Sunday, October 26, 2014

Prosperity Now and Then

I recently shared some thoughts on televangelism, and I hope I did it in the spirit of Christian love.  I am going a bit farther down that road with this post in which I simply present some things I believe about the teachings of the Master.

Some of today's ministers, both of the tv sort and of the pastoral sort, preach what has been referred to as a "prosperity gospel."  This is the teaching that God wants us to prosper in the here and now, physically and financially.*  I do not find much support for this in scripture, but I take great stock in the teachings of Jesus as I find them in my Bible.  I do believe that we are charged with the responsibility of stewardship of our resources in all areas of our lives.

In the Sermon on the Mount, found in the Book of Matthew, Jesus makes some blunt and very clear statements, many of which I suspect most people do not really want to hear.  In chapter five, we find these words:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
None of this strikes me as admonition to strive for worldly goods.  Moreover, the Master continues in chapter six:
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Jesus goes on to tell us, basically, that we should trust in God for our needs and focus on right living, i.e., love God, and love our neighbor as ourselves.
*Someone who is near and dear to me was told by an adherent of this "theology" that her husband had died following a protracted illness because they had not sufficient faith for healing.  What I know is that because of his faith in his Savior, he was healed.  As Paul said, "To die is gain!"  Nothing like kicking people when they are down.


Vee said...

All so true!

Our times are in the hands of God. To tell people their loved died because of someones else's lack of faith ads hurt to hurt. I have a name for these people but I can't publish it here.

KC Bob said...

I think that a common mistake on all sides is to see some sort of outcome-based faith-life that uses 'blessings' as some sort of artificial measuring stick. Many use principles of sowing and reaping to rationalize this sort of Christian Karma. Makes me wonder if a blessing ever comes in material form. Perhaps all blessings are better understood as heavenly treasures?

vanilla said...

Vee, I think those are misguided, misdirected, judgmental people who desperately need their empty love tanks filled.

KCBob, I think the treasures we have as Christians are laid up in heaven, as Jesus said. From a scriptural standpoint, "the rain shall fall on the just and on the unjust." This says to me that God's riches are not apportioned to the righteous only, but mankind shares in them. As for the portion we are to receive, Jesus said God knows our needs even before we ask. Our needs will be supplied. As for our "wants," perhaps we need to get a rein on that horse. (Tough to do though; my spouse tells me "If I want it, then I need it." Well, that may work on me, but I don't believe we deal with our Heavenly Father in that way.) Blessings.

KC Bob said...

I guess part of what I was trying to say is that we embrace some sort of prosperity message. If we didn't then our church buildings would probably look a bit different.

vanilla said...

KCBob, in light of the possible interpretation that all blessings are heavenly treasures, perhaps. We do need to recall, though, that any earthly treasures are subject to decay, hence our focus should be elsewhere.

How difficult it is to "converse" on a topic via this medium when one wishes he could look you in the eye and talk freely about these things! Nuances are so easily missed, interpretation so subject to the well, subjective, when one is reading what someone has written.

KC Bob said...

Ever think of what would happen if we in the church believed more in the prosperity of others than ourselves? Methinks we could put the govt out of the welfare business. Alas, I suspect I am ranting a bit now. :)

And yes, I would love to discuss things like this over a cup of coffee. Perhaps one day we will. :)

Secondary Roads said...

See Hebrews 11:35b to the end of chapt.

I think Ray Stevens summed it up well in his song, "Would Jesus wear a Rolex on his television show?"

Sharkbytes said...

Baloney on the theology of the small print! Many of the people Jesus/disciples healed had no faith at all until after the fact. Grrr.

vanilla said...

Chuck, and the guy even boasts about his Rolex and his Rolls. The passage you cited is very interesting, for it not only contravenes this error, it reminds us that for all their faith, the reward of the promise was delivered only through Christ's sacrifice.

Sharkey, it is so completely wrong. So many deluded people. Sad.

KC Bob said...

I think that many boast about what they have. Our problem is not so much with the boasting but that they have something that we do not have. But if one boasts of God blessing with a Timex or a Chevy than we do not find as much fault because we also have such things and think that such blessings are okay to talk about.

vanilla said...

KC Bob, I take your point. Yet perhaps since there aren't enough Rolexes to go around, we should all just shut up about our things, learn to say a simple "Thanks," when someone compliments something we own. (I'm a Ford man myself, but I have friends who drive Chevys.)

KC Bob said...

Amen to that!