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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Is This Other Gospel Really Any Gospel At All?

I was browsing through one of my favorite blogs when I came across this link to the front-page article of the latest Time magazine which asks the question, "Does God Want You To Be Rich?" (Here's the summary.) More and more of our country's "Christian" leaders are answering, "Yes, oh yes."

For my summary and a Biblical response, go here. This is a serious problem when the world is even picking up on the church's folly, so we by the grace of God need to learn and change more into Christ's image and words.


Daniel Jowett, UK said...

I'm not sure what point you are trying to make here, beyond "The gospel of Jesus guarantees suffering, and self-sacrifice". Well my answer to that would be 'yes, but that's not all it guarantees'.

Listen to our Messiah in Mark 10v28-30 (NIV) (Emphasis mine)

Peter said to him, "We have left everything to follow you!"

"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in THIS PRESENT AGE (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life."

I've been there. I've had to give things up for Jesus, and He has graciously given me much more back, and I do know there's more to come too!

Question: do you believe what Jesus says in the passage above?

OF COURSE, my main reward is in Heaven & I would be foolish to focus only (or even mostly) on my earthly reward, however my saviour loves me & he's not planning to starve me of blessing in this life either! He really is very good!

I can't pretend to my not-yet-christian friends that there are not tough choices & suffering involved in following Jesus, I would be lying not to. However, I wont use suffering to sell the "good news", why should I? I'll focus on the good points!
Even Jesus looked at the joy beyond the cross (Heb 12) to motivate him (receiving back the glory he laid down, and also redeeming sinners into saints).
So I will use the evidence of God's goodness to motivate others & convince them that the "Kingdom of Heaven is near(at hand/within reach)". If I focus on what must be suffered I am making myself out to be some kind of spiritual matcho man whom they must compete with.
No I've got to show them that God, because of his great love, is interested even in them, and willing to do miracles in their lives - even BEFORE they repent & believe!
(Just like Jesus did in the lives of those who didn't end up believing in Him (see Matt 11v21).

Does God want us to be rich?
He certainly does in heaven! And we are advised to store up riches there.

Does God want me & you to be poor on earth?
Well Jesus doesn't want us to have to worry about money (or anything!)
He says that "blessed are the poor", but the word of God says that the blessing of the Lord brings wealth, so maybe he doesn't want you to stay there!
Poverty is always seen as a curse, not a blessing in the Old Testament.
If we believe the quote from Mark 10 above, and Paul's encouragement in 2 Cor 9 & Jesus again, when he says "GIVE, and it will be given to you", then suddenly we can be freed from worries about riches, to be joyfilled, God adoring, new creations that we are born(again) to be!

Does God mind us being rich, or even enjoying riches?
Well many of his good friends in the Old Testament were rich - at the end if not at the beginning. And for some like David, God said he would have given him even more if what he had wasn't enough!
1 Tim 6, which you quoted indicates that riches are something God gives to enjoy!

Does God want us to set our hearts on riches? Or trust in them?
No way. Absolutely not! That's the way to poverty & the way some people lose their souls.

Come on! Let's not make money the major issue, let's not love it, but let's not exclude God's real and practical concern for EVERY part of our lives both here on earth, and in Heaven!

Hey, if you want to take a look at my Church
I do not claim to represent it in all my views, but I do love being part of it, and recommend it to you.

B and B said...


I appreciate your comment on our little -known blog. How did you find us? I apologize if my intent was not clear enough. You made some good points and quotes to which I would like to respond, and you almost matched my post in length! Nice work.

Let's work in order of your post:
1. Yes, as you observed, my post does not round out the biblical theology of money, nor is it meant to. It is simply meant to say what the Bible says about the Gospel and money, specifically that, strictly speaking, in the Gospel, God most certainly does NOT promise us anything material but food, clothing, and the care of the local church in this life. We get Christ! Who cares what else we get?

That is not to say He does not abound in good gifts, but rather that the prosperity gospel is wrong and perverse in focusing on money and possessions instead of on Christ Himself.

2. This, of course, begs the question about Jesus' words in Mark 10. What exactly is He saying that the disciples have given up in order to gain? In the Biblical idea of exchange, one rarely gives up something in order to get the same thing back. Rather, in the present and coming kingdom, we give up things in order to get Christ and His better things back.

Daniel, this seems to be what is going on in Mark 10. And, honestly, let's not yank it out of context. Christ Himself adds to the "houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands," the very idea of "persecutions," so I am not just adding in the idea as one might suppose. That bears repeating - Jesus did not think of these gifts as coming without the suffering of the Gospel. In fact, He necessarily links them.

