Among some Christian groups, the concept of the abundant life seems narrowly focused on financial and material prosperity. I will approach this theme from my own sense of reasoning rather than from the use of Bible verses — because many people quote the Bible to support prosperity or to support poverty in terms of a dollar-and-cent lifestyle.
While I have nothing against wealth, it has never been my goal to become rich. However, some occupations pay more than others and that means some people are going to be wealthier than others. And, some people are better at money management than others. In my lifetime, my financial status has ranged from the official poverty level to middle class — and poverty was my least favorite. I like simplicity, but I also like to be comfortable. I find nothing holy about unemployment and not being able to pay the bills.
When someone chooses a life of poverty — such as in the monastic lifestyle — in order to focus on a life of prayer, then this is a free choice for a specific purpose. Poverty works in combination with chastity and obedience. These are monastic vows and spiritual qualities. Poverty is not just about renunciation of money and possessions, but recognition of the burdens of sin and realization of our dependence on God for everything.
If poverty has a spiritual dimension, then it would seem that abundance also has a meaning other than or beyond earthly prosperity. If abundance referred only to financial wellbeing, then why would we need Jesus Christ? It is possible to gain financially through education, job training, and job opportunities. One does not have to be a Christian in order to make money. That means financial status is not an accurate measurement of holiness, and prosperity may or may not be the result of God’s blessings. The abundant life, therefore, must be something that can be gained only through Christ.
Abundance, as a spiritual quality, probably refers to (A) the ability to overcome sin and adversity through Christ and to rejoice in Christ, and (B) the hope of eternal life in the Kingdom of God which exceeds all forms of human measurement.
The distinction between prosperity and abundance points to two other important realities of the Christian life. Firstly, the poor or lower-income Christian is not barred from the abundant life. Secondly, the definition of prosperity can vary according to place, time, and personal preferences. Even by worldly standards, there is no real measurement of prosperity — unless prosperity means more. And, more is insatiable and possibly addictive. There is always more in a consumer society.
The abundant life — while not opposed to prosperity — cannot rest on economic, political, cultural, and personal variables. The abundant life — while immeasurable by human standards — can rest only on Christ and on that which is eternal.