The Bible and Financial Increase

I have been collecting research about contemporary controversies related to the Bible, and specifically to Bible translation. Last night I came across a fascinating book, The Complete Personalized Promise Bible on Financial Increase: Every Scripture Promise of Provision, from Genesis to Revelation, Personalized and Written as a Prayer Just For You. The author has written a larger "Complete Personalized Promise Bible," and has broken the material to create other books related to women, men, and health/healing.

Like so many issues related to the Bible and faith these days, this topic is totally polarized. I do not believe that the Bible promises "financial increase" in the way that this author suggests, and I do not believe that "God loves it when his kids have a lot of money" (from his Preface, p. x). Those who are invested (literally) in the prosperity gospel will hear no objection, however. Consider the Amazon reviews of the book linked above, with a 4.3 star rating. The only negative comment in the reviews (pointing out that Jesus says, "blessed are the poor") was rated "helpful" by 1 out of 10 readers.

I honestly do not know how to help people move beyond this kind of reasoning. My sense is that this theology is attractive to those in financial distress, and I am sympathetic to the desire to find some kind of grip in the face of bankruptcy or poverty. I believe and faith in God can provide that foundation and hope for people in trouble, but not in the way that this book claims.

Though I can't fix the problem, I would like to understand it better. There are three immediate issues here.

Verses vs. Texts

As I wrote in a recent article and covered in my post about digital Bibles, people these days love to read the Bible one verse at a time, particularly for therapeutic reasons. This "personalized" Bible represents the complete destruction of the canon, and I would argue, the complete destruction of the Bible as it really exists. The Bible has been replaced by a list of aphorisms, sorted and interpreted for readers who need something.

Here is an example of his approach:

Genesis and Financial Increase

Consider the phrase "I can sow cash seeds and reap a harvest." Cash seeds? Who is to receive the "cash seeds?" This verse (Genesis 8:22) is part of God's promise never to destroy the earth again by flood. So there is a message here about God's faithfulness and provision, but it has nothing to do with "cash seeds."

Individuals verses communities

The promises in the Bible given as part of the covenant tradition are primarily addressed to the people of God, to the Israelites and to the world in general, not to individuals. There are individuals in the Bible who receive particular callings and promises, but they tend to be prophetic figures whom God calls to a life of hardship and sacrifice.

This way of reading the Bible destroys the context of the Bible so thoroughly that God's vision for the redemption of the world is completely eradicated. Nothing that Jesus says about poverty and wealth can be understood apart from his conception of the Kingdom of God, which was primarily a vision of the earth transformed under God's rule.

Faith vs doubt

A third problem is rhetorical. He begins with instructions on how to use this book. Readers must read all of it, believe its contents, and remove all doubt. If a person does not experience the "harvest" of the "seeds" that have been planted, it means that they have allowed doubt (from Satan) to stand in the way of "the floodgates of abundance" (p. xvi)

This is the same problem with faith-healing or snake handling. If you believe hard enough or well enough, God will bless, heal, and protect you. If you find yourself in suffering, illness, and injury then clearly you did not trust God hard enough or well enough. What is supposedly as a liberating message of God's favor creates, in the end, frustration, guilt, and rejection of God's true grace.