Sunday, May 28, 2006

More on "the Prosperity 'Gospel'"

A significant number of Christian churches teach variations of “the prosperity Gospel.” This is the idea that God wants to make you and me economically and materially "prosperous" if we give "seed money" to the particular Christian preacher who is asking for it. I do not deny that God, supernaturally, can give a real, authentic follower of Jesus money that is needed to advance His Kingdom. But I never have bought into the idea that God is really interested in helping us advance our own little kingdoms.

This kind of "prosperity" teaching is false for one main reason, which is: In the actual Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) Jesus never teaches this. Jesus never promises that the result of following him leads to earthly riches and material prosperity. In fact, Jesus warns us about seeking such things. Do you doubt this? Read the 4 Gospels for yourself. Read the words of Jesus for yourself. Note carefully when Jesus talks about money and material things. Former prosperity teacher Jim Bakker found this out when he was in prison, as he read the actual Gospels and noted all the things Jesus really said about money and material things.

Consider just one paradigmatic example, Matthew 6:19-21. Here Jesus says: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Combine this with Jesus’ words to “the rich young ruler” that he should sell all he has and give to the poor, and we have the beginnings of Jesus’ core ideas about money and material possessions (Mark 10:21-22).

I think it is abominable that anyone who calls themselves a lover of Jesus in America should be praying for material prosperity because of the fact that we in America already have it. No people group in history has ever had so much. And this includes all of the American middle class. To want God to give us even “more” when no one in history has ever had so much while there is a two-thirds world crying for a crust of bread is, I think, idolatrous and evil.

Such teaching is also scandalous and offensive to the millions of two-thirds-world lovers of Jesus who this moment live from meal to meal. In Matthew 25 Jesus says, in extremely radical words, what it means if we ignore these brothers and sisters. If a Christian is wealthy they should consider Jesus' words to the rich young ruler and expend their efforts to help the "least of these."

If "prosperity" teaching was really true then prosperity preachers should not ask for money at all, but simply put their [false] theory to a test: viz., they should just "sow their seeds" into other ministries, expecting to receive a financial harvest.