Beloved, I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers. (3 John 1:2)
I’ll be honest; I’ve wrestled with this verse for quite some time (catch my recent post titled What Was Paul Really Saying? for added context). There is a tension that exists in this verse that will form a deeper discussion in another post but essentially I think we’ve preached this verse out of context. At the very least I think we miss the point by getting caught up in success and prosperity rather than the spiritual well-being of our soul.
Let’s take a look.
“Beloved, I pray that in every way you may succeed and prosper and be in good health (physically), just as (I know) your soul prospers (spiritually).” Amplified
“Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayst prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” KJV
“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.” NLT
“Beloved friend, I pray that you are prospering in every way and that you continually enjoy good health, just as your soul is prospering.” The Passion Translation
The reason I’ve read these translations is that I want to take an exegetical look at exactly what is being said, not my opinion but the text, the Biblical text.
Notice every translation uses the words prosper. For those who do not normally lean towards the traditional NJV we can all agree whether you prosper or prospereth it means blessed?
“Beloved, I pray that you are prospering in every way just as your soul prospers.”
There’s a Greek word eudoomai which literally means ‘to travel well.’ I think we all hope to travel well, to be blessed, to live in prosperity. I think these things come out of a well-being.
So I believe God wants these things for us. But it’s not the central theme of the verse though chronologically it first. The deeper portion of the verse directly speaks to the soul. It’s our spiritual well-being that takes centre stage here and John is taking the time to establish that growth comes from a healthy soul, blessing and rest comes from a health spirit.
“Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is with in me” the Psalmist sang – good things come out of a health soul.
So where do we start?
I recently read a blog post by Karl Faase who sighted Tim Kasser of Knox College who suggested the following:
- Be sure to have good friends and build deep relationships
- Reach out to those in need. Look beyond yourself in life
- Find work which engages your skills
- Look after your soul
Let’s start there and keep going forward.