A friend once wisely summarized the three basic rules of Bible interpretation as “context…context…context”.
A significant example of this may be found in the frequent references made to a portion of Psalm 35. Prosperity preachers are quick to cite the following:
27Let them shout for joy, and be glad, that favour my righteous cause: yea, let them say continually, Let the LORD be magnified, which hath pleasure in the prosperity of his servant.
Mention the term “prosperity of his servant” and congregational ears perk up. But in context the message is one of overcoming the opposition of wicked adversaries. Hear the first verse:
1Plead my cause, O LORD, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me.
Or again the 19th:
19Let not them that are mine enemies wrongfully rejoice over me: neither let them wink with the eye that hate me without a cause.
Or even the 26th:
26Let them be ashamed and brought to confusion together that rejoice at mine hurt: let them be clothed with shame and dishonour that magnify themselves against me.
It is clear that the psalmist is referring to the overall well-being of the petitioner and not just to “money in the bank”.
But still those preachers will string this single verse in a long list of others to establish “God’s will that you not be poor”.
Ask the lonely, addicted movie star how he assesses his poverty. Or the father whose children have moved away and shown little or no interest in a decade. Or the wife in the loveless marriage to the globe-trotting tycoon. Or the embezzler who wants to pray, confess and come clean, but can’t. Prosperity or well-being has many faces.