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Making Merchandise of Christians - Prosperity Gospel Blight
Anyone who has read their Bible would have to concede in principle at least that it does say that God loves to bless his children. It also does promise that if we are giving individuals we should expect to have many wonderful blessings returned to us as a result. These promises are unquestionable. Christ said that if we gave that men would give to us good measure pressed down and running over, Luke 6:38. The principle here is not in question; it is the use, and or rather the misuse of this principle that causes all the trouble. Anyone trying to prove that the Bible does not promise God's blessings to the generous giver would come up woefully short. So how does this doctrinal new kid on the block, the abundant life gospel, succeed in the wake of its highly suspect proponents and their methods?
The first thing today's prosperity gospel lacks is universality. Can this gospel be preached to everyone in any place throughout the world? The answer to this question is a simple, no. Other than in the United States and Western Europe this gospel is impossible to preach and in large part it is mocked. Americans make up about one sixth of the entire worlds population yet they consume almost fifty percent of the world's food. Even in the burgeoning economies of Europe, China, Japan and South Korea it is common knowledge that America is still number one in wealth and waste. Why has the country that already has the most, become the birth place of a gospel that says we should be getting even more? As two thirds of the world sends its children to bed each night with hunger pains, we are asking God to give us the money to go to an expensive spa to lose weight. One prosperity gospel preacher was recently called out on the carpet for spending ten thousand dollars a night for a lavish hotel suite in Indonesia. By contrast a missionary magazine tells of the humble pastor in some third world country who is rejoicing over a new bicycle he has been given. Now he can pedal around to make his visitations that cover an area of about twenty five square miles. Prosperity then, is figuratively in the eye of the beholder. That the prosperity gospel cannot be preached in every place is proof that it is not the real gospel. The real gospel is that Jesus Christ came into the world, spoke words that give life, died for the sins of the world, rose from the dead and promised to return to the earth and judge the living and the dead. This can be preached everywhere, at anytime throughout the world and it will produce the same effect that it has now for twenty centuries.
In seminary an old professor once told his class that his church was praying for him that God would keep him humble while they would help by keeping him poor. This is one extreme and another is a new book offered by a TV evangelist entitled?How to be Rich and Have Everything You Ever Wanted. What is wrong is that something is missing. The missing element in the pop Christian doctrine of the abundant life is?balance. It would be hard to balance the book just mentioned against the well known saying of Christ derived from the beatitudes?Blessed are the poor Mt 5:3. Balance nevertheless is what this doctrine is calling for. That God has not always promised a blessing in kind is balance John 14:27. That much of the promised blessings were not a material blessing at all is balance Romans 14:7. Carefully checking the motive of our giving is also balance. Are we giving to get? You may as well keep it! God does care why you're giving. He may notice the figures scribbled on a check but He is still checking the hearts and trying the motives of believers.
America is a success worshipping society that thinks that being rich, powerful or famous is the sign that one has made the heights. That this notion is so pervasive is reflected in our preoccupation with those who have achieved these lofty goals. In India a Guru is a Gandhi like figure, in America they could be a Wall Street investor. Regardless of what they actually are is a matter of perception which is often given precedence over reality. What is clear is that we are continuously questioning, prodding a probing our success icons for information about the keys to their success. From late night television to the New York Times Bestsellers list the line breaks forth replete with all the memoirs, tips, secrets and how to manuals of the rich and famous. Now Christianity has its own success gurus who seem ready to tell us their secrets as well. Unfortunately that secret usually comes in only one flavor. Send me, my ministry and my programs your money to get God to bless you. Many of these ministries are indeed doing wonderful things for the poor and the promotion of the gospel so we can't put them all in one big heap. What we can do is be a lot more prayerful about where we send our funds and why. While we are praying let us not forget that someone as close as next door may need our help right now.
Rev Bresciani is the leader of a non-denominational ministry in the New Orleans area. He has written many articles over the past thirty years in such periodicals as Guideposts and Catholic Digest. He is the author of two books available on Amazon.com, Alibris, Barnes and Noble and many other places. Rev Bresciani wrote, Hook Line and Sinker or What has Your Church Been Teaching You, published by PublishAmerica of Baltimore MD. He also wrote a book recently released by Xulon Press entitled An American Prophet and His Message, Questions and Answers on the Second Coming of Christ. Rev Bresciani has his own website at americanprophet.org
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