against the heresy of prosperity gospel teaching

Looking at his disciples, he said:

“Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man.

“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets.

“But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you,
for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.

Luke 6:20-26

I hardly know where to turn first for a Scripture refuting the popular heretical teaching that Jesus wants you to be healthy and wealthy. I certainly believe that those who follow Jesus tend to do better in life in the United States. They won’t blow what they make on addictions, and will try to do what they can to take care of their families. But if you live in many places in the world, this becomes difficult, because Christians are marginalized at best, and persecuted at worst.

The idea that all is to be happy and great now is not rooted in the Bible, in the gospel accounts, or what follows. I challenge anyone who thinks otherwise to simply start reading Scripture, beginning with the gospel of Matthew, and put aside everything else. Just read what Scripture says, not what some popular preacher or one purporting to be a Christian teacher says. Read Scripture and ask questions, the hard questions included.

Prosperity gospel teaching is heretical. Heresy is what is opposed to the plain teaching of Scripture, recognized by the church through the Spirit. The way of Jesus is not living it up in this world, but the way of the cross. Or did my Bible change? I think not.

Either we can be like Jesus, or the world. Following Jesus like Paul and the apostles did. There’s nothing in between, although I think that’s where many of us drift. Instead of double mindedness, we need to find our way in Jesus. Read the New Testament, then read the Old Testament, and the New Testament again. And see just how true this is. In and through Jesus.

God’s faithfulness

In often what seems to be little ways, God shows himself to be faithful. God’s faithfulness is in terms of his will, revealed to us in Scripture and in Jesus. And it certainly is with reference to his love. It is a covenant faithfulness given to us in Jesus, yet God extends himself beyond that as well.

Yesterday I went to the nursing home and it just seemed that God in his love was present to help me. I had reasons why it was especially inconvenient yesterday. And it was hot! But the Lord was with us in many ways as I strummed the guitar and we sang, as I gave a message from God’s word, and as we chatted back and forth afterward.

God is faithful in terms of his will in Jesus. This is a will which loves and shows forth itself in Jesus. Which means it is a will tied to Jesus’ work in the mission of God in the world by the Spirit. We find God faithful to us as his children, as well. But I’m thinking now of God’s ongoing work of love in the world through the good news of his grace and kingdom come in Jesus. It’s not about us living it up and God blessing us in that. But it’s about us learning more and more to follow Jesus together in God’s will and work in his mission for the world. We can be sure that in that we will always find God faithful. Faithfully working in us so that we will be growing in and more in line with his good will in Jesus. And faithful through us to the blessing of others through Jesus.

review of “Will Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide?”

Karen Spears Zacharias has written a number of books, each of which I want to read. I finally did get around to reading my first, her latest, Will Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide?. I really like this book for a number of reasons.

First of all, Karen is a good story teller. She lets people tell their stories, and she describes them as well. Her skill in journalism shines through. And you really get the sense of meeting these people.

Also there is good diversity within the theme of Karen’s book. The theme is actually about how the desire for monetary and material wealth can take over people’s lives, even becoming a large part of their faith. But the theme includes how others live in contrast to that. Living in a world where money does matter, but with an eye to do good with what they do have, while trusting God to meet their needs. And the book includes people who are moving along on this journey, maybe close to where we are, but are seriously grappling with these issues.

One meets a variety of people in this fast moving, page turning book. Rich and poor, those who have faith and those with little or none, those who believe God for material wealth, and those who believe wealth is more than material. Almost any sort of person you can imagine is covered in one of the nineteen people’s story. We get a rather full glimpse of American society in relation to money. But more than that, we get down to earth people who struggle just like you and I.

This book hits on nearly every angle imaginable of special interest during the current economical downturn. But always important in life. From the greed of Wall Street to the struggle on Main Street, from the one who turns their back on wealth to serve God in a jungle, to those who get rich off of people in the name of the Lord.

And Karen has strong words of her own to say in a few places in the book. Against the prosperity gospel which flies in the face of not only reality, but the pages of Scripture and of Jesus’ life. Against the American sense of entitlement, seeing this in contrast to so many in the world who barely (or not) have enough to live on. This book does not make one think being wealthy is sinful, or being poor is a virtue. Nor does one finish the book thinking they’ve been taken on a political ride. It neither came across as left or right (nor center, for that matter), but kingdom of God in Jesus in its orientation. Even with the strong words, there really is a graciousness to the book, not the harshness we’re all too accustomed to nowadays.

I know I want to read this book again. And get others to read it. Will you be one of them? You won’t be sorry if you do.

Here’s a quote from the book.

Karen Spears Zacharias on trusting God no matter what

“I am a baby and I don’t like things to be hard or sad and especially not tragic for myself or anyone I love or anyone that I don’t even know,” the Redhead says. “I am thankful that I know this truth about myself. Being frail and weak to the core has made me deeply dependent upon God’s strength. I seek to hear the voice of God, and knowing his character is trustworthy, obedience comes more easily.”

….The Redhead does not seek a mansion made out of marble. She does not lust for the luxury of a Lexus. She does not pant after Prada. She does not long for a Rolex to keep track of her remaining hours.

She does not treat God as if he is her personal assistant. She does not order him to go fetch her this thing or that. She does not expect God to be her personal banker. She does not order him to make direct deposits into her account. God is not her genie. He is not her magician. God is not her personal trainer. He is not even her wellness physician. But God is her hope and her assurance. He is her comfort and provider.

On June 20, 2009, during the last hours of her life, the Redhead summoned me. She had refused all pain medication, preferring instead to approach death in the same wide-eyed manner that she had her life.

“Don’t cry for me,” she said. “I am in no pain. God’s provision is perfect. His joy complete.”

She had learned the real secret that the apostle Paul spoke of, the lesson of being content, of trusting in the God that loved her completely.

No matter what.

Karen Spears Zacharias, Will Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide, 196-197.