Second, these "houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands" that come "with persecutions" must be a hundred times more than what we had before, right? What He most certainly means by all of this, "in this present age," is the church! Jesus never uses "brothers and sisters" in any speech except to denote believers. The church, the local church, is what Luke and Paul and John pick up on as our physical inheritance in this present age. The local church and our believing brothers and sisters and mothers and children around the world are the only way that we could have "a hundred times" as much land and houses as we once did. The church shares what she has with all who are Christ's (Acts 2 & 4). That is the only faithful way to interpret this flow of thought.

Third, the suffering of the cross is all over Mark 10, from the rich young fool to Peter's question to Jesus' Jerusalem path to James and John's famous request. Suffering laces everything that Christ and His followers must go through. Not even temporal blessings come without suffering! Look at verse 30!

Fourth and finally, do the other verses around this passage not instruct us as to how to understand it? Does the rich young fool not terrify us and he chooses his own possessions over the only One who matters? How would anyone then interpret the very next passage as saying the opposite of what the previous one did? If Jesus, in love (let the reader understand), tells the rich fool to leave his possessions and follow Christ, how could He say to His disciples, come with Me and leave your possessions to get the very same possessions back? That would be illogical and nonsensical. Jesus did not call His disciples to follow Him to get the same things, but better things - Himself first, His blessings of the local church and God's generosity through her in this life, and finally God's gift of eternal life.

Yes, Daniel, your Savior does love you and does not want to "starve you of blessing," which is exactly why He doesn't want you to choke on the dirt of money and possessions. His pouring out of blessing upon you, biblically, often comes in and through His difficult path of love.

3. As far as your "spiritual macho man" comment, you will have to take that up in prayer with the Lord God Almighty, who wrote so much suffering into His Word that it's unavoidable. It seems that He actually wants us to understand the suffering of the cross and transform that thought into how we love others (Ephesians 5, etc.). So , yes, you actually are supposed to, in one sense, focus on the suffering of Jesus Christ on the behalf of sinners.

Daniel, if your preaching of the Gospel focuses only on God's temporal and material gifts, I would say you are not preaching the biblical Gospel at all, which is exactly what my post is about. The exact problem with the prosperity "gospel" is that is has no Biblical Gospel at all. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 tells us what the Biblical Gospel, in its essence, is: it is the perfect life, death, resurrection, and new life of Jesus Christ to save sinners. The rest of the Bible always looks toward or back at His cross and His resurrection.

4. As for your line of questions, I will take them one at a time as well.

Your Question: Does God want us to be "rich"?
My Answer: God wants us to be rich in Christ in the heavenly places. We should not play word-games with the Bible and try to confuse one meaning of "rich" with a very different one. Please refer to the section of my original post where I try to define the use of this word.

YQ: Does God want me & you to be poor on earth?
MA: Again, God wants us to be rich in Christ, on His terms. He wants us to avoid worrying about money or anything, not because we have so much temporally, but because we have so much eternally! It is a faith issue, Daniel, not a sight issue.

You should not so quickly dismiss Jesus' words in Luke 6, where He says, "blessed are the poor." He contrasts this statement with, "Woe to you rich," a few verses later. Christ is, in fact, blessing the poor here over against the rich.

You claim, "The word of God says that the blessing of the Lord brings wealth." Where do you find that in the Scriptures? And where do you see that "Poverty is always seen as a curse, not a blessing in the Old Testament,"? If you're referring to the Proverbs, that would be a one-track reading. The Proverbs show that people who are lazy and dishonest become poor because of their sin. But not all poor in teh Bible are poor because of their own particular sin. Christ Himself had no place to lay His head. So, it would be more accurate to say that povery can be a curse or it can be a blessing.

I agree that we ought to enjoy all the things that God has given us, but as Paul says, we must do it with our hope set on God, not on riches. The very fact that people so often confuse the Biblical Gospel with prosperity literally means that those people are setting their hopes on riches and not God Himself. That's simply what it means.

The rest of your questions and answers have already been addressed. I am decidedly not trying to exclude earthly necessities from the blessings that God provides His children. But I am saying that a focus of money and material gain from God, strictly speaking, is not part of the Biblical Gospel. It really is that simple.

Godliness is not meant to be a means of material gain. Paul says exactly that in 1 Timothy 6! And he tells us that people will try to pervert the Gospel in exactly that way! If this is not that perversion, Daniel, then what is? What else would it look like?

Jesus says that He will give us food and clothing and shelter, and Paul says with these we will be satisfied. So let us be satisfied with living small in this life and large in the next.

This would have been better done over email, but I do appreciate your time.

B Treece