What is Prosperity? It’s Immaterial
“A successful, flourishing, or thriving condition, especially in financial respects; good fortune,” is the Dictionary.com definition.
Outside of dictionary definitions, prosperity seems to be an intangible concept that everyone from economists to theologists debate.
Rev. Paul Gonyea of the Center for Spiritual Living Midtown, in Atlanta, gave a talk called “Let Prosperity Flow,” published in a podcast October 6, 2013. He says part of the dissatisfaction around prosperity for many people is simply how they view it.
“They think they have to work hard to make it happen. Some of them even think they have to sneak up on prosperity and grab it before it gets away. And even if they do happen to get ahold of it, and they hold on as hard as they can, ‘cause they think it will slip through their fingers or somebody’s going to come up and steal it,” Gonyea says. “That’s because they don’t believe that prosperity is their natural state, so even when they have it, they’re afraid of losing it, which means they can’t enjoy it, which is sometimes worse than not even having it at all.”
Jon Berkeley, of The Economist, explores some of the pitfalls in measuring prosperity by comparing the life of a medieval monarch to a modern-day office worker.
In Berkeley’s example, the monarch had gold, property, servants, and absolute power, but he also had a nagging toothache, and could suffer infections that were likely to be fatal. It took him a week to travel by carriage from one castle to another. On his best day, his entertainment was provided by the same court jesters without variety, which could be quite boring.
The modern-day office worker may not have gold, property, or power over others. But he has access to modern dentistry, medical resources rendering infection a minor inconvenience, the ability to travel to anywhere in the world in just a few days, and unlimited entertainment of many varieties during any hour of the day.
These examples show that prosperity from a material view is flawed, that access to resources may count more than having things, power or money. This begs the question, can there be prosperity without money? Some theologists maintain that money naturally follows prosperous thoughts and actions.
Gonyea conceptualizes prosperity, not as material wealth, but as a creative flow.
“One point we really want to make, is this isn’t about raising money, or anything else, this is about raising your consciousness,” Gonyea says. “It’s simply about you and me focusing on the good things in our life and in the world, and focusing on them in such a way that we allow them to naturally expand. Whether it’s time, or energy, or creativity or money, or whatever it happens to be. All of those things come together. They’re all a part of life.”
Eric Butterworth echoes this sentiment in his book, Spiritual Economics: The Principles and Process of True Prosperity. He maintains that wealth is directly related to thoughts, and we can have no more than we believe we can have.
“The word affluence is an overworked word in our time, usually implying cars and houses and baubles of all kinds. Its literal meaning is ‘an abundant flow,’ and not things at all. When we are consciously centered in the universal flow, we experience inner direction and the unfoldment of creative activity. Things come too, but prosperity is not just having things. It is the consciousness that attracts these things.”
Whether prosperity is defined by economists, theologists, or scholars, it would seem that money is a by-product of prosperity, not prosperity itself.