Jesus did say that we would always have the poor amongst us so did that mean that those who are poor are not children of God?
He stated that we may not all be called to be rich, but we are all called to be great which is predicated on service. He pointed out that all those who wish to be great must serve Jesus. This reminded me of Jesus’ words in Mark 10:44 where He says “whoever will be great among you shall make himself slave of all. Think of the Son of Man who has not come to be served but to serve…”
5. PROSPERITY IS YOUR RIGHT
Father Ozele warned us about stressing our rights since as sinners, we have no rights, as we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. He referred to Romans 6:23 which denies us having all rights since the wages of sin is death. He pointed out that the only rights given are those given by God and so dismissed the myth of this American rights-centered gospel. He stated that prosperity is not a right since every gift we have should be placed at the service of one another. He stressed that prosperity is to spread the Gospel so all know God’s love and His kingdom.
6. ONLY FAITH & DECLARATIONS NEEDED
The belief that as a child of God, you need only have faith and declare prosperity was pointed out to be a myth. Indeed, although I am careful not to discountenance the key role being played by faith, Father Ozele warned us not to breed laziness which may occur if we simply believe and declare that prosperity will ensue. Indeed, Proverbs 6: 10 says “A little sleep, a little drowsiness and your laziness creeps upon you and then like a tramp, poverty comes bringing misery like a vagabond.” He also mentioned that to give without expectation is spiritually irresponsible and more is needed to have biblical prosperity.
4 WAYS TO BE PROSPEROUS/ STORE UP TREASURES
1. TITHING: He described the process of tithing as getting rid of the tiny insects in our financial garden and casting out the devourer and thief which is ever ready to deny us prosperity.
2. CHARITY: He referred to Proverbs 19:17 which says that showing compassion to the poor or performing acts of charity actually means that we are lending to God.
3. GIVE AS FORM OF PRAISE/ THANKSGIVING: This involves appreciating God for what He has done. When God sees that we are grateful for His past blessings upon us, he sets us up to take us to the next level.
4. INVESTING IN THE GOSPEL: This may entail supporting evangelization, ministries, building churches and performing other works for the Kingdom of God. It is echoed in Galatians 6:9 which encourages us to “do good without being discouraged; in due time we shall reap the rewards of our constancy.”
He concluded by explaining that you need not be Christian to be blessed, since anyone can keep the law and be blessed. He emphasized that we need only follow the laid down principles since the principle of sowing and reaping in biblical prosperity, transcends all religions.
So, as the curtain of the seventh month of the year gradually falls, let us re-orientate our minds to what being successful and being prosperous is all about. The principles of prosperity are littered all over Scripture and who best to know how to bring out the best in us and make us prosperous than the very one who created us and brought us into existence. The question now is will we trust Him to do so? Will we let Him lead us to this prosperity; this shalom that He so desperately wants us to experience?
Heavenly Father, we come to you in total submission to Your Will, eager to be led by you to enjoy this biblical prosperity which you have purposed for us since we were formed in our mother’s womb. We ask you Lord, to have your way in our lives and bring us to the fullness of your being, in Jesus name we pray. Amen.