Thursday, April 16, 2009

God is not a get rich quick scheme

The idea that God will make Christians financially rich with the best possessions if they give lots of money is a common one in Christian culture today. You see it in churches, Christian conferences, Christian books and most notoriously, Christian television. It is often expressed with lines like “If you give a generous gift to our ministry, God will bless you financially.” or "God wants you to have the best of everything, you just have to claim it in faith." It all sounds so nice but i think this prosperity gospel has serious theological problems and can be harmful to the church. Here's why.....

It tends to rely on twisting scripture.
One commonly used verse to support 2 Corinthians 9:6- Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Without its context, it sounds like it is supporting prosperity gospel. Read properly in its context it expresses no such idea. It is in the context of a discussion of helping a church in another city that has fallen into hard times. Paul is telling them about how God will supply them with what they need to help others. There is no hint of God making them rich so they can hoard it to themselves to live a luxury lifestyle. Such mis-using of scripture is common in the support of prosperity gospel.

The bible condemns it
Have a read of 1 Timothy 6:3-10
If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between men of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

 I don't think that needs too much explanation. It is pretty clear that the idea that acting Godly will make you rich is a false doctrine and shouldn't be attempted or taught.

What about the rest of the world?
 If this doctrine were true it would apply just as much to Christians in North Korea, Zimbabwe, Iraq and China as it did to Christians in America or Australia.  The prosperity gospel just doesn't work when we apply this test. Christians in many countries around the world loose their jobs, homes, reputations, friends, possessions and even lives as a result of being a Christian. Their faith hasn't made them rich, it has cost them dearly. Then there's the many Christians suffering from poverty and disease in the third world....The missionaries that gave everything up to go to a foreign field..........the list goes on.  Many of these people have strong faith and give much in many ways for the advancement of God's kingdom. Where is there financial riches and luxury lifestyle? How can we dare say that God is going to make us rich, comfortable and give us lots of stuff as a result of our faith and (often not particularly sacrificial) giving, when there are strong believers around the world who suffer so badly?

It can exploit the poor

 These ideas are not healthy for anyone, but communicated to those struggling financially there is extra potential for damage. If you are struggling to make ends meet the idea that if you give some money God will solve all your financial problems is an attractive one. Prosperity gospel messages are often targeted at this group with stories of someone who gave the last of their money (which they needed to pay bills) to a ministry and then God allegedly gave them a whole lot of money or a house. If they want to give of their own accord that's between them and God, but the church should not be encouraging financially irresponsible giving that puts their ability to care for their family at risk. Time magazine has raised concern about the trouble believing in prosperity gospel can get the poor into from believing that giving to God means he'll bless taking out unwise loans. Shouldn't it be us giving to support the poor rather than the poor being convinced through questionable theology to support the church/ministries?

There is a lot more that could be said about prosperity gospel theology because it is so flawed and can cause so many problems. It has to stop.

1 comment:

  1. man why r we all harshin' on those Prosperity peeps? I'm not complaining but talk about a trend.

    Anyways, great job. Much goodness to be found here.