How to refute health and wealth theology

Today we’re going to study Job 20 and learn how to refute health and wealth theology. Job 20 tells us there was a man named Zophar who believed the wicked never prosper and that suffering is caused by sin. If he was correct, then the ramifications for us are that suffering in our culture such as cancer, disease, murder, terror, poverty, and unemployment are the result of sin. As we study Job today, we’re going to see that Job’s life refutes health and wealth theology. Furthermore, we’re also going to look at two passages in the New Testament in which Jesus refuted health and wealth theology.

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Text Version

Let’s start by looking at how the book of Job fits into the overall story of the Bible. The Bible is divided into the Old Testament and the New Testament. The first 17 books of the Old Testament tell the story of the Old Testament. That story stretches from the beginning of time around 4000 BC up to about 400 BC. The rest of the books, including Job, are a collection of poems, writings, and prophecies that were written during the time period covered by the first 17 books. We don’t know exactly when Job was written, but it was probably written very early in the Old Testament time period, probably around 2000 BC during the time covered by the book of Genesis.

Job’s Story

At the beginning of Job’s story, Job was healthy, wealthy, wise, and righteous.
 Then Satan appeared before Yahweh and Yahweh bragged about Job’s righteousness. Satan said Job would curse God if Job lost his health and wealth so Yahweh allowed Satan to test Job. Job lost all his wealth, all his children were killed, and Job was afflicted with boils from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet, but Job did not curse Yahweh; however, Job didn’t understand why he was suffering. Job was suffering because he was a casualty of this battle between Yahweh and Satan.

Three friends came to visit Job. They told Job he was suffering because of sin, but Job insisted he was innocent. Elihu also gave his opinion, and at the end Yahweh spoke and restored Job’s health, wealth, and family.
 Job 20 is part of the dialogue that took place between Job and his friend’s. Job 20 is Zophar’s last speech.

Job 20

Job 20:1 Then Zophar the Naamathite answered,

Notice the word answered. Most of the book of Job is a dialogue between Job and his three friends. In the previous chapter, Job had said he was suffering because God was treating him unfairly. Job had also warned his friends they were bringing judgment on themselves by the way they were treating Job. Job 20 is Zophar’s response to that.

Job 20:2 “Therefore my[Zophar’s] disquieting thoughts make me respond,
Even because of my inward agitation.
Job 20:3 “I[Zophar] listened to the reproof which insults me,
And the spirit of my understanding makes me answer.

Notice the words “disquieting”, “agitation”, “reproof”, and “insult”. Job had agitated Zophar and Zophar was insulted by Job’s words.

Job 20:4 “Do you[Job] know this from of old,
From the establishment of man on earth,
Job 20:5 That the triumphing of the wicked is short,
And the joy of the godless momentary?

These verses summarize the whole chapter. The pronoun “you” refers to Job and Zophar was speaking, meaning Zophar was speaking to Job. The pronoun “this” refers to verse 5.
 Notice the word “from” which occurs twice. Zophar believed the wicked had never prospered since the beginning of the human race. Notice the words “short” and “momentary”. Zophar believed the prosperity of the wicked is short and momentary. The rest of the chapter is repetition, Zophar kept saying the same thing in different ways.

Job 20:6 “Though his[the wicked’s] loftiness reaches the heavens,
And his head touches the clouds,
Job 20:7 He[the wicked] perishes forever like his refuse;
Those who have seen him will say, ‘Where is he?’

Notice the contrast between verse 6 and 7. The words “loftiness” and “clouds” in verse 6 indicate prosperity. The word “perishes” in verse 7 indicates the end of that prosperity. This is another way of saying the prosperity of the wicked is short and momentary.

Job 20:8 “He[the wicked] flies away like a dream, and they cannot find him;
Even like a vision of the night he is chased away.

Notice the words “dream” and “vision of the night”. The prosperity of the wicked is compared to a dream. Just as a dream dissolves into nothing, so too the wicked will fly away and dissolve into nothing.

Job 20:9 “The eye which saw him[the wicked] sees him no longer,
And his place no longer beholds him.
Job 20:10 “His[the wicked’s] sons favor the poor,
And his hands give back his wealth.
Job 20:11 “His[the wicked’s] bones are full of his youthful vigor,
But it lies down with him in the dust.

Notice the word “youthful” and the concept of lying down in the dust. Lying down in the dust indicates death, so I believe Zophar was saying the wicked will die young.

Job 20:12 “Though evil is sweet in his[the wicked’s] mouth
And he hides it under his tongue,
Job 20:13 Though he[the wicked] desires it[evil] and will not let it go,
But holds it in his mouth,
Job 20:14 Yet his[the wicked’s] food in his
stomach is changed 
To the venom of cobras within him.

In verses 12 and 13 Zophar said the wicked treat evil like it is something sweet to eat. But notice in verse 14 the word “yet”. This indicates a contrast. Even though the wicked think evil is sweet, it is actually venom within them, meaning it is bad for them.

Job 20:15 “He[the wicked] swallows riches, But will vomit them up;
God will expel them from his belly.

Job 20:16 “He[the wicked] sucks the poison of cobras;
The viper’s tongue slays him.

Job 20:17 “He[the wicked] does not look at the streams,
The rivers flowing with honey and curds.

