Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Show Me The Money

I switched on the radio by my bed a little slower than usual when I woke up this morning. I’ve been sick for the past week with this dreadful bug that I had convinced myself was one heave away from being the bubonic plague. Anyway, I went through my morning routine, all the while listening to the news. The reporter read off a laundry list of crisis; no sign of an airliner that’s been missing for days, unemployment, trouble in eastern Europe, missing person, major accident with fatalities during rush hour, and so on. I zoned out about the time they got back to talking the NFL draft into the ground.

There is so much pain, hurt and suffering going on in the world. Then we wedge in superfluous stuff that at the end of the day really doesn’t matter. All that got me thinking about a snippet of a talk I heard recently on life and what God wants for you. It’s a trend or movement that is sweeping the nation and the world. In fact the U.S. of A. is one of the biggest contributors to it. In a sense it’s a fragment of the American dream with a side order of Jesus. But it’s not Jesus. This growing popular way of thinking says that our happiness or joy is wrapped up in two things: our money and our health. Get rich, Get healthy, BAM! Get happy.

I guess this really isn’t all that new of a concept. But it’s never been more popular than it is right now. This concept though, is not a christian concept. It’s a tool the enemy uses to fuel our fear and our greed. It’s the health, wealth and prosperity gospel, but it’s not the gospel. What I find so alarming is that so many Christians don’t know that it’s a sham. It’s the ultimate religious pyramid scheme where the lost, hurting and broken on the bottom line the pockets of the ones peddling it at the top.

I live not far from one of the biggest “buy-a-blessing” churches in the South. It’s not unheard of at all for the pastor to be preaching a sermon, surrounded by money. Money that people in the congregation have showered all around him. Why? Because you have to buy a blessing. Duh! If you want God to bless you and shower you with favor, you have to prove it. You have to give him your money. The more you give, the more you get. So this preacher, flies around the world in his private jet preaching to the poorest of poor. They’re selling a message, "If you hold on to this gospel and follow it’s teachings, your cattle won’t die, your wife won’t miscarry, or your children won’t get sick. You’ll have favor with God and get rich! If any of those things still happen you’ll be blessed even more!" And the people come from all around, willing to give him all they have. And why shouldn’t they believe it? The guy selling it to them is wearing a $5,000 suit and flew in on his own plane.

This is a quote from the pastor of the largest church in America. The prosperity gospel is at the core of what he teaches. He says, "He (Christ) has paid a price so we can be free. Free of bad habits, free from addictions. Free from discouragement and depression. Free from poverty and lack. Free from low self-esteem. God wants us to be totally free." 

What the message is saying is this: as a Christian, you have the power to recreate reality in your life into what you want it to be. If you aren’t happy with your life, change it! But what if you can’t? If you are suffering, that’s OK, because God gives money, cars and good health to those that have been faithful to him. Yes I’m being sarcastic. One of the more ridiculous quotes I heard from one of these “evangelists” was, "You’ll get double for your trouble." Really? Is that how God works?

God want’s a life for you that’s free of sickness. So does that mean that the person battling cancer needs to get their act together? They just need to reject that sickness and they’ll be healed, right? What about that mother or father who is desperately clinging to hope that their child that has been sick for so very long will get well? What about the single mother working two jobs, is still broke and never gets to see her kids? Or the homeless person on the street corner? After all they’re only homeless because they want to be, right? Maybe if they would reject all of those negative things in their life, give more of their money to God and have a little more faith, their life would turn around.

What satan is tempting us with is greed. No I am not saying it’s bad to be wealthy or that it’s wrong to want to be free of sickness, pain, and suffering. But when our relationship with Christ becomes, “I love Christ because I need a new car,” it becomes idolatry. We’re not living for Christ anymore, we’re living for things. We’re living for what we can get out of him. As John Piper says, “We’re putting the gifts above the giver.”
I think one of the reasons it’s hard for some Christians to spot is it’s being sold in Christian bookstores. For that matter there is an entire TV network devoted to it. We have to use discernment. I’ve often told students that I have taught to not simply take my word for it. What does the Bible say?

God never promised us an easy life. He never promised a life free from trouble. Quite the opposite.
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” - John 16:33

Overcoming doesn’t mean having a lot of money and never getting sick. It means though we may face those hardships it can’t keep us from him. It cannot have the victory. Though our bodies may fail it can’t keep us from an eternity with him, if Christ is Lord of our life.
I end this blog (that’s gone on a lot longer than I had originally planned) with the words to one of my favorite songs. It’s a reminder that during the afflictions and pain of life we’re never ever alone. I hope it’s an encouragement to you. #LiveSecond

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