“Because of the price He paid, we have a right to live in total victory. Not partial victory, to where we struggle in our finances and relationships, or in our health. That’s not total victory. We are a child of the most high God. He has paid a price so that we can be totally free from poverty and lack. He didn’t create you to be average. He didn’t create you to barely get by. He created you to have divine health, to be prosperous in your relationships, to have money to pay your bills. Whatever you touch is going to prosper and succeed.” – Joel Osteen
And they call this the good news of Jesus Christ.
it sounds so good
Writers, speakers, and teachers like Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer, Andrew Wommack, Myles Munroe and countless others that you’ll see on “Christian television” teach different things, but all in line with the same theme – God promises his children physical health, material wealth, and worldly prosperity. They teach that you are of a royal bloodline, and royalty doesn’t live in poverty. Royalty doesn’t suffer ailments. If you follow Christ, riches await you. With book titles like “Your Best Life Now” and “God Wants You Well,” they pack their churches and make their way to “NY Times Best Seller” lists, teaching people that if they have lack, it is because they do not have enough faith, do not have a “royal mindset,” or are not “expecting what you have coming to you.” Things like “If someone were to say ‘I don’t need more money’ I would say you have a poor outlook on life” (Brian Houston) are said during “sermons” to essentially persuade an already greedy and lustful culture that they need more… and that it’s God’s will that you get it.
They believe and teach that prosperity, health and success are part of the gospel. That when Christ died, He did so to redeem us from the curse of poverty, sickness, and disease, a curse for us breaking the law. Through that “gospel,” we are free from poverty and sickness just as we are free from sin. Through that “gospel,” restored fellowship with God means access to the abundant provision of earthly life from our Father in heaven. That “gospel” is therefore about freedom from lack, sickness and distress. Sin is the root cause of all these problems, and when Jesus took care of sin on the cross of Calvary, He took care of these problems too. If we don’t claim our healing, our prosperity, what did He die for? We are taught to name and claim, and even demand earthly goods in many forms from God, to “partner with him” to pursue riches.
This is their motivator to become a Christ-follower/fill their pockets with your money. Few messages in existence today are as anti-Christ, and wicked as this.
It is a tragedy to elevate gifts above the gift-giver. It is a tragedy to “gain the world but lose your soul” (Mark 8:36). It is a tragedy to treasure life above Christ. In my Bible, right before 1 Timothy 6:6-10, there is a title with larger text that reads: “False Teachers and True Contentment,” then follows with verses that pinpoint today’s prosperity teachers. “Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of <physical goods/health/success> is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” They are encouraging a wandering AWAY from Christ, they are leading many to lose their soul.
Just so we’re clear on what’s communicated here, the good, model Christian has it all together. You’ll have money to pay your bills, prosperous relationships, and good health. And anything less is “not living in total victory (provided by the cross),” brought about by your own lack of faith. Lack and poverty and infirmity is brought about by sin.
What a perversion!! Not only have we completely cast aside the Gospel of Salvation, but we’ve diminished it’s value by placing the focus of our pursuit on ourselves. We have shifted from making Christ the center of all things and crying out “Your will be done,” to making our wants and needs the center of all things, sneering “My will be done.” We’ve created a theology where God must tend to our every beckon call and give us everything we need to survive, and survive materially abundantly. Myles Munroe teaches that God can not make a move on earth unless he has first received permission from us. Who, then, is really God???
We chase accomplishment, we chase success, we strive to achieve a worldly light at the end of a worldly tunnel. We slave to feel like we deserve something. We do this also with God. We feel that since we are His, He will treat us like kings on earth. We feel like since God is so great and so loving, he will give us every little thing our heart desires. He owes us something. In chasing after all of this CRAP, our positive and negative mood is dictated by whether we’ve got what “is rightfully ours.”
We’ve made Christ a whore.
We want goods out of him more than we want just him. We crave and demand blessings and power from him, playing the audacious role of God’s taskmaster. Like a child not getting his way, we shake our fists in anger at the one person that can “change our bad situation in the blink of an eye.” Instead of loving WHO HE IS for WHO HE IS, we worship what he’s capable of.
Whether it comes from a billboard, a book, or heaven forbid, church, the self-serving appeal is the same across the board, it’s just packaged in a thousand different ways. It tickles your ears and sounds great… if your scripture-starved soul throws no red flags.
Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised? Maybe we should come to expect a message that draws a picture of God existing for our sake out of a culture that keeps coming up with ways to say “I deserve.” We lust after much, and to avoid the guilt that comes from lust, we create entitlement out of thin air so that we can feel we’ve done justice by serving ourselves. We’re consistently enslaved by our wants, leave no desire unsatisfied, and create a pretty crafty system to justify it. We’ve trained ourselves to believe that we are owed something, that we have earned something. And of course, we hear the above listed teachers preaching from their books “Have Your Best Life Now” or “Create The Life You Want,” which conveys the message that the pursuit of Christianity is literally no different than the pursuit of the rest of the world – we have nothing better to offer, Christ ISN’T enough.
Christians, we’ve bought into and adopted a self-centered gospel, putting words in God’s mouth to validate a sufferless life.
On the flip side, the true gospel, or “good news” of Christ is that he lived a life and died a death of hardship to take away every burden of sin that we’ve ever had and ever will have. He was hated, despised, rejected, poor, died a horrific death to redeem us from the eternal penalty of our sin. If he had not, we would be rightfully deserving a permanent residence in hell. Are we entitled to our “best life now” in the way these wolves think “best” is as a result of the cross? We HAVE received our reward for his suffering, it is wonderful, glorious, beautiful salvation from the thing we actually DO deserve and are entitled to – the fruit of sin, or in other words, eternal laps in a lake of fire.
He tells us in John 15:20 that “a servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” If the very life of Christ was not a wealthy, or prosperous one, how do we feel that we are entitled to one? In Matthew 16, He tells his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” What does this mean to “take up your cross?” That’s a gruesome statement, considering the gore and horror of the act of crucifixion. This means that you die to yourself (Phil 1:21), you literally put ALL of your own desires to death, even if the cost is death itself. Your desire to have the ability to pay your bills, to send your kids to college, to have a wife one day, to live long and healthy are included in “ALL of your own desires.” Luke 14:26 says that compared to the love and devotion you have to Christ, to be His disciple you must hate your own “father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even your own life.” Outside of the guideline for Christ-followership, the Bible tells us SO much about the suffering and pain we will endure as His disciples, and the everlasting JOY that comes from these sufferings:
- “Count it all JOY, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
- “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 10:11
WHY are we rejoicing in our suffering? Read my blog, “The Purpose Behind Life Sucking” for the reason in full, but in short, it is a tool God uses to get our attention and to accomplish His purposes in our lives in a way that would never occur without the trial or irritation. Christianity is not a focus group about how to avoid life’s wounds. In fact, trailing in his footsteps will cost you your very life you’ve been trained to hold dear, enrich, and extend. “God loves us best by giving us the best to enjoy forever, namely himself, for he is best. No thing can satisfy the soul. The soul was made to stand in awe of a person – the only person worthy of awe.” – John Piper. You have been taught there is bondage in lack and poverty and God wants to free you from that… the truth is that there is bondage in addictive self seeking/serving that God wants to free us from so we can be free to find our supreme joy in him and him ALONE.
context and culture
No, this isn’t a spam advertisement, to illustrate the following point, PLEASEEEE watch this hilarious “Obama Hates Americans” video.
The Bible is not a handbook for how to enhance your checkbook or get out of debt. It’s not a binder of equations on how much faith is required to demand your healing. We must look at scripture contextually, that is: When was this written? Who wrote it? To whom was it written? What culture was it written in? When we don’t, we see blurps of text, like in the video above, that look like it might mean something.. we pick and pull from different conversations in scripture to formulate a message that supports OUR own claims, validates OUR lusts.
We frankenstein together a godless theology, and it’s just as ugly.
You will often see pieces of scripture thrown out as a way of telling you that God wants you to obtain earthly treasure.
- “You do not have because you do not ask,” for example: James 4:2 is not suggesting the reason you don’t have what you want is because you haven’t asked God for it, or haven’t asked enough, as many would have you believe. This verse means something completely different when re-inserted back into it’s proper context. This interpretation completely ignores what precedes it in scripture: Christians fighting over quarrels caused by desires. Directly after, James states you do not receive after asking because you ask wrongly to spend what you’re asking for on your own passions. He calls us adulterous! You won’t find that verse’s abusers reading that part. Creflo Dollar says this of prayer: “When we pray, believing that we have already received what we are praying, God has no choice but to make our prayers come to pass.” This whole theme goes against the very prayer Christ prayed the night before he was crucified – “Yet not my will, but yours be done,” Luke 22:42. You CAN NOT twist the arm of God, no matter how much you pray, no matter how much faith you can muster.