Job 20:18 “He[the wicked] returns what he has attained
And cannot swallow it;
As to the riches of his trading, He cannot even enjoy them.

Notice here Zophar said the wicked may accumulate riches, but he cannot enjoy his riches, meaning his prosperity is short and momentary.

Job 20:19 “For he[the wicked] has oppressed and forsaken the poor;
He has seized a house which he has not built.

Notice the word “for”. The word “for” indicates this verse is the reason the prosperity of the wicked is short and momentary. Two sins are mentioned: first, the wicked has oppressed and forsaken the poor, and second, the wicked has seized a house which he has not built.

Job 20:20 “Because he[the wicked] knew no quiet within him,
He does not retain anything he desires.

Job 20:21 “Nothing remains for him[the wicked] to devour,
Therefore his prosperity does not endure.

Notice the phrase “his prosperity does not endure”. The pronoun “his” refers to the wicked. This fits with Zophar’s theme that the prosperity of the wicked is short and momentary.

Job 20:22 “In the fullness of his plenty he[the wicked] will be cramped;
The hand of everyone who suffers will come against him.

Notice the phrase “hand of everyone who suffers”. Zophar said those who suffer will be against the wicked.

Job 20:23 “When he[the wicked] fills his belly,
God will send His fierce anger on him
And will rain it on him while he is eating.

Notice the word “God”. Here Zophar said God will be against the wicked.

Job 20:24 “He[the wicked] may flee from the iron weapon,
But the bronze bow will pierce him.

Job 20:25 “It[bronze bow] is drawn forth and comes out of his[the wicked’s] back,
Even the glittering point from his gall. Terrors come upon him,

Job 20:26 Complete darkness is held in reserve for his[the wicked’s] treasures,
And unfanned fire will devour him;
It will consume the survivor in his tent.

Job 20:27 “The heavens will reveal his[the wicked’s] iniquity,
And the earth will rise up against him.

Job 20:28 “The increase of his[the wicked’s] house will depart;
His possessions will flow away in the day of His anger.

Job 20:29 “This is the wicked man’s portion from God,
Even the heritage decreed to him by God.”

The pronoun “this” refers to everything Zophar had said in verses 6-28. Notice the words “from” and “by”. Zophar said God is the one who causes the prosperity of the wicked to be short and momentary.

Summary of Job 20

Zophar and his friends were trying to convince Job he was suffering because he had sinned. In this speech Zophar tried to convince Job the prosperity of the wicked is short and momentary. The implication was Job’s prosperity had been short and momentary because he had sinned. This means Zophar believed suffering is caused by sin, which is part of health and wealth theology.


The following verses are the teachings of Jesus regarding health and wealth theology.

Luke 13:1 Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him[Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.

The reference to blood indicates Pilate killed these Galileans.

Luke 13:2 And Jesus said to them,
“Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate?

Jesus asked if the victims were greater sinners than their fellow countrymen.

Luke 13:3 “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.

Notice the word “no”. Jesus said they were not.

Luke 13:4 “Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem?

Notice the word “killed”. 18 people were killed by the tower in Siloam.
 Jesus asked if the victims of the Siloam tower were worse than all the other men in Jerusalem.

Luke 13:5 “I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Again, notice the word “no”. Jesus said they were not.

John 9:1 As He[Jesus] passed by, He saw a man blind from birth.

The word man tells us this was an adult, not a child.
 Notice this blind man was blind from birth. Since he was an adult, he had been blind for decades.

John 9:2 And His disciples asked Him,
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?”

The disciples asked who sinned. Their assumption was that the blindness was caused by sin.

John 9:3 Jesus answered,
“It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

Notice the word “neither”. Jesus said the blindness was not caused by sin. Instead, notice the phrase, “works of God might be displayed”.
Jesus healed people in order to prove His deity, but in order to do that, there had to be people who needed healing. This man had been blind since birth so that there would be a blind man for Jesus to heal. Shortly after this, Jesus healed the man’s eyes.

How to refute health and wealth theology.

First of all, Job’s life refutes health and wealth theology. Job 1:1 tells us Job was blameless and upright, but he lost all his possessions, his children, and his health. Job lost everything because he was a casualty of a battle between Yahweh and Satan. Job lost everything because God was trying to make a point to Satan. Job’s righteousness did not protect him from catastrophe and Job’s righteousness did not guarantee him a prosperous and healthy existence.

Second, Jesus refuted health and wealth theology. Jesus mentioned the Galileans who were killed by Pilate, the eighteen who were killed by the tower in Siloam, and the man born blind. Jesus said none of this death or suffering was the result of sin; therefore, there is not a correlation between righteousness and prosperity. Righteousness does not guarantee health and wealth, and wickedness does not guarantee suffering. When we suffer or when we see other people suffer, we should not assume they are suffering because of sin.

Third, God’s agenda refutes health and wealth theology. Job suffered because Yahweh was trying to make a point to Satan. The man born blind was blind so that Jesus could heal him and prove His deity. The lesson for us is that sometimes suffering occurs so that God can accomplish His agenda. So when we are faced with suffering in our lives or our society such as cancer, disease, murder, terror, poverty, or unemployment, let’s consider that perhaps the only reason for this suffering is so that God can accomplish His agenda.


“Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.”

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