THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL
For years I have queried deeply within myself to try to understand where this imbalanced “prosperity” thinking comes from. It is a trendy doctrine founded on a few isolated scriptures and cannot withstand the test of true Bible interpretation where scripture is always weighed against scripture. Nor does it represent the teaching or lifestyle of Jesus as portrayed in scripture. (Matt. 8:20) Yet in a materialistically motivated world, it has gained enormous traction among a group of Christian elites and want-a-be’s.
When Jesus was ministering on this earth, many people became “followers” of Him – that is until He laid out clearly the conditions of discipleship. “If anyone wants to follow Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matt. 16:24) People who had eagerly and willingly run after him for the blessings now started to drift off. At surface glance, it seemed to surprise Jesus so significantly that he turned to his small group of disciples and asked, “Are you going to leave too?” Peter’s answer was immediate and crisp. “Who else would we go to? Who else has the words of eternal life?” (John 6:66-69) People today in many circles are not willing to embrace this cost. “There has to be more in it for me,” they reason.
In my travels I have noted that the “prosperity gospel” phenomenon primary exists in the western world and among the Christian elite in developing countries. Many who promote this operate under what Paul called “a cloak of covetousness” (I Thess. 2:5-6) and a self-serving theology of generosity. “Give to me and God will open the windows of heaven on you and bless you immeasurably.” Why not give to someone else in need? Would the same “principle” not apply? Jesus said, “A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook.” (Matt. 7:10 Message)
At the crux of the matter is this: A “gospel” that cannot be preached in the slums of Calcutta, and the rural outback’s of poor nations with equal conviction and application, is not the “Gospel” Jesus represents and preached. The Gospel is the good news that God loved us and sent His son Jesus to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins and that through personal trust in Him one can know forgiveness and a restored relationship with God - forever.
The so-called prosperity gospel is a perversion of God’s Word. (Rom. 16:18) An imbalance in teaching! It is true that God promised blessing to those who follow him (Psalm 1), but the blessing He talks about has precious little to do with dollars and cents.
Carman, a 93-year-old lady who lives in a simple dwelling in a remote village of Nicaragua, recently discovered this “spiritual wealth.” It didn’t put a dollar in her pocket, but it put such joy in her heart she could hardly contain it! Paul talked about these riches in his letter to the Ephesians. “So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.” (Ephesians 1:6-7 NLT)
Jesus last prayer before he ascended back to heaven was that His church might be one, so that the world may know and believe in Him. (John 17) In this sense the church is “class less.” It has absolutely no distinction between rich and poor, black and white, kings and commoners. We are one in Christ (Gal. 3:26-29) and given blessing after blessing because of Him.
Be blessed my friend.
The Barnabas Group (Loads of Love)
Matthew 6:19-24; 7:15-23; II Cor. 4:16-18; I Cor. 2:9; II Peter 1:3; Ezekiel 13