Monday, September 11, 2006

Does God Want You To Be Rich ?


That's the title of the  cover story of the September 18th issue of Time Magazine.   The article focuses on the debate in evangelical Christian circles on the "preaching of prosperity"  by many of today's well-known Christian personalities.   The article  uses the phrase "Prosperity Lite"  to describe the teachings of popular Christian leaders like Joel Osteen,  T.D. Jakes,  Joyce Meyers and Creflo Dollar who often focus  their messages on the belief that Christ came so that mankind might have life and life more abundantly -- John 10:10.  
The article juxtaposes their teachings with the position of  well known pastor Rick Warren,  author of The Purpose Driven Life,  by stating that Warren "finds the very basis of Prosperity laughable".   The article cites Warren as stating:  "This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy?  There is a word for that: baloney. It's creating a false idol. You don't measure your self-worth by your net worth. I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty. Why isn't everyone in the church a millionaire?" 
I agree with both philosophies to some degree and see no contradiction in doing so.   I believe that Jesus came to teach of abundant life through living according to the principles of the kingdom of Heaven.   And I believe that man's self worth is not a measurement of his abundance of possessions or his financial portfolio. 
The Time Magazine article goes on to attribute the conflicting views on wealth to the fact that "the scripture is not definitive when it comes to faith and income".  This is where the authors are wrong.   They are making the same mistake as many Christians and non-Christians alike in that they are picking and choosing specific verses rather that taking the message of the bible as a whole.   
I am certainly no theologian but my interpretation of God's perspective on "prosperity"  is simple.    God intends for every human being to have all that he or she needs to be complete in spirit. soul and body in this lifetime ( i.e. living abundantly) and for us to honor his love for us by sharing our blessings with others. 
What is God's definition of abundance? 
This is pretty well summed up in Deuteronomy 28:1-14 .   These verses clearly point out that "abundance" isn't just about "money"
Is the ideal abundant life the same for every person? 
No.  Even though Madison Avenue has done a pretty good job of brainwashing most of western civilization into believing that we all need the same things.   
Some people prefer the country, some prefer the city.  Some want children, some don't.  I would love a 25 acre farm with a herd of sheep, alpacas and cows but could care less about owning a hummer or a Rolex or shopping on 5th Avenue.   A person born in the Brazil  may have a vastly different vision of abundance than a person born in Ireland vs. a person born in Aceh vs. one born in Somalia vs. one born in Zimbabwe.   However, each region was originally blessed with a wealth of natural resources that would allow its inhabitants to live abundantly. 
Does that mean that God wants every person to have all that they want?  
No, not everything.  I believe that when one man's wants come at the expense of another man's needs it is not God's will.  Every person will not have the same amount of material goods but God certainly did not intend for anyone to live drowning in debt, living on welfare from generation to generation or dependent on a government healthcare or retirement plan.  
Isn't God glorified by Christians living in poverty?
Not if they're living on welfare and depending on the world's system to provide for them.   God is not glorified by people living in poverty from generation to generation and too poor to escape a natural disaster.   If priests and nuns take a vow of poverty and the Church meets their basic needs for food, clothing and shelter then that's their choice.  They can focus their lives on purely spiritual matters.  But Jesus focused on spiritual matters and at the same time fed the hungry masses when they came to hear his message.  
Wasn't Jesus poor?
No.  His father was a carpenter.   Very wealthy men from foreign lands brought him extremely valuable gifts when he was a baby.  He worked as a carpenter until he went in to full time ministry.  When he began his ministry he was supported by twelve close followers, some of whom were well-established in their professions when they chose to follow him.   Judas carried the money purse which means there was a money purse. 
Didn't Jesus say the poor would always be with us? 
Yes, sadly God knows that much of mankind  behaves selfishly.   However, that scripture has to be taken in context. 

Matthew 26:6-12 (New International Version)

While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. "Why this waste?" they asked. "This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor."   Aware of this, Jesus said to them, "Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial.

Are those blessed with an abundance of material goods required to share with the poor?
Yes.  Throughout the bible God commands those that are blessed with abundance to share with those who less fortunate.   
I have a theory that if the wealthiest 10%  shared 20% of what they have with the poorest 30%  there would be no poverty and the wealthy would still be rich.   Just a theory.
As I said I'm no theologian, just a student of the teachings of Christ and a seeker of The Kingdom.
Pamela Lyn

Matthew 6:28-33 (Amplified Bible)

28 And why should you be anxious about clothes? Consider the lilies of the field and [a]learn thoroughly how they grow; they neither toil nor spin.  29 Yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his [b]magnificence (excellence, dignity, and grace) was not arrayed like one of these. [I Kings 10:4-7.]  30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and green and tomorrow is tossed into the furnace, will He not much more surely clothe you, O you of little faith?   31 Therefore do not worry and be anxious, saying, What are we going to have to eat? or, What are we going to have to drink? or, What are we going to have to wear?   32 For the Gentiles (heathen) wish for and crave and diligently seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows well that you need them all.   33 But seek ([c]aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness ([d]His way of doing and being right), and then all these things [e]taken together will be given you besides.

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