Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Time Magazine on the "Prosperity Gospel"

The Time magazine that arrived today has the cover story "Does God Want You To be Rich?" The correct answer is: Wrong question. God wants "you" to advance His Kingdom on the earth, push back the kingdom of darkness, heal the sick, deliver the oppressed, raise the dead, and proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom to others. If more money will allow you to do that, then God will provide. But for the Real Jesus it's all about the Kingdom; nothing more, nothing less.

The Time story begins with George Adams, who attends Joel Osteen's church. Adams believes that with God's assistance he will buy his "dream house." The article reads: ""Twenty-five acres," he says. "And three bedrooms. We're going to have a schoolhouse (his children are home schooled). We want horses and ponies for the boys, so a horse barn. And a pond. And maybe some cattle." "I'm dreaming big--because all of heaven is dreaming big," Adams continues. "Jesus died for our sins. That was the best gift God could give us," he says. "But we have something else. Because I want to follow Jesus and do what he ordained, God wants to support us. It's Joel Osteen's ministry that told me. Why would an awesome and mighty God want anything less for his children?""

How sad. What a tiny vision this is. And, it is unbiblical. God wants to advance His Kingdom, not the kingdom of George Adams or any of us.

We read that, "In a TIME poll, 17% of Christians surveyed said they considered themselves part of such a movement, while a full 61% believed that God wants people to be prosperous. And 31%--a far higher percentage than there are Pentecostals in America--agreed that if you give your money to God, God will bless you with more money." Again, how sad. And, for followers of jesus, how disturbing. American Christians have lost touch with the Real Jesus. I agree that there are phenomenal blessings that come from being a Real Follower of Jesus. There's also possible martyrdom, which is said to be a great blessing as well ("Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake"). And if material blessing was so cool in God's eyes, then why did the Son of Man have no roof over his head while foxes at least have holes to live in?Just read Matthew, Mark, Luke and john. Read the actual words of Jesus about money. And, as you do, realize He is speaking to people who only have one-room homes and only have one cloak to wear, maybe two. The thought that Jesus would say such things to we in America is then stunning.

"The [Prosperity Gospel] movement's renaissance has infuriated a number of prominent pastors, theologians and commentators. Fellow megapastor Rick Warren, whose book The Purpose Driven Life has outsold Osteen's by a ratio of 7 to 1, finds the very basis of Prosperity laughable. "This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy?", he snorts. "There is a word for that: baloney. It's creating a false idol. You don't measure your self-worth by your net worth. I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty. Why isn't everyone in the church a millionaire?""

I agree with Ben Witherington, who says that "we need to renounce the false gospel of wealth and health--it is a disease of our American culture; it is not a solution or answer to life's problems."