Monday, July 28, 2008

Prosperity Gospel: Oxymoron?

In Mark 8:34-38, Jesus continues to rebuke Peter for his misunderstanding of Jesus' mission. Jesus had just finished explaining his rejection by the Jews and his death and resurrection, and Peter took Jesus aside and begin to "correct" Jesus about who the Messiah was supposed to be. Jesus explains to Peter and the rest of his followers that being a disciple of Jesus demands us to sacrifice our lives for Jesus and the gospel. What does this mean? "Let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me"?

For many in this world, the meaning is very clear. Becoming a follower of Christ in many countries means willingness to be persecuted or executed. The Voice of the Martyrs does a very good job communicating the plight of the people of God in hostile lands. One might be arrested, kidnapped, beaten, shot, stabbed, raped, tortured, or murdered in places like Eritrea, Indonesia, Pakistan, India, China, Columbia, etc.

Photo by Tanya RynoBut we live in the United States of America; how can we relate to this command of Christ to take up our cross and follow him? To sacrifice our lives for Jesus and the gospel? We don't face persecution (yet) like our brothers and sisters in distant lands. In many ways, however, we would be better Christians if we lived with persecution. Because we live with deception.

How many "Christians" in the U.S. are willing to sacrifice their lives for Jesus and the gospel? Many would confess with their mouths their willingness to do it, but how many confess with their actions? I often don't. My life is filled with entertainment. I struggle to make time for Bible reading and prayer, much less additional reading that is not required for school. Yes, everyone needs times of refreshing, but how long will we live like the world and call it Christianity? Are we deceiving ourselves?

Photo by re-alityI think this is why Joel Osteen and his fellow proclaimers of the "prosperity gospel" are so "successful" and dangerous. Jesus said that he came to give us abundant life, but that does not necessarily mean a life filled with material possessions. How is anyone sacrificing their lives for Jesus and the gospel if he or she is living life for material wealth? How does the well-to-do church member Photo by The Car Spywith a boat and a big-screen and a Benz reflect Christ to the homeless man on the street? Not that those things are wrong in themselves, but are we living as a witness to the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, or do we treasure our treasures above all else? Would you give up your job for full-time ministry? Would you abandon your comfortable life to move somewhere hot and humid and disease infested for the sake of Christ?

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." - Matthew 6:19-21

"Help us, Heavenly Father, to seek first your kingdom, and to trust you to meet our every need."

~ Todd ~


Bill Blair said...

Good thoughts. I actually posted something today at that is similar to this idea. I looked at how the American dream can be an idol. The prosperity gospel seems to be a natural outflow of putting the desire for worldly success in front of following Christ.

S. Todd Young said...

I agree, Bill. There is nothing wrong with having the right to the pursuit of happiness, but when the pursuit of happiness doesn't include pursuing God, we're idolaters! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

Eric said...

Matthew 19:16-30.

We are arguably the wealthiest population on the planet.