3 John 2 - The Prosperity Promise?
"Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." 3 John 2
I have a lot of favorite verses of scripture from the Bible, but the one above is my very favorite - but not for the reasons you may think!
For the past several years, there has been a lot of criticism about "modern day evangelists" preaching the "prosperity gospel", which is simply teaching that it is God's will for His children to be rich and financially prosperous. A lot of verses in the Bible have been used to validate this concept, including 3 John 2 - quoted above. And while I DO believe God wants us to "prosper and be in good health", I am NOT suggesting this verse contains the "prosperity promise", nor is that the reason it is my favorite verse.
Before I tell you what this verse means to ME, let me explain what the "Biblical" meaning is.
The apostle John wrote a letter to his dear friend Gaius, who was a leader in his local church. It was a letter encouraging Gaius to continue doing the good work others had told John about. Gaius was a godly man, who knew and served the Lord and whose actions were a beaming testimony of his love for God. He helped many people and these people often told John how much Gaius had helped them, and others. He was well respected and truly lived the kind of Christian life that should be an example to us all.
When John penned this letter to Gaius, he started out with a greeting: (v 1)"To my dear friend, Gaius, whom I love in truth."He then went on to say, (v 2)"Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth."This type of greeting was very common in Biblical days, and in essence, he was saying, "I hope this letter finds you well."But because Gaius was such a dear friend of John's, his greeting was more personal and encouraging than if he had just been writing to an acquaintance. John was pleased to hear how Gaius was helping so many others, and he praised him for all the good work he had been doing, as well as encouraged him to continue serving the Lord and helping as many people as he could. The letter goes on to address some other concerns John had, but this is my personal interpretation of what verse 2 means to me, and how we can use it as a daily guide to live a life of true prosperity!
"Beloved, I wish above all things....
When we think a lot of someone, we sometimes refer to them as our "beloved", or our "love". No matter what term of endearment we use, we are speaking about someone whom we hold in high esteem and someone we care for very much. For that person, we would"wish only the best", or wish"above all things"..., meaning we would want whatever is the highest and best for them. For example, most parents want the best for their children because they love and care for them very much. Another way to say it is,"more than anything else"; I want you to be happy, successful, prosperous, etc... or whatever it is you wish for them. The most unselfish thing you can do in the world is to wish the best for someone else! And by wishing the best for others, you are showing the true face of Christ!
"...that thou mayest prosper....
This is the part of the verse that a lot of people confuse with God's will for them to prosper financially. But prosperity is not always about money. I believe this is simply saying he wishes for"things to go well for you", or "without any problems". Prospering doesn't always refer to financial abundance; it can also refer to living"in peace",or living a life without stress and worry. We can "prosper" in many ways - our farms can prosper with an abundance of crops; our children can prosper by making good grades in school; our spouse can prosper by getting a promotion at work; and our attitude can prosper when we serve God and live a life pleasing to Him! And yes, we CAN prosper financially because it is God that enables us to make money!- "But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth...." - Deuteronomy 8:18
"....and be in health...."
I would hope and assume John is wishing Gaius GOOD health; after all, who would wish someone to be in BAD health? But health can refer to emotional and spiritual health, not just physical health. I think it is a simple way of saying, "I hope you are feeling well today, mentally, physically and spiritually."Being in health could mean something as simple as feeling upbeat, positive and excited about the goodness of God! I also think God wants and intends for His children to enjoy good health, otherwise He would not have healed so many people or spoke so many words of healing in the Bible. Being in good health is also one of those things "above all" that you should want for someone you care about. And being in good health enables you to "prosper" others by sharing the good news of Jesus with them!
"...even as thy soul prospereth..."
As stated earlier, Gaius was a godly man, living a very Christ-like life. There is no better "prosperity" than to know we are saved, and that our soul is prospering as a child of God! When your soul prospers, you value spiritual abundance more than financial abundance; meaning you strive to live a God-filled life and tell others about God's goodness. You can tell if your soul is prospering because you will feel a lightness in your heart and a confidence that no matter what's going on in your life, God is still in control and He will carry you through anything - even "through the valley of the shadow of death.." - Psalm 23:4
I believe 3 John 2 is a prayer of blessing that we should pray over others AND ourselves - a prayer that will enable us to not only be prosperous in fulfilling our destiny here on earth, but will carry us onward to Heaven where we will indeed "prosper and be in health" for all eternity!