How ironic that on the anniversary of 9/11 Time Magazine’s cover story "Does God Want You To Be Rich" is devoted to Christianity. Unfortunately, it’s not the Biblical, theologically sound God-centered Christianity that is key to persevering in the face of personal and national tragedy, but the man-centered, heretical, prosperity-centered variety found on television that crumbles under any type of adversity. It’s a false gospel, one that works nowhere on earth or in history other than in a growing, free enterprise economy like what we have in America, one which ultimately serves to do very little other than to enrich preacher-celebrities and give false hope to those watching from the audience, many of whom will ultimately have their spirits crushed and faith in God dashed when they run out of patience waiting for God to give them the good life they have been told they deserve.
The article (and you can read it online in it’s entirety online after watching an infomercial–just click on the "Get it Free: Continue reading this article after watching a brief ad" graphic just after the prompt to login at the end of the article intro) paints a sad picture of an entitlement mindset in a Christian culture obsessed with the idea that God’s ultimate goal is to serve as a cosmic genie, passing out goodies only to those who abide by some hidden-but-recently-discovered principles and say some faith-based magic words. What’s particularly sad is that these pastors (and absent any ability to know the true heart of anyone, I will assume these are well-intentioned people) are leading their people into a destructive worldview that may cost them their very souls. Many of these people will slide into deep disillusionment as time passes and they do not find health and wealth, and many will reject God, not realizing they never truly heard the God-exalting gospel of the Bible.
Judging by email I’m sure there are those reading these words who are regular watchers of many of the preachers listed in this article, who do not realize that what they are being taught is both an addition to and subraction from the Gospel, both of which are condemned as idolatry in the Bible. To you, I plead simply: Read the Bible through the eyes of those who were there when it was written, and not through the eyes of modern-day television preachers. One cannot read the New Testament–including the accounts of the sufferings of Paul and Jesus–and maintain any significant level of intellectual integrity while continuing to profess that God wants everyone to avoid suffering. It’s just not there, unless you take verses well out of context, which may explain why we almost never hear prosperity teachers preach or teach on an expository basis, teaching the word of God in context to the rest of the Bible.
We would do well to invest time studying and heeding the lessons learned from Job. He, too, had his detractors who twisted scripture and told him his suffering was due to his lack of obedience, or faith. But we learn that was not the reason for his suffering.
God has not promised us health and wealth if only we have faith and follow his rules. Nor has he promised us an absence of suffering and poverty if only we have faith and avoid specific actions. Yes, we should work hard, we should be positive, we should strive to live by God’s laws, we should eat right and exercise, and we should strive to achieve a measure of excellence and success. But to believe God’s earthly blessings are an entitlement is nothing short of idolotry. He has promised us an abundance of joy amidst all circumstances, not fun and happiness in an absence of bad circumstances. And telling people they are out of God’s favor simply because they have an illness or modest income removes the need for spiritual discernment that we should be employing to help separate those who truly need financial help from those who just won’t work; indeed, sometimes tough times come because we are being disciplined, and sometimes they come because God has willed it so to strengthen our faith and glorify Him.
All we truly are entitled to is damnation, and any measure of health and wealth in this life is a gift of grace from God. And there is nothing we can do to deserve it or guarantee it. Your best life now isn’t now. It’s yet to come, but only to those whose sins are covered by the atonement. Sadly, that’s a topic I’ve yet to come across while channel surfing prosperity preachers.