Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Christian Life: Problems With the Prosperity Gospel

Apparently God does not want me to be wealthy. That's my cross to bear. Yours may be different. One of the hazards of committing your life to Christ is that Satan doesn't like it when you do. You may pay your tithe, you may go to church faithfully and you may do the best you can to treat others as you would want to be treated, but sometimes the cannibals still eat you.

Someone asked me today what I thought of the so-called gospel of prosperity. The Prosperity Gospel says to trust in God, enlarge your tents and God will fill up you storehouses.So, to answer this question, I went back to the Scriptures and I asked myself, "If being a follower of God is a guarantee of prosperity, how do you explain Job or Joseph or Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, Mikaiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Habakkuk, John the Baptist, all 12 apostles and Jesus.  Here is a breakdown of the prosperous lives of these faithful men of God.

  • Job - Bankrupted, houses wrecked, crops burned, cattle stolen, his children killed and his best friends told him it was all his own fault.
  • Joseph - Sold into slavery and imprisoned on false charges.
  • Isaiah - Sawed in half
  • Jeremiah - Tradition says he was stoned by Jews in Egypt
  • Zechariah - Murdered in the temple by Joash between the altar and the Holy Place
  • Mikaiah -  Slain by Joram the son of Ahab
  • Ezekiel - Stoned by Babylonian Jews
  • Amos - Martyred under the ill-treatment of Amaziah the priest of Bethel and his son
  • Habakkuk - Stoned by Jews in Jerusalem
  • John the Baptist - Beheaded
  • Stephen - Stoned by the Jews
  • Peter - Crucified upside down
  • James - Stabbed with a sword by Herod Agrippa
  • Andrew - Hanged from an olive tree
  • Thomas - Stabbed with spears, tortured with red hot plates, then burned alive
  • Phillip - Tortured AND crucified
  • Matthew - Beheaded by the Jews
  • Nathaniel - Flayed AND crucified
  • James the Lesser - Thrown off the temple, then bashed in the head with a club till dead
  • Simon the Zealot - Crucified by the governor of Syria
  • Judas Thaddeus - Beaten to death with sticks
  • Matthias - Stoned to death WHILE hanging on a cross
  • Paul of Tarsus - Beheaded
  • John the Revelator - Boiled in oil, imprisoned on a barren island and then died of old age (the only apostle to do so). 
  • Jesus of Nazareth - Crucified without even his clothes.  

So no, I don't buy the prosperity gospel. Either that or God's got a very different idea of what "prosperity" means. As far as I'm concerned, the gospel of prosperity is little more than religious snake oil. The fact is, that if you commit your life to Christ, it's very likely to really make someone angry enough to not only financially destroy you if possible, but also to find some way to bump you off in the most unpleasant manner possible. Sinners don't like to be called on their sins. It makes 'em cranky and even more so as the time of the end approaches.

In Ellen White's book "Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing" she cites Christ's warning that if they did such things to the sinless Son of God, they will likely do as much to his followers as well. C.S. Lewis once observed that the cause of Satan "is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do (God's) will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

Apparently, as he did with Job, Satan often tries to break such people. Someone once told me when I was going through a series of very public trials and disasters that it might not be about me at all. She said, "People are watching to see what you'll do."

Being a witness for Christ is often not a comfortable thing at all. Anyone who promises you riches in this world in exchange for your service to Christ is selling something.

© 2014 by Tom King

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