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Prosperity Theology Offends Me

November 23, 2011

From New Philadelphia Church in Seoul: “Increasing Your Capacity to Receive – 2 Kings 4.”

http://www.newphiladelphiachurch.com/podcast/2010/2011.11.20.sun%20-%20Increasing%20Your%20Capacity%20to%20Receive%20%28Itaewon%29%20-%20el.mp3

She has passion. Reminds me of Joel Osteen a bit…

The best parts are when she takes the focus off of herself.

How the Bible views money.

Mark Driscoll often speaks of the difference between prosperity and poverty theologies. This sermon touched on both. Driscoll says (http://marshill.com/media/luke/the-parable-of-the-dishonest-manager/not-poverty-or-prosperity-theology):

  • Prosperity Theology is wrong – God doesn’t give more and more and more because we deserve it – in fact, we don’t.
  • Poverty Theology is also wrong – God doesn’t call us to poverty to make us holy – in fact, it doesn’t.

There are only four options when concerning blessing and money:

  1. Righteous rich – who become rich in an honorable, godly way, and who use their riches for God’s glory.
  2. Unrighteous rich – who become rich dishonestly, and who use their riches for themselves.
  3. Righteous poor – who are poor, but hardworking and fear God, and still give to God out of their poverty.
  4. Unrighteous poor – who focus on their poverty, blame God for it, covet, and keep all they can to themselves.

Which one are you?

Prosperity Theology offends me.

I have to admit, I was a bit offended by some of her comments – like this: “Do you guys know that sometimes we settle for not-God’s-provision? But for less? And when you walk around in the spirit of lack, you say, ‘Oh, man! God has provided!’ And you look at this itty-bitty little thing, and you say, ‘Hallelujah! Man, God has provided!’ And you pick that up and it’s poisonous? ‘Cause God always actually intended for you to have more?”

I was offended mainly because of that idea: “Sometimes we settle for less than God’s provision.” What’s her point there? That we “settle” for God’s provision? Or that God’s provision isn’t adequate? It’s my understanding that all of God’s provision – great and small – is adequate. And I don’t necessarily think that finding joy in small things is “settling” for them.

She did go on to say, “And when you walk around in the spirit of lack, you say, ‘Oh, man! God has provided!’ And you look at this itty-bitty little thing, and you say, ‘Hallelujah! Man, God has provided!’ And you pick that up and it’s poisonous? ‘Cause God always actually intended for you to have more?”

Spirit of “lack” or Spirit of humility?

There is a big distinction to be made between a spirit of “lack” as she calls it, and a spirit of humility. What exactly is a “spirit of lack”? Does that mean that we think we don’t deserve good stuff?

A spirit of humility on the other hand doesn’t think about what we deserve at all – rather it puts the focus on others. (Which is why I love it when she takes the focus off of herself and her stuff – her money, her new blazer, her large apartment – those were the key points that stuck with me after listening.)

When I walk around in a spirit of humility and look at an itty-bitty thing the Lord has provided – which he didn’t need to provide at all, because I didn’t even take it to him in prayer – and I say, “Hallelujah! Man, God has provided!” Of course I will pick that thing up and count it as a blessing – not because I suffer from a spirit of “lack” – but because it was an undeserved gift regardless of the size of it. I love God’s blessings, great and small.

“What if God actually intended for you to have more?”

She might argue (as she did), “What if God actually intended for you to have more?” In this case, I find myself taking one of two directions:

  1. Brushing that comment aside entirely because even the small gift that God gave me was something undeserved and unasked for.
  2. Pondering that comment at length, and wondering if it might be true. If only I’d held out a little longer…If only I’d prayed about it harder…If only I hadn’t “settled…” And then I’d find discontentment – even bitterness – creeping in to my view about God because he had provided a small gift, when he really wanted to give me a big gift? What kind of God is that? I’d wonder. Why would he give me this small thing, when he really wanted to give me more? Is he testing me? When will I ever know if the “more” I’m waiting for is enough? If I wait it out, and get “more” – then will that STILL be “less” than his TRUE intention for my life? You can see how this could turn into a circular pattern of logic and waiting.

And that’s why I like the verse from Timothy:
1 Timothy 6:6: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

Yes, I “settled.” But not for “less.”

At some point, we ALL settle for something – even billionaires settle for billions. I’d rather settle for less, be content and satisfied in God’s provision, than wait and wait and wait for more and more and more that may never come.

Case in point: a coworker of mine just delivered me a case of her home brewed beer – out of the blue. Should I accept that as God’s gift? Or should I wait for more?

Another: I needed an air-con this summer, and was planning to purchase one. I know my budget wouldn’t allow a high priced one. My parents offered to give me a good chunk of money (not the full price) for one. But, as we considered it, we were offered a used one – for FREE. Now, which should I consider as God’s provision? If I accept the free one (that still works well), does that mean that I’m settling for “less than God’s will”? Should I have accepted my parents’ money instead and bought a new one? Or should I have waited it out longer, complained to my parents about the heat and asked them for more money to buy an even better one? But what about this year? If only I’d waiting a little longer for this year, there will be newer models available this summer and I could have gotten an even better one!… Again, you can see the circular logic here.

Did Jesus “settle for less”?

And what of Jesus? Was he settling for “less” when he died on the cross? Here’s the logic:

If Jesus considered God’s will for his life to be one of more, more, more, don’t you think he would have questioned God’s decision to send him to the cross to die for us? If Jesus suffered from a spirit of “lack” wouldn’t he have too quickly accepted God’s offer of death on a cross? If only he’d waited a little longer to see God’s TRUE intentions, he might have avoided death on the cross. Perhaps God could have given him “more” and had him killed by beheading – far quicker and more humane a death than death on a cross. Or, if he’d just waited longer, held out for more, prayed for more, perhaps God could have spared his life completely and found a different way to pay for the sins of the world. Again, when is God’s provision enough?

Here’s a great verse to sum up Jesus’ life:
Philippians 2:8
   And being found in appearance as a man,
      he humbled himself
   by becoming obedient to death—
      even death on a cross!

Jesus didn’t suffer from a spirit of “lack” when he took the cross upon his shoulders. But he did suffer (if it can be called that) from a spirit of humility. We should all aspire to be so great humble.

Afterthought

But, I do have to say that the best point she made throughout the sermon was that we have to be open to receiving. As she mentioned (and as is true), sometimes we think we are so undeserving of something that we can’t bring ourselves to accept it at all. That’s wrong. We do need to be open to receiving – whatever God provides.

If THAT was the whole point of her sermon, then I apologize for my lengthy breakdown of her minor points. But, my major point is, accept whatever God provides with contentment, and don’t wait around for more with an attitude of “because I deserve it.”

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