If you would hearken to my commandments,
your prosperity would be like a river,
and your vindication like the waves of the sea;
Your descendants would be like the sand,
and those born of your stock like its grains,
Their name never cut off
or blotted out from my presence.
Preachers of the "Gospel of Prosperity" love passages like the above, from the Prophet Isaiah. Whether their promises materialize, the preachers prosper and there are always gullible people to make that happen. They are neither innocent as lambs nor as clever as serpents.
Reading passages like this one more modestly, we can admit that sociopaths, though they seem to prosper for the moment, are soon forgotten. The question inevitably arises, "Whatever happen to...?" and no one is too certain. They moved to another state, died or went to prison. They're gone and that's good. Survivors, remembering such stories, pull together more closely in mutual support.
I have seen the wicked triumphant, towering like a cedar of Lebanon. I passed by again; he was gone; he was nowhere to be found. (Psalm 37)
The faithful remain in the Lord, as the Jews have remained in the Lord for more than three thousand years. They have suffered greatly; their privileged status in God's sight has made them a pariah among the nations. Under the assaults of hatred, many individuals have renounced their Jewish heritage and roots; but even they are often tracked down and destroyed by God's enemies. The Lord promised Abraham "your descendants would be like the sand and those born of your stock like its grain;" and they have indeed scattered like windblown thistle to the farthest places of Earth. But their name is never cut off or blotted out.
Christians share in this heritage with our Jewish ancestors. We are baptized into Christ Jesus and grafted into Abraham's people, provide we are willing to suffer with Jesus and his people.
The prosperity Isaiah promises is that of Christ, whose tree -- the cross -- is incredibly fruitful. No one could expect such abundance from dead wood.
"...wisdom is vindicated by her works." Jesus says in today's gospel. The Christian's sights are not set on short-term goals like upper class prosperity or middle class security. Unlike Americans we remember the past with its stories of persecution and prosperity. We remember celebrating Christmas Mass at midnight because the government did not suspect Catholics would convene in the middle of a winter's night to keep the festival. We remember Europe's largest community of priests, brothers and sisters in the Nazi deathcamp at Auschwitz. We remember Saints Peter and John felt honored to be scourged as the Lord had been scourged.
Christian prosperity cultivates the poverty of Joseph, Mary and the Child Jesus as they found shelter in Bethlehem and refuge in Egypt and obscurity in Nazareth.