Alright, after posting a couple little puny ones...it's time to dig in. Get those mouses ready.
Time magazine's headline reads: "Does God Want You to Be Rich? Yes, say some megachurches. Others call it herasy. The debate over the new gospel of wealth."
Now I think before any discussion of this takes place, we should note that Time magazine wants to make money. They do this by selling magazines. They sell those by creating stories that people want to read. People don't want to read boring stories, they want to read controversial ones. So the joke of "subjective journalism" is that Time won't provide a balanced, rational smattering of the issue. They want to get people's attention and make money. I'll admit, it worked. At Dierberg's on Sunday I saw the cover, and bought it without hesitation. Shame on me. You know what I thought first? "Oh, this is nice blog material!" (sigh)
That being said, the article was actually not to bad. But to see scripture quoted in the little tables within the article was just kinda funny. They provided 5 verses "for" and "against" God wanting his people to be wealthy.
So they talk to Joel Osteen, who just looks way to perky. This dude's church bought out THE ARENA WHERE THE HOUSTON ROCKETS USED TO PLAY. "The Summit" as they call it, is freaking huge. Huge. Ridiculously huge. So, can Joel claim God's blessing because of the monetary supplication?
Joel actually doesn't say what you think he's gonna say. I'll bet Time was kind of dissapointed: "I think God wants us to be prosperous. I think he wants us to be happy. I think he wants us to enjoy our lives. I don't think i'd say God wants us to be rich." This is somewhat contradictory to a parishoner (sp?) of Joel's that Time begins the interview with. Homedude said God promised him a six-figure job and 25 acre house. Whew.
Anyways, they use Rick Warren as a counterpoint if you will. Mr. Purpose does a good job of refuting the "prosperity gospel" that Time is investigating. At one point, they use people like Joyce Meyer to illustrate "Prosperity Lite" which I thought was pretty funny.
So scripture is taken as a one sentance absolute and qutoed, people are interviewed and the article was fairly balanced. I guess it did a good job of inspiring thought, in me and a couple folks at church anyway. So, good job time.
Let's tackle this ourselves shall we?
Really, to me the whole thing centers around what you consider "wealth" to mean. In a minute, i'll rephrase that with the same intent. It's that simple. I don't know many rational people who believe that becoming a Christian means you won't ever struggle financially. While we're at it, "being saved" doesn't exactly "save" you from sickness, grief, pain, lonliness, or bad spelling.
I love what author Donald Miller says about looking for formulas in the Bible, about finding absolutes that certainly apply to humanity forever. Miller points out that in his quest to write the perfect Christian self-help book he looked for formulas, but most of the ones he discovered wouldn't really work. Consider Stephen (Acts chapter 7), who became a Christian and was stoned to death. Was Stephen stoned to death with "ice in his grill" as the kids might say?
Joyce Meyer says: "Who would want something where you're miserable, broke and ugly and you have to muddle through until you get to heaven?" Paul might. I'll bet it wasn't real fun in jail, or being beaten.
Time quotes John 10: 10: "Then Jesus said...'I have come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly'." Well, the issue then is what you consider 'abundant'. One dude in the article thinks it's 25 acres and a dream house. Joyce Meyer has a helicopter I think. Rick Warren has sold so many books he doesn't get a salary from Saddleback, and paid back all the salery he's ever recieved. Dang. Are they more blessed than you and me? Does God love them more? Are they worth more to God so they are literally, fiscally worth more than us? Could anyone REALLY believe that? Isn't ABUNDANT life- Life with Christ himself? Isn't that enough? Living the way Christ calls us to live leads to abundant life, and may in fact be incongruent with monetary abundance.
While we're at it, doesn't Jesus explicitly say that we're not to work to simply acquire a huge pile of things, where theives can steal and moth can destroy? Doesn't that sort of life make little of what God thinks of us? Doesn't Jesus deal with rich folks who love their stuff so much that it seperates them from God's love? While i'm thinking about it, crap! How much do I do that?
Honestly, I thought we were over this whole prosperity stuff once The Prayer of Jabeaz craze finally died. The notion that God will shower his people with Mercedes Benzs (thats hard to say) the more they love him is absurd. Once we try to proportionalize God's love with our bank accounts, it's a big mess.
(Ok, my attempt to be thoughtful and well-spoken is over. At this point in the blog, if you'd like to move on to another internet task, please do. If you want further musing, please, proceed.)
Yet, as much as i'm sittin here goin off, I do the same thing. I compare my church's facilities and our youth group attendance to others all the time. I'm typing this on my expensive laptop, in a nice apartment, in a VERY afluent area of St. Louis County. So what do I know about financial hardship?
Something that's stuck with me for years is one time when Me and my Dad were at a stoplight in Cape Girardeau. We were behind this shiny, black, brand new Mercedes. Man, this thing was clean. The only adornment other than shiny chrome was a rainbow bumper sticker that read: "Jesus Is Lord!". Thats a lot easier to say when you're drivin a Benz isn't it? To me, that person would have been very wealthy to afford that car. But most people around the world would consider ME to be the wealthy one. So the joke of all of this American Prosperity Gospel stuff is that maybe we ARE blessed more than we realize and aren't doing what we should in our position.
Time grossly mis-interprets the parable of the Talents, which to me harkens back to the Abrahamic covenant. (I hope I phrased that right) Where we are blessed, to be a blessing. Not to admire our pile of stuff. To whom much is given, much is expected. So the more you've got, the more you've got to do with it. Thats how I make peace with being so well off. Again, it's all relative. To lots of people in my area, i'm a pauper. But thats not the case at all.
Really, we're only scratching the surface. Too often we're so obsessed with the QUANTITY as opposed to the QUALITY. We want numbers, and conrete evidence that we're crankin out disciples baby. But thats just not how it works. So in guarding against prosperity gospel, we can't speak out against one but then evaluate ministries worth by how many new baptisms we have. But then at the same time, God certainly doesn't want LESS baptisms does he? AAARRRGGGG so many questions. Alright, I guess i'm done. Maybe more soon, maybe not. My Dad says i've got to much time on my hands. Maybe he's right.
Hey, if anyone knows about a used Benz, i'm in the market.
-I hope you caught the irony there, cause I was layin it on pretty thick.