I can’t say that I am a big fan of the so-called “Prosperity doctrine.’ It has been something I’ve wrestled with for awhile because I grew up Pentecostal--and, the “Prosperity doctrine’ remains a central tenet of Pentecostalism and the ‘full gospel’ message.
Does it matter to God whether you’re rolling in an Escalade or a Reliant “K” car? Does it matter to God whether you’re living in a Park Avenue penthouse or a shotgun shack in Tulia, Texas? Who is farther from God-- the “K” car guy or the Escalade guy?
The median income of Americans living in the Southern States-- like Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas-- is a lot less than those living in Massachusetts, Connecticut or New York. So, then, why is church attendance significantly higher in Southern states than in the Northeast? And I mean way higher!
Is there a realtime connection between poverty/income and ones receptivity to God?
Which brings me face-to-face with the Prosperity doctrine. Does this message have a place within the framework of Christian teaching--or, maybe it isn’t the message, but how the message is heard?
Now, I'd be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Bible records a lot of wealthy folks were highly favored by God: Abraham, Job and Nehemiah are just a few that come to mind--moreover, in the New Testament there are people like Lazarus, Mary, Martha, Joseph of Arimethia, Mary Magdalene who were, shall we say, living large during that time--in terms of wealth and in terms and influence. This crew funded the balance sheet of Jesus’ operation--remember, he was personally responsiblity for the payroll of twelve people for three and one-half years!
And, what about Philemon? He was a wealthy slave owner whom the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to--that made it into the final canon of scripture. Granted, Philemon is a pretty short book but the Gospels of Judas, Thomas and a lot of others didn't even make the cut.
The reality, I guess, is wrapped in this: If you’re a Christian, you don’t own anything. It all belongs to God. Whether your bank account is measured by seven figures before the decimal point or two figures before the decimal point, it is all His. Poor, poverty stricken people are in bondage because they don’t have money and many wealthy people are in bondage because they do have money--each person is obsessed with bucks for wildly different reasons. Clearly, poverty is a state of mind--a paradigm if you will...but, being broke is a condition.
I paid $3.09 for a gallon of gas yesterday...that is a seminal point in my life as an automobile driver. Standing at that pump in Irving, Texas, it became clear: We really are living in the end times. I’m going to buy a Harley.
Real salaries and median income for middle class Americans-- as adjusted for inflation-- is less than it was in the 1970s. Everywhere I turn, I see people struggling.
What a fertile ground for the message of prosperity-- a seductive and potentially destructive message. The reason for giving-- as least for Christians-- is because the Bible directs us to do it. (Emphatically, I might add.) Giving and getting cannot be established as quid pro quo-- Christians must give frm a pure recognition of Gods worth in their lives. If the giving is ‘stuff-focused’ or ‘getting' focused, that means it isn’t God focused. And, that is a problem if you’re a Christian. If it isn’t done as an act of trust...
If your focus is on ‘stuff’ the Prosperity message represents an intriguing path --a get rich scheme...Las Vegas for Jesus...pyramid scheme for the Lord...”well God, if you give me those winning ‘Pick Six” numbers, I promise I will pay my tithes and offerings.”
The Prosperity message, like so many theological principles has enough truth to sound Biblical, but enough ingrained error --in how it is taught and heard-- to lead people astray. Ministers delivering this volatile message have great responsibility for its realtime seductiveness. As the price of gas climbs steadily toward $4.95 per gallon and the concomitant fear rises throughout middle America, the Prosperity message becomes more beguiling-- in a way that slot machines, Texas Hold'em and the Lotto is drawing people like moths to a flame.
Each person led astray by this message will become like an anvil around the neck of the teacher/preacher who they heard it from. A word to the jet-owning, hundred-fold return prosperity teachers: The Book of Revelation explains that it is the 'False Prophet' who encourages people to accept the ‘mark of the beast?' Why? So that everyone can keeep right on buying and selling.
Gordon Gekko, uber-trader in the 1980s movie Wall Street said this to bumbling Bud Fox: “It’s about bucks kid, everything else is just conversation.” Gekko is no TV preacher, is he?" Hey, after all, it’s just a mark and everybody’s gotta buy groceries--can't let a little thing like eternal damnation get in the way of commerce.