Summary: Get a prosperous soul and let God decide if your life will match it or be given something better.
If you listen to many of the TV and radio preachers you would think that Christ is the dispenser of the American dream. Indeed, God’s throne seems to be a celestial Las Vegas where instead of spinning a wheel your prayers are like rolling dice. If you roll the right number God drops money, cars, houses and spouses upon you and even cures your halitosis and corns.
There are formulas, repetitive prayers, anointed prayer cloths or shower caps that guarantee to bring God’s wealth and blessing upon you. Some of those things remind me of the old Groucho Marx show, “You Bet Your Life”, where if you said the secret word a little bird dropped down and you won money only in the case of these “holy” items or formulas it is the Holy Spirit, perhaps in the form of a dove, that lays the goodies on you.
You would think that with all those wonderful things available that the Church would be loaded with people who are well-heeled and healed, yet the contrary is true even in America. Having traveled about a bit, I can assure you that most churches are small and the congregations are lower middle class to poor with health issues and that is in America. In many other countries,
it is more like poorer and poorest and the diseases that accompany poverty and malnutrition.
So what is the problem? Some like to pawn it off to a lack of faith of the poor and sick yet James says that it is the prayers of the elders that heals the sick, not the faith or prayer of the afflicted. The man at the Beautiful Gate had no faith. It was Peter’s faith in Christ that healed. The lame man didn’t even know what was coming. There are times when healing comes by the faith of the sick as with the crippled man that Paul perceived that had faith to be healed but we have the examples of James 5 and Peter’s action that show that it is not always the faith of the sick that is needed or fails when healing does not come.
1 The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.
2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. KJV
Some may have said, “See, there you have it! We are to be prosperous and healthy! This is from he disciple Jesus loved so it must be so!” Oy, keeping the passage in context we see that this blessing or well-wishing is directed to an individual, not the Church or an open blessing to all saints. He doesn’t even say that it will come to pass. It is John’s wish or desire that it happens but it is not a prediction of the future only a hope. We wish people a blessed day or a great day all the time. Does it guarantee that they will have a great day. Many times their day may stink even though they were “blessed” or wished happiness twenty times that day.
It is John’s heartfelt wish that Gaius prospers, but that doesn’t mean immense wealth. If I am a business man and my business sees a 5% profit over last year I have prospered by 2% since the cost of living usually goes up 3% per year. That doesn’t mean it is time to retire but I did prosper. To prosper does not mean I will in Highland Park, Beverly Hills or wherever your rich people dwell.
In my doctor’s office he has a Power Point presentation that tells about various health issues but also the origin and meanings of various words. Health comes from the Teutonic word for salvation. In an Asian language, crisis comes from the words for danger and opportunity. Enthusiasm comes from the Greek meaning God within. I always find those things interesting. He also has a slide that says health is not being disease free. Indeed, you can be on the borderline between disease and what we call healthy. You can feel great one day and die the next because the line was crossed without any symptoms of sickness. Real health is to be growing and being stronger, not just status quo.
Hmm, that would make a good definition of a healthy spiritual life. That brings us to the caveat or crux of these verses. Note, John’s real concern for Gaius was for his soul. He wanted the soul to be prosperous and healthy and tied the blessing to that. As your soul prospers so also may your business and body prosper. It is the inner or spiritual health and prosperity that John and God really care about. As thy soul prospers, Gaius, I wish the other blessings for you as well. Desiring is not giving. He could not give Gaius prosperity of soul then or for the future. He could only desire that his soul continued to prosper and as it did he desired the rest would also be true. Yet, Gaius’ soul could prosper and be in health without the externals keeping up with it.