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Monday, May 18, 2015

135. Prosperity Vs Poverty “gospels”

Remove far from me falsehood and lying;

    give me neither poverty nor riches;
    feed me with the food that is needful for me. – Proverbs 30:8

Deception in Extremes

The difference between truth and error is often extremes. Those extremes can be at either end of the spectrum. Jesus was tempted by Satan in Matthew 3 and 4. Each of the three temptations mentioned were perversions of the truth. In fact, Satan quoted Scripture and applied it out of context to an extreme. Jesus countered with further Scripture to correct and rebuke Satan.

Distortions of the Truth
People have taken God’s words as found in the Bible and distorted them to suit their own desires and purposes. In Acts and Galatians it was Judaizes who wanted to impose Jewish law on Gentiles. In the middle ages (and even in some cases today) it was errant teachings on the concept of purgatory, praying to saints, earning salvation through good works, and the religious institutions selling items for healing and salvation.

A false balance is an abomination to the Lord,
    but a just weight is his delight. – Proverbs 11:1

The Balance, Jesus, the Bible, & The Holy Spirit
But I digress. The topic of this post is the Prosperity versus the Poverty “gospels”. Truth can only be found in the person of Jesus Christ. ( for example Col. 2:3) Truth can only be found in God’s words – the Bible. The Holy Spirit is the Teacher of truth as called by Jesus. (for example John 14:17, 15:26, John 16:13, 1 John 4:6)

I realize there’s a vast array of ideologies in Christendom today. Not everyone will have a consistent career. Not everyone will be a home owner. Not everyone will face serious tragedy. Not everyone will face serious medical challenges. But let’s take a moment to look at these two ideas: poverty & prosperity.

The Poverty "gospel" (Also known as the Ascetic Piety)
Prior to the 1940’s and 1950’s it seems there was a “poverty mentality” that was prevalent in the Church. This was due in part to centuries of teachings and preaching on “money being the root of all evil”. Ministers of the Gospel, pastors, and priests were encouraged to take a “vow of poverty”. The truth is that “the LOVE of money is at the root of all kinds of evil”. (See for example 1 Tim. 6:10)

It was time for a pendulum swing in the opposite direction as well. Enter the prosperity gospel...

The Prosperity "gospel" (Also known as the Health and Wealth "gospel")
So there came a movement from the 1960’s to the 2000’s (and still prevalent among some today) of charismatic neo-Pentecostal preachers, televangelists, that taught it was God’s desire to bless and prosper His people both physically and financially.

Let me be perfectly clear here. The prosperity gospel is no gospel at all. It’s a false balance of the truth found in the Bible.

A Warning About Money 

It is not possible to be obsessed about God and money. One will be your love. The other you will hate. Remember that money is a means to an end and not the end itself.

No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
– Luke 16:13

God's Mission

Above all I believe God wishes for His Name to be known, rescue the nations by the power of the death & resurrection of Jesus Christ, reconcile all wrongs, recover what was lost in the fall, restore creation to its perfectly created purpose, and the redemptive Gospel to be proclaimed. God doesn’t want to simply prosper us financially as some in the prosperity gospel camp would lead you to believe. God also doesn’t command all who believe in Jesus to be dirt poor. God is all about love, grace, compassion, mercy, justice, and long-suffering. God is about His mission – Building His Church and restoring those who would believe to Himself.

Honoring God & Gifts from God

God is honored when Believers serve Him faithfully. God does give good gifts to His children.

"If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give what is good to those who ask Him" (Mat. 7:11).

Trying to Find a Balance
So where do we land on this subject? Paul summed it up well by saying:

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!– Matthew 7:11

I think the balance is we’re to strive to work hard, glorify God by serving Him faithfully, and that God promises to supply our needs.

What are needs in my opinion?
So before closing I think we need to try to define needs. Notice Paul didn’t say a 1 million dollar mansion, clothes that cost a small fortune, or the $100,000 dollar car. I would say “needs” would include basic shelter, transportation, clothing, and food. 

Not every Christian will be wealthy in the U.S.A. Not every Christian will be below the poverty limit in the U.S.A. Also many people in other cultures may not have the same "needs" as those in the West.

However, we I hope we can all agree we want to be good stewards of what blessings God does give us.

What are your thoughts on the prosperity and poverty “gospels”? Leave a comment!


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