“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (III John 2).
This text has been misused by many who promote the modern false gospel of health and wealth—teachers who promise healing and financial success to every believer whose “soul prospereth.” The negative implication of such teaching, of course, is that Christians who are not in robust physical health and enjoying material affluence are somehow lacking in faith and not in the will of God. Death is considered the ultimate lack of faith.
This pernicious notion is disproved, of course, merely by the example of Paul the apostle, a far more exemplary Christian than any of these latter-day false teachers, yet a man whose earnest prayer for healing of his “thorn in the flesh” was denied, and who died in poverty and martyrdom in a Roman dungeon. Modern examples could also be cited in great numbers—blind Fanny Crosby and her wonderful hymns, for example, or those who have given their lives in sacrificial service on a thousand mission fields.
Note that our text is not a promise, but a prayer. Furthermore, that prayer will be answered in great fullness, but not necessarily now! “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. . . . He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son” (Revelation 21:4,7).
In the meantime, we should remember that this coming time of true prosperity will be measured in accordance with the health and prosperity of our souls, exactly as John had prayed for his spiritual children, for Jesus said: “My reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be” (Revelation 22:12). HMM