Monday, March 19, 2012

Unintentional Promulgators of the Prosperity Gospel

The so-called "Prosperity Gospel" is basically the idea that if you believe in Jesus, and follow him correctly, your problems and ills will disappear--you will become healthier and wealthier.  Happiness is the result of not having problems, of things working out, life becoming easier. 

How many times do we unwittingly send this message? 

Now, there are those who believe that this is what the Bible teaches.  I am not one of them.  True, Jesus healed people in the Bible.  True, God solved problems for people many times.  True, the Almighty has blessed people in many ways, including materially.  But I believe God's ultimate purpose for all of us is holiness, rather than happiness defined by material comfort and ease of living.  Jesus said that the way to life is a narrow road and that only a few find it.  The road that leads to destruction, however, is broad and many travel on it.  So Jesus never promises us that the road we take will be easy.  But the destination is good.  If we choose the road according to the ease of travel and not the for where it leads, then we're asking for trouble.  This could be it's own discussion, but we'll save it for another time.

Sometimes we become unintentional promulgators of the prosperity gospel when we share testimonies about how God helped overcome our problems.  Now, I don't think we shouldn't praise God for such help or keep from sharing those testimonies.  But we should be aware of who is listening and what misunderstandings they might draw about the underlying meaning of our testimony.  If the people come from an animistic worldview, it is very likely that they will assume the message is this: Believing in God is the way to prosperity. 

Do we want people to be tempted to believe in God because of what they think they'll gain materially?

Sometimes we become unintentional promulgators of the prosperity gospel when we give money away too freely and openly.  I see this a lot.  Let me say this again:  I see this a LOT!  Sure, we want to be generous and help those in need.  But we must be careful and we should do it in secret, as Jesus instructed us.  I've had numerous people approach me seriously ready to become Christians (or "enter the religion") if they can just get the financial help they need.  Where did they get this idea?  They saw rich foreign Christians helping poor local believers and made the assumption--If I believe in their religion I will get a lot of stuff. 

It sounded like pretty good news to them.

But if we are simply feeding someone's greed, then we are not helping.  Indeed, we are hurting the work of the kingdom.  Other people around the recipient see that his "belief" has allowed him to become wealthy, and they are then tempted to

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