- Another is John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Extremely common verse used by prosperity teachers. Completely removed from it’s context, these people suggest this means that God wants his followers to have every good physical thing. The correct context of the verse illustrates the parable of the sheep and good shepherd who calls them by name. The “have it to the full” has to do with knowing and being known by Jesus. Has NOTHING to do with physical things. The Tyndale Commentary explains, “He does not offer them an extension of physical life nor an increase of material possessions, but the possibility, nay the certainty, of a life lived as a higher level of obedience to God’s will and reflecting his glory.”
Aside from prosperity (false) teachers, contemporary Christians have so many expectancies they’ve picked up through years of being a spoiled American. We feel the “promises of God” include everything from a future spouse, to a place to sleep, to an American utopia where we will always be free to worship. The next time you feel yourself expectant of something you feel God owes you, immediately ask yourself “Where did I come up with this?” If it’s from your loving mother, a persuasive youth pastor, and NOT scripture, cast that crap aside or ask, “Could you scripture-verse that for me, bro?” Every good thing comes from above, but “above” does not automatically offer you “every good thing” like we might think.
Our salvation is what is guaranteed if we are a follower of Christ. Anything more is a bonus that we most certainly should thank Him for, but it’s demand should never come from our lips. To be clear, Christ IS enough. Christ is MORE than enough. And I don’t mean that in some sort of metaphorical, generic, cliche sense. I mean that if you are suddenly Hellen Keller’ed, there is still a reason to rejoice. If you are a tortured prisoner of war until the day you die with no hope of escape, there is still a reason to hope. Let THAT message be the message our lives are marked by.
God never promised us a spouse, like many well-intending Christians would tell you, “God’s got someone planned for you.” Maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t, either way, Christ is sufficient.
God never promised us health. It is fundamentally illogical to consider this, as death is certain for all of us, and death rarely comes about in a humanly healthy way. Maybe we’re healthy, maybe we’re sick, either way, Christ is sufficient.
God never promised us ANY kind of earthly prosperity. He promised we would prosper in our hearts, free from the prison of guilt and shame that died with him on the cross. Maybe we’re well off, maybe we’re starving, either way, Christ is sufficient.
God never promised he would give us everything we need to survive. He promised he would give us everything we need to enjoy him forever. Maybe we live, maybe we die, either way, Christ is sufficient.
While we see this situation as Christ over the pleasures of the world, or the world over Christ, or in other words, trying to balance the weight of desire and struggling to making the Christ side heavier, God doesn’t even see a scale. He tells us “friendship with the world is enmity with God” (James 4:4) meaning it’s one or the other. He says the scale doesn’t exist, or throw away the scale and pick one. “It’s me or humanity” in other words. Don’t get me wrong: a prosperous life is not a sinful life. But the second it becomes a pursuit is the second we fail. When our life is marked by success chasing instead of eternal investment, we have wasted our life.
The greatest ministry tool our lives can show is joy in the pain, not treasure pleasure.
If I truly find my utmost joy in Christ alone and value him above life and death itself, what will stand in the way of that joy? My success or failure? My riches or poverty? My sustained or declined health? A happy marriage and family or dying alone as a single man? We find our unfaltering joy in what we value most. If I am downcast because my company is not doing so hot, I value it above Christ. If I am pissed off because someone just ripped off my Harley, I value it above Christ. If I am found depressed because I’m not yet married and everyone around me is, and is already having kids, I value those things above Christ. Anything less than placing Christ above all else – including your very health and well being, and the health and well being of those you love most – is idolatry. Are you prepared to lay down ANYTHING? Are you prepared to count the cost of following Christ?
- We are ASSURED of hardship.
“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12).
- We are ASSURED of the wages of self-sought living.
“For those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury” (Romans 2:8).
- But we are ASSURED of suffering’s profit.
“We REJOICE in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 5:3-5.
As an additional resource, please take the time to watch this video by John Piper: