How Do You Define Prosperity?

Six figures? Paid off house? Fully-funded retirement? Island in the tropics?

The other day, my wife and I were driving home and started talking about a post I ran on FreeMoneyFinance explaining how prosperity–contrary to our natural inclinations–actually can make contentment more difficult to find. (Read post here) Anyway, as we were talking we realized that, more often than not, most people don’t consider themselves prosperous. In all reality, almost every American would be considered prosperous by the overwhelming majority of the world–yet, despite such abundance, we rarely consider ourselves as prosperous. The more I thought about it, the more it seems like we tend to define “prosperity” as “more money than I have”. (Which goes to show our natural inclinations towards discontent…but that for another day!)

Define ProsperitySomething is amiss (or perhaps prosperity has nothing to do with money and possessions?) Be what it may, I think we don’t really call ourselves prosperous because, in all honesty, we have never taken the time to define the word. We aren’t comfortable referring to ourselves by a label that–for its all its apparent clarity and allure–really has no clear definition whatsoever! Without thinking it through for ourselves, we will tend to think of prosperity simply as “more than I have”. Self-defeating from the start, this makes it impossible to attain no matter how much we have/make/accomplish.

So what does “prosperity” mean? Successful? Rich? True to beliefs? The more I try to think about it, the more the word eludes me. It seemed like an interesting thing to throw out at our readers. So, this post is yours:

  1. How do you define “prosperity”?
  2. Do you consider yourself “prosperous”?
About Rob Kuban

Rob Kuban, author of Dollars and Doctrine, writes with the aim of bringing God’s people back to God’s word. His writing is rich with scripture and insight, maintains a solid balance between depth and daily living, and helps Christians live at the intersection of faith and finance. Follow Rob's Blog and order his book.

  • Jack Reed

    Surely I agree with the “self-defeating” nature of prosperity. I believe that being prosperous is when you are contented with your life in the true sense of the term, when you are really happy. A decent income is of course required, but it is not the only criteria. Consider a “prosperous” business tycoon lying paralyzed on his bed, hours away from his death. Is he really happy with his life? Would you like to be “prosperous” thus? You got me right.

  • krantcents

    Although prosperity usually refers to wealth, it does include happiness and health. The short answer is Yes! I could always want more of all of the above, but I am accomplishing all the things I want to do. I feel prosperous.

  • Eric

    Rob, great post.
    I like that you mentioned how “prosperous” Americans are to the rest of the world. I think that example helps clarify that prosperous deals with the perceived wealth status compared to another.
    Compared to the third world, Americans are very prosperous. However, marketers never want to remind us of that fact.
    The discontent marketers breed forces Americans to continuously be dissatisfied with their level of prosperity which translates into sales at the register. That is why marketers will never use the technique of gratefulness to sell brand names, but will always use techniques that create lust, greed, covetousness, and discontent to sell.
    I agree saying that I am (or America is) prosperous goes against what I am told everyday and therefore believe. But if I can take a step back from what the marketers are shouting at me, I think I can say that I am prosperous.

    Keep up the good work,
    Ecclesiastes 5:10