Prosperity and Piety
3 John 1:2
Beloved, I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers.

We have recorded here one of the most remarkable prayers of which we have any information; for the word translated "I wish," not only expresses the fact that the thing is desired, and that the person thus desiring would have pleasure in securing it, but it carries the additional idea of so desiring it as to make it a matter of earnest and formal petition. In considering the prayer —

I. THE PERSON WHO OFFERS THIS PRAYER — it is the Apostle John. We know from all his writings that he was eminently affectionate. Whilst his heart abounded in affection, he was still most discriminating in his views. Probably there is no portion of the New Testament which contains severer tests of Christian character than are to be found in the three short Epistles of John. They are very spiritual, and they enter very largely into the inward workings of the grace of God upon the heart. He manifested throughout his long and eventful life the greatest solicitude for those who were converted under his ministry.

II. THE PERSON FOR WHOM THE PRAYER WAS OFFERED — "it is for the well-beloved Gaius.

1. First, his character. It is very excellent, and caused him to be much loved by all lovers of good men. Two ingredients, however, are particularly named as forming his character. These are his piety and his benevolence: With this union of piety towards God and good-will towards men his soul prospered. A plant is said to thrive and prosper when it brings forth fruit, a field when it abounds with precious grain, a human body when it is healthy and vigorous and active. So a soul prospers when it abounds in the love of the truth, in the love of those who hold the truth, and yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness richly, in large measure, and in a corresponding practice.

2. But notice his condition. From the language of the text it is gathered that he was a man of feeble health. The particular Greek word used encourages this idea. Whether it was a permanent weakness of constitution or an occasional fit of illness, we cannot tell, though it is obvious from the prayer of the apostle, that he might be in health, but that he was at that time an invalid. From the prayer that he might prosper, there is reason to suppose that Gaius had suffered in his worldly property, was somewhat reduced in circumstances. Some are of opinion that he suffered from persecution, and that by the violence of wicked men his property was wrenched away from him. There is much plausibility in this supposition. Others, however, think, that by reason of his great liberality to the saints he had actually impoverished himself. This opinion is strengthened by the account we have in the Acts of the Apostles of the liberality of the early Christians. At any rate the situation of this Gaius was such as to call for the prayer of the Apostle John that he might again be prospered.

III. THE PRAYER OFFERED IN BEHALF OF GAIUS. It is very short, but it is very comprehensive. It is that in all things he may be prospered, and be in health. Thus we see that it is proper to pray for temporal blessings. Beside this, a special promise is made to the diligent. Yet of all mere temporal blessings, health stands as that most valuable; for without it, we can neither labour for God, nor enjoy the good with which he favours us. But this prayer, whilst it is concerned about temporal prosperity, contains one peculiarity; it is — that this prosperity and this health may be in proportion to the prosperity of the soul. Oh! what an exaltation this gives to spiritual things above all temporal affairs! Here is the revelation of wisdom — that the spiritual state of the soul is the proper rule of prayer, and that it is the just standard of desire for health and prosperity. This is a rule most sifting in its operation, a rule that tries to the very uttermost the spirit of prayer as well as the confidence of our hearts in God.

1. Now, in reviewing this subject, we learn in the first place, how careful men would be if this rule of praying was their constant, honest practice — if every one in the retirement of the closet should put up this prayer — "O Lord God, grant me this day health of body equal to the health of my soul. O Lord God, grant that I may prosper in my business, exactly as my soul prospers."

2. Secondly, how fearful a thing it is by the loss of piety to convert property from being a means of grace to become a source of danger and ruin! If all Christians would live in the spirit of this prayer, how every interest of religion would prosper! Again, true piety will seek the prosperity of the soul above all things.

3. And now, finally, we learn that the injury of riches is in the motive for which we desire them. If for their own sake we desire them, for the purpose of accumulation, then this is mammon worship. Again, if we desire them for the power, or for the gratification which they afford us, then this is mere selfishness. If, on the other hand, it is to do good, this induces benevolence.

(W. Patten, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.

WEB: Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be healthy, even as your soul prospers.

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