Pedaling the promise of earthly riches through spiritual commitment, teachers of the prosperity gospel clamor for the spotlight in American media. Far too often they win it, entwining the American Dream with a verse or two in order to sell their brand of success (favor, blessing, etc). The Bible affirms that, “Every good and perfect gift comes from above,”  but it also warns, ardently, that chasing the gifts instead of following the giver is a pathway to destruction.
Jesus’ call to follow him was a call to a difficult path. He gave up every good and perfect gift of heaven to be born in a subsistence-level family. He spent much of his ministry homeless, owning only the clothes on his back at his crucifixion. Of all the emotions associated with Jesus, he is referred to most often as a man of sorrows, weeping for the brokenness he saw all around him. Jesus’ charge to his disciples was the antithesis of a call to seek earthly blessing. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9.23-35)
“Jesus has many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of His cross,” says Thomas à Kempis. “He finds many companions at His feasting, but few at His fasting. All desire to rejoice in Him; Few are willing to endure anything for Him. Many follow Jesus as far as the breaking of bread, but few to the drinking of the cup of His passion. Many reverence His miracles, but few will follow the shame of His cross.” 
Christianity that results in prosperity is a call to sacrifice. Radical generosity is the only way to keep our hearts from falling in love with the things of this world. John Wesley draws our attention to what happens when Christians gain prosperity through faith and then refuse to deny themselves: “riches naturally beget pride, love of the world, and every temper that is destructive of Christianity.”  Jesus’ warning was precisely because the gospel can lead to prosperity, but anyone using Christ to obtain worldly status and prosperity is not truly pursing Christ. That person, Christ says, could gain all the blessings of the whole world and still lose their soul.
Prayer: Father, purify our hearts; bring to light ways we pursue you for your blessings. You are our hope, God, and we long to be with you. Give us this day our daily bread, and lead us not into temptation. We give ourselves to you, for in you we have found everything we need.
 James 1.17 |  As quoted in, The Divine Hours, p.95. |  John Wesley. Sermons on Several Occasions: Causes of the Inefficacy of Christianity, p.1069.