These days, ask almost anyone to define “success,” and they will answer something like this: “Success is getting rich, success is achieving a good position in business, success is to gain popularity or fame, success is to be the best you can be in your chosen field, success is to raise my children properly, success is to get good grades in school, success is to live in a big home in a nice part of my community, success is to own and drive a BMW vehicle, success is to belong to the country club…ad infinitum.
Yes, when asked to define success, very seldom will anyone define success in terms of God, religion, church, spirituality, or the Bible. The same is often true when most people are asked to define “prosperity.” Most people will answer that question in terms of money.
Although this teaching is about success and prosperity in relation to God and the Bible, frankly, the Bible doesn’t have much to say about what we generally think of as Success and Prosperity by this world’s standards. Thus, this teaching will be one of the shortest teachings on this website.
God views both of those concepts much, much differently than we humans do. In contrast with other subjects in the Bible that may contain hundreds of references about those subjects or topics, the Bible mentions “Success” (and its derivatives, such as successful and successfully) only 7 times. It mentions “Prosper” (and its derivatives such as prosperity, and prosperous) only 83 times.
In a very real sense, God sort of lumps together his perception of both success and prosperity by the English words Bless and Blessings in the Bible. We’ll consider those words word later in this teaching.
A basic principle of Bible study is to study all the occurrences of a certain word, topic, or subject before arriving at a conclusion; that way, one avoids picking out “proof texts” to prove what one has already concluded. That’s not only an important principle of Bible study; it’s an important principle for studying any literature.
Someone has wisely said that when reading the Bible, we must be careful to believe what we read, not read what we believe!
A second principle of Bible study is that there is usually a certain text, chapter, or book that sort of summarizes whatever subject one is studying. For example, to study the subject of “love” in the Bible, 1 Corinthians chapter 13 summarizes that subject. To study how God “speaks” to humans is summarized in John chapter 10, The Book of Proverbs encapsulates the Bible’s concept of wisdom, the first chapter of the Book of Joshua in the Old Testament summarizes and encapsulates both Success and Prosperity, and so on for every subject or topic throughout the Bible.
Let’s take a quick look at what God says in the first chapter of the Book of Joshua about both Success and Prosperity; God was speaking to the young man, Joshua, whom He selected to lead the people of Israel after Moses died; these words are found in Joshua 1: 7 – 9:
“[Joshua], be strong and very courageous. Spend much of your time reading, meditating upon, and obeying my Word, and then you will be successful and prosperous in everything you do. Study my Word continually. Think about it day and night and be sure to obey all you read.
Only then will you achieve success and prosperity. Yes, be strong and courageous, not afraid nor discouraged. For I am the LORD your God, and I will be with you at all times wherever you travel on your journey through life so that you don’t get off track!”
That reference in Joshua is the first mention of both success and prosperity in the Bible. The last mention of prosperity is found in the little book of 3 John near the end of the Bible:
“Well-loved friend, I pray that above everything else you are prospering in every way and that you continually enjoy whole-person good health, just as your inner being is prospering.”
The Greek word for prosper in this reference is eudoomai, meaning “to be brought along on a smooth and prosperous journey, with God supplying all your needs as you travel.”
Now let me furnish you the English definition/translation of both success and prosperity as taken from the Hebrew and Greek languages in which the Bible was originally written:
Success is to always be regularly and consistently traveling toward accomplishing God’s purposes for my life—according to my potential.* The journey is important, not the destination.” * Potential consists of 3 attributes: 1. My God-given desires, 2. My training and education, and 3. My God-given skills, gifts, and abilities.
Prosperity is for God to meet all my needs during my life’s journey.
Notice how success and prosperity are closely linked. Also, notice that they have nothing to do with what most of humanity generally considers success and prosperity to be. In a very real sense, authentic success and prosperity have nothing to do with money or the accumulation of material wealth and goods, but money as it relates to both success and prosperity cannot be overlooked. By definition, money is “a medium of exchange.”
In such references as Philippians 4: 19 in the New Testament we find one (among many) of God’s promises that He “will fully satisfy every need we have according to his abundant riches in glory through Jesus.”
I wrote earlier that what the Bible terms success can almost be considered as how “money” and “bless” are often linked; to illustrate that, this is Malachi 3: 8 – 11:
“How do I rob and cheat God? I cheat Him by not giving Him my tithes and offerings. God says, ‘Test Me; I will open the windows of heaven for you and pour out upon you blessings beyond your wildest dreams—such blessings that there won’t be enough room for them.”
Note that “tithe” means “ten percent” of a person’s income.”
Some people may argue that reference is from the Old Testament, and doesn’t apply to people living since then—that we are not told by God to give Him tithes anymore, because the New Testament doesn’t say much about tithing to God. That thinking is faulty; Why? Because most (not all) of the people featured in the New Testament were Jewish or were familiar with Jewish life and practices; they had spent a lifetime understanding that to give a tithe to God was simply expected throughout a person’s normal lifetime. For example, when Jesus mentioned tithing, it is clear that He understood tithing to be a normal part of Jewish life and practice.
In fact, a number of scholars of the New Testament have written that the people in the New Testament era believed that giving God a tenth of one’s income was normal and expected; moreover, many considered that giving God 10% of one’s income was just the starting point for giving money to God.
That point is arguable; my own view is that 10% of my income is the least that God desires for me to give Him, but it is certainly not my intention to impose my own view upon any of my readers or students. Tithing has been a controversial issue for centuries—one about which people have to make up their own minds.
Okay, we’ve looked at the concepts of success and prosperity, and we’ve briefly touched upon the subject of giving money to God. Now I want to examine the matter of God’s blessings. A number of different Hebrew and Greek words are used in the Bible for our English words Bless, Blessed, Blessings, and Blessedness.
Various experts in the Hebrew and Greek languages in which the Bible was originally written inform us that those words all mean essentially the same thing: “To flourish, to be whole, to be delighted, to be satisfied, to be blissful, to be content—because all our natural needs are met by God. In more detail, those words have even more nuances: “enriched, joyful, fortunate, delighted, blissful, content, abundant, goodness, the capacity to have union and communion with God.” Finally, those scholars inform us that “to be blessed is the doorway to the Kingdom of God.”
Note: We must always be aware of the differences between our needs and our wants; they are often quite different, although in some cases they are one and the same.
We have briefly examined what the Bible teaches about Success and Prosperity, both of them being words and concepts from the Bible that don’t necessarily equate in any way with what multitudes of people mistakenly think they mean. We have also looked tangentially at Bless and how money can be part of success and prosperity, but money is not really what they are about.
Success, Prosperity, Bless, and Money are all touchy subjects, but I hope this teaching has given you just a little insight into the use of all four of those words in the Bible.
I invite you to obtain a copy of one of my books, LIFEgiving, that covers the meanings of those four words in much more detail. My book is available from amazon.com. I am not “pushing” my book; I don’t receive royalties from any of my books; all royalties from my books go into our ministry account to purchase more books and literature that we usually give away for free.
I also invite you to read a companion teaching on this website titled Acres of Diamonds.
The great World War II civilian hero from England, Winston Churchill, pretty well summed up the matter of our journeys through this mortal life with this short statement:
“I make a living by what I get. I make a life by what I give!”
Revised and Updated March 2023