Darrow Miller and Friends

Does DNA Teach the “Prosperity Gospel”?

– by Gary Brumbelow

A post last week entitled, Freedom, Prosperity, and the Great Commission triggered the following response from a reader and blogger in his own right, Jon Davis, Jr.

I find that if I say things like what you have said here some Christians respond with their anti-“prosperity-gospel” alarms going off.

Yet there is clearly a distinct difference between what you are saying and the somewhat “magical” and almost “superstitious” view of prosperity that some Christians have.

I think your message is this: Following Christian Principles naturally tends to produce human prosperity. We are promised “tribulations” in this life, so there is no guaranteed absolute “formula” with which to “get rich quick;” and yet economics and business and abundance and money and planning, etc. are all things that God has addressed for us in the Bible.

Any pointers on how to help people differentiate between an out-of-balance “prosperity-gospel” and the kind of thing you are talking about?

Blessings to you in Jesus name.

Jon Davis Jr.

Thanks very much, Jon, for your helpful comment. Yes, sometimes people mistake this message for the prosperity gospel, (“If you trust God enough you will be materially blessed, and if you are not materially blessed, something is wrong with your faith or obedience.”) But it’s not. I can articulate a couple of differences. For one thing, the DNA does not believe that Christians somehow deserve to have a pleasant, trouble-free life. The Bible is very clear that God often uses suffering and hardship in the life of the believer.

A second important difference has to do with what is meant by “prosper.” As our friend, Elizabeth Youmans, points out, “Prosper” in the Hebrew does not necessarily refer to material wealth, but means “to accomplish what is intended by God.” The DNA message is not about personal enrichment and consumption, but about being part of God’s big agenda to bless others.

God has a big agenda. A whole-life agenda. Without any question, His ultimate blessing is adoption into His family forever, an adoption made possible by the substitutionary atonement of Christ. That’s the supreme blessing, not the only blessing. To suggest that the salvation of the soul is the only human need God cares about is to make God less compassionate than every reasonably competent human father.

A key theme of the Bible is found in God’s word to Abraham in Genesis 12, I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Gen 12:2-3 NIV, emphasis added). God blesses the Christian so that he or she can bless others.

Darrow recently spoke at a church  in Australia and said it like this,

We live in a time when people are very focused on themselves. We pray, ‘Lord, bless me.’ Sometimes he does, and so we pray again, ‘Lord, bless me again!’ … We are a people that tend to focus on ourselves. We see ourselves as a reservoir for God to fill. But we are not a reservoir; we are a channel of blessing. God blesses us not for ourselves but for the sake of others. 

In his new book, Emancipating the World, just released last week, Darrow connects the dots between this concept and the Great Commission:

From the beginning of Scripture to its end we see God’s love for the nations. God raised up Abraham and his descendants to be a blessing to all nations.[1] Centuries later, the apostle Paul remarkably connects the gospel to the blessing of nations: “The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you’” (Gal. 3:8; emphasis added). Now in these last days God has raised up the church to disciple the nations.

Moses also captures the comprehensive maximum of obeying all that Christ commanded: “For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase. . . . I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life” (Deut. 30:16, 19; emphasis added). God’s commands divide truth from falsehood, good from evil, beauty from ugliness. The person or nation who understands and applies them moves toward life. Those who don’t, move toward death. To try to live outside the framework of God’s universe is folly.

[1] Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14; Ps. 72:17; Acts 3:25.

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Gary is the Disciple Nations Alliance editorial manager. He manages Darrow Miller and Friends and serves as editor and co-writer on various book projects. For eight years Gary served as a cross-cultural church planting missionary among First Nations people of Canada. His career also includes 14 years as executive director of InterAct Ministries, an Oregon-based church-planting organization in Canada, Alaska, and Siberia. Gary is a graduate of Grace University, earned an MA from Wheaton College and a Graduate Studies Diploma from Western Seminary. He lives near Portland, Oregon with his wife, Valerie. They have two married sons and twelve grandchildren. In addition to his work with the DNA, Gary serves as the pastor of Troutdale Community Church.


  1. kudzai masimira

    May 10, 2012 - 2:00 pm

    Oh hallelujah, that’s the message of the gospel, the message that transforms individuals, comminities and nations. Blessed to be a blessing.

    Thank you Lord Jesus.

    • admin

      May 10, 2012 - 2:04 pm

      Thank you for your encouraging note, kudzai masimira! Blessings to you.

  2. Jon Davis Jr.

    May 11, 2012 - 10:05 pm

    Well, now I feel special. 🙂

    Thanks for your response.

    I found this very interesting:

    Elizabeth Youmans, points out, “Prosper” in the Hebrew does not necessarily refer to material wealth, but means “to accomplish what is intended by God.”

    It seems that in Christ prosperity flows from the internal to the external. I love the way it is said in the greeting in 3rd John:

    Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. (3rd John 1:2 – http://bg4.me/3_John_1_2_NKJV

    I believe that this includes material prosperity as well as soul prosperity, but not in the sense of it being a formula or a right. It is more like a “tendency.” It is also quite natural. Being changed on the inside leads to living differently on the outside. Living according to God’s principles tends to produce God’s results (unless He permits testing or persecution, of course).

    So I am looking for the right way to say it to try and remove the stumbling blocks from those who have prosperity-gospel-phobia. 🙂

    I think I would say it like this:

    If you seek God before all else and live life according to His instructions you will prosper in your soul and you will also tend to prosper materially in the temporal world. This should not be misconstrued to mean that Christians should live for earthly riches, neither should it be misconstrued as a guaranteed escape from suffering and persecution in the “here and now.”

    What do you think? (or what does anybody passing by this way think?) Is that a good way to say it? Am I missing anything?

    Somehow this needs to be included:

    Doing things God’s way works better – both in eternity and in the here-and-now.

    I see several areas of difference between pop-prosperity and truth.

    1) Prosperity Gospel makes prosperity seem almost as something that results from superstition; truth includes the requirement to live according to God’s instructions.

    2) Prosperity Gospel seems to ignore the idea of “taking up your cross and following.” Truth includes this idea.

    3) Prosperity Gospel seems to be focused on “me” having a better life. Truth seems more focused on being equipped by God to fulfill His destiny for oneself.

    4) Prosperity Gospel seems to see material prosperity as something that can be gained and guaranteed by following a spiritual formula. Truth requires natural formulas (work ethic, integrity, wisdom, etc.) as well. Truth also acknowledges persecution and suffering in the temporal reality. (Ok, I know this is kind of another way to say #1)

    5) Prosperity Gospel seems to see material prosperity as a right; truth seems to see material prosperity as a natural tendency resulting from doing things according to how God designed them to be done.


    I’ve already gotten some warnings to beware of the word “prosperity.” But, wow, the Bible sure has a lot to say about all kinds of prosperity, and it seems that material prosperity is included in that content.

    • admin

      May 14, 2012 - 10:20 am

      Well said, Jon. Thanks again.