How do you like the title of this blog post? Did it grab your attention? Well, it is the title of a recent news article published online by The Atlantic.
Needless to say, I read the article – which was really good, even if it was a tad long. In fact, I would recommend everyone reading it as it gives an interesting view on how Christianity is perceived by outsiders.
However, for those who don’t have the time or the will to read the article – allow me to summarize the writer’s (Hanna Rosin) thesis:
Prosperity theology within Christianity has caused a “shift in the American conception of divine Providence and its relationship to wealth” – to the point that individuals/families who held this theological view made unwise financial choices based upon the feeling that God wanted to bless them.
Now – before you break out the tar, hear this out.
I know that sometimes God will ‘bless’ His children with financial wealth. However, I also know that Jesus warns His followers from placing too much hope, credit or value on financial wealth.
A look at the history of prosperity theology shows that the original proponents where coming against a spirit of poverty that had creped into the church (i.e. all money was evil; Christian’s just need to endure to the end). These preachers, who where mainly from poor families in the South, begin to preach about how money was not ‘necessarily’ bad – but could be used by God for good.
Unfortunately, later generations took this message and twisted it into the prosperity theology we have today. I say “twisted” for a reason – for while God will take care of His children – money, cars, large houses and other material items are not our “inheritance.”
Or to quote Rosin’s paraphrase of Pastor Fernando Garay:
God is the “Owner of All the Silver and Gold,” and with enough faith, any believer can access the inheritance. Money is not the dull stuff of hourly wages and bank-account statements, but a magical substance that comes as a gift from above.
Wow…with a theology like the one above, I can understand the desire to own a larger house or a better car. Unfortunately, it was this same desire that lead a ton of people in the USA to buy homes they could not afford…
Yet, sounds a lot like magic to me. That somehow I can manipulate “God” into giving me money strictly by having enough “faith”. Last time I check, God was King and we where just slaves – depended on Him for everything! And I do mean EVERYTHING (breath, food, money, live, mercy, grace, etc) . We do not deserve ANYTHING – besides death and hell.
God grant us mercy!
One of the saddest parts of the article for me was the news that a lot of banks “teamed up with pastors to win over new customers for subprime loans”. As a pastor, this really, really, really hurts.
It is a betrayal to our King that we, as pastors, would help folks bury themselves in debt with the promise that God would “provide.” Yes, we are supposed to live by faith – but we are also to be smart and know that we can’t know afford a mortgage that is 80% of our monthly income!
Sigh. May God give us mercy.
Read the article if you can for it tells a lot about the shift in Christianity and USA culture.
Then read the words of Jesus:
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matthew 6:24)