Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Delusions of Prosperity

Did God promise us prosperity by granting the promise of Abraham upon Christians?  There is a Scripture that tells us that, through Jesus, the promise of Abraham is upon us.  Let's take a look at the Scripture.
that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.  Galatians 3:14 NKJV
Of course, this begs the question as to just what the blessing of Abraham is. 
"As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God."  Genesis 17:4-8 NKJV
This promise (or covenant) was reiterated again to Jacob.
May God Almighty bless you, And make you fruitful and multiply you, That you may be an assembly of peoples; And give you the blessing of Abraham, To you and your descendants with you, That you may inherit the land In which you are a stranger, Which God gave to Abraham."  Genesis 28:3-4 NKJV
I do not see earthly prosperity anywhere in this text.  I know that some try to twist Scripture in that having many children and possessing the Land of Canaan implies earthly prosperity, but can that case really be made?  The promise of many descendents was about producing God's chosen people and ultimately Jesus Christ.  That promise is fulfilled in us not in that we will bear many nations, but that we become part of God's chosen people through Christ.  As for the Promised Land, that is a type of our eternal home and not about earthly prosperity.  Just as there were riches in that land awaiting the Israelites, so there are treasures awaiting for us in Heaven. 

What I do find, however, are many Scriptures that allude to material prosperity not being a promise of God.  Let us take a look at some of those examples. 

First of all, if God planned for all of us to be materially prosperous, then why would God tell us through Paul to be content with what we have?
And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and [into] many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.  1 Timothy 6:8-9 NKJV
And, while we are in 1 Timothy, if God wanted us to be wealthy, why would He tell us that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil? You may argue that you do not love money, but then are you telling me that you desire a tremendous amount of something you really have no love for? 
For the love of money is a root of all [kinds of] evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.  1 Timothy 6:10 NKJV
If God wanted to make is wealthy, why did Jesus warn us specifically to not lay up treasures for ourselves on earth?
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  Matthew 6:19-21 NKJV
If God wanted us to be personally wealthy then why did God through James tell us that if we ask selfishly we generally do not receive?
You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend [it] on your pleasures.  James 4:3 NKJV
And, finally, if God wanted us all to be wealthy then why did He through Paul tell us that not all of us will be wealthy?
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.  And in this I give advice: It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago; but now you also must complete the doing [of it]; that as [there was] a readiness to desire [it], so [there] also [may be] a completion out of what [you] have. For if there is first a willing mind, [it is] accepted according to what one has, [and] not according to what he does not have. For [I do] not [mean] that others should be eased and you burdened; but by an equality, [that] now at this time your abundance [may supply] their lack, that their abundance also may [supply] your lack--that there may be equality.  2 Corinthians 8:9-14 NKJV
Clearly, we are not promised earthly prosperity.  God promises to meet our needs.  He promises our food and clothing and Paul tells us to be content with those.  Jesus often warned about the riches of this world and the trappings of earthly mammon.  If he warned us so many times about wealth and riches, why would he spend so much time giving those very things to us?   If God does give us wealth, it is not for us to squander selfishly.  We are given that money to make use of it in the kingdom of God.  It is not for us to spend the rest of our lives in luxury while those around us starve. 

I see too many preachers preaching the poison of the prosperity Gospel.  They drive in their luxury cars from their gated luxury homes after flying in on their private jet.  They preach and teach in such a way that makes their followers question their own faith for not having the same things.  Even worse, they expect these destitute or struggling followers to feed into their wealth.  I love the passage I referenced in 2 Corinthians.  It really sets those preachers straight.  God gives excess to one to share with one who lacks.  In other words, the real question is not on the followers and if their faith is strong enough for God to bless them, but the real question is on the pastors and whether or not they have the faith to share out of their abundance that they were already blessed with.  The poor parishioner should never be expected to make more wealthy a wealthy pastor, but a wealthy pastor should share his abundance with the poor parishioner.  It is in that context where you can see that for all their talk of faith in God, they really have none.  Their faith is in their wealth and when they stand before God they will learn that God does not accept that form of payment. 
Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.  "And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?'  So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, [and] be merry." ' But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?' So [is] he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.  Luke 12:16-21 NKJV

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