Thanks to TIN ZAW MIN for posting this excellent article.
“Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he shall receive a hundred times as much now isn the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.” Mark 10:29-31
Did Jesus promise his followers wealth and health if they would become Christians? After all, didn’t God say in the Law Covenant that if one observes all these “commandments,” one is promised, “Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store” (Deuteronomy 28:5). God even said, “And prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10).
Even the Apostle Paul cited the Law of Moses to justify the servants of the Gospel receiving assistance. “For it is written in the Law of Moses, ‘You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.’” (1 Corinthians 9:8, 9). Paul also wrote to Timothy about “the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17). Isn’t God just waiting to give us all the riches we could possibly think we need? “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
Attraction of the “Prosperity Gospel”
What is so appealing about the “Prosperity Gospel” today? In the United States one need only to turn on the TV any day of the week to hear and see an excited televangelist preaching the gospel of temporal prosperity. All one needs to do is “Give to God.” Then God supposedly will bless them with much greater amounts of money than they could ever imagine! As observed by The New York Times, “Even in an economic downturn, preachers in the ‘prosperity gospel’ movement are drawing sizable, adoring audiences. Their message—if you have sufficient faith in God and the Bible and donate generously, God will multiply your offerings a hundredfold—is reassuring to many in hard times.”
International Spread of “Prosperity Gospel”
This phenomenal teaching is internationally gaining millions of enthusiastic followers yearly. The “Prosperity Gospel” is inspiring some of the largest mega churches and evangelical crusades in the history of modern Christianity. In India, crowds of half a million have gathered to hear evangelists call for a new age of health, prosperity, and wealth among Christians.
One concerned church researcher Andrew Strom (as reported in allAfrica.com) said, “The whole of Africa is being infected and I mean on epidemic scale.” He encouraged “church leaders to rise up and wage a courageous war against the prosperity gospel.” He noted:
“This type of gospel is used by selfish pastors who want to take advantage of desperate Christians by asking them to sow a financial seed so as to get financial blessings. The majority of these preachers live extravagantly while their flock wallows in poverty. This is not a small problem—it is enormous. Right across the continents of Africa, Asia and South America…”
The ministers who preach prosperity often have become multi-millionaires themselves because of those “Giving to God.” They live in mansions, drive luxurious cars and fly around the world in their private jets. One of these very successful ministers has a “broadcast [which] reaches 134 countries, and the ministry’s income is about $100 million annually” (NYTimes, Aug.16, ’08)
Meanwhile, the US Senate Finance Committee is investigating allegations of questionable spending and lax financial accountability by at least six televangelists who preach some form of the “Prosperity Gospel.” (Christianity Today, January 13, 2010)
Did Christianity Cause the Crash?
Christians anticipating to be blessed financially overextended themselves in mortgages on bigger houses—which the lenders were so willing to give anyway. Then unable to meet their mortgage payments— bankruptcy imploded on them. Atlantic Monthly (Dec. 2009) comments:
“America’s mainstream religious denominations used to teach the faithful that they would be rewarded in the afterlife. But over the past generation, a different strain of Christian faith has proliferated—one that promises to make believers rich in the here and now. Known as the prosperity gospel, and claiming tens of millions of adherents, it fosters risk-taking and intense material optimism. It pumped air into the housing bubble. And one year into the worst downturn since the Depression, it’s still going strong.”
Jesus Supposed to be Wealthy
Prosperity preachers point to Jesus as a baby when he was brought luxurious gifts of “gold, frankincense and myrrh.” During his ministry when Jesus was asked by Andrew and John, “Where are you staying,” Jesus answered, “Come, and you will see.” They “stayed with him that day for it was about the tenth hour” (John 1:37-40). It is claimed Jesus brought a whole crowd of people to stay the night with him in his large mansion, not just the two who spoke to him.
The Roman soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ garments as he hung on the cross (John 19:23). His clothes, it is argued, therefore, were very luxuriously valuable. So, of course, it would be fine for Christian ministers—and their wives—to wear expensive clothing and jewelry also!
Jesus for our Sakes’ Became Poor
However, Jesus’ garments for which the soldiers cast lots was probably one handmade robe made by a devoted follower—much like the valuable handmade ointment poured on Jesus’ feet by Mary. Besides, this casting of lots was a fulfillment of prophecy! (See Psalm 22:18) During Jesus’ ministry when one inquired about following him, Jesus warned him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Luke 9:58). Jesus didn’t actually have his own residence—even though he was often invited to lodge in the home of Simon in Bethany (Matthew 21:17).
The gifts of “gold, and frankincense, and myrrh” for the Babe Jesus from the “wise men” would certainly be evidence the “wise men” were rich! (Matthew 2:1-11) Providentially, Mary and Joseph with the babe Jesus, no doubt, were then able to live off the value of these gifts in Egypt because of the decree by Herod to kill all babies (Matthew 2:16). Joseph had left his business in Nazareth, and had to support his family in Egypt for at least two years before returning home.
Of course, Jesus was rich as the Logos before he came to earth and was “made flesh” (John 1:14). But then he became “poor” by sacrificing even the human comforts of life—and finally life itself! “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:8-9).
Jesus Taught his Followers
So when may we “become rich”? In this life? Does God want us to be rich now? Jesus warned of the “deceitfulness of riches” (Mark 4:19). What did Jesus teach his followers? Jesus clearly advocated treasures in heaven:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
Jesus told the “rich young ruler” to give to the poor—not to himself or his Apostles. Then, knowing human nature, Jesus observed that it would be very difficult for any rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven by following him.
“‘One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess, and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.’ But when he had heard these things, he became very sad; for he was extremely rich. And Jesus looked at him and said, ‘How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’” Luke 18:22-25
Law Covenant with Israel Promised Prosperity
Now by contrast, if the children of Israel would “diligently obey” God, “The LORD will make you abound in prosperity” (Deuteronomy 28:1, 11). To the extent they kept the 613 laws of Moses, they were blessed with temporal blessings (including lots of children)! Should Christians attempt to keep these laws to be blessed with earthly prosperity?
No, rather than seeking prosperity, Christians are invited to give their lives as a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). While they give their all to God—they receive back their possessions as a stewardship responsibility (Matthew 25:14-30). Each Christian is obligated to “provide for his own” (1 Timothy 5:8) what is decent and “honest in the sight of all” (Romans 12:17). Seeking “first the Kingdom of heaven,” he is not to be worried about what to eat or wear (Matthew 6:31-34).
Apostle Paul’s Admonitions on Money
Paul—who supported himself as a tent maker—advised his spiritual son Timothy about money:
“Be content…those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang.” 1 Tim 6:7-10
A Christian should not plan to give money to the preacher in order to gain many-fold in return for bigger and better houses and automobiles….
“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:13
Unfortunately, too many Christian leaders throughout the whole Gospel Age have set a poor example of moderation, living well above the standard of living of the common folk. Now at “the end of the age” the false system even declares “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing.’ But Jesus says to those who claim to be his followers, “[You] do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17). Ironically, it is during this same end of the age, that a very visible minority of Christian leaders have stirred up the interest of some believers to seek literal prosperity, ignoring the admonitions of Jesus to true Christians—deny yourself, take up your cross and followed me” (Matthew 16:24).
The True Gospel—for All
The good news of the true Gospel was first preached “beforehand to Abraham, saying, All nations shall be blessed in you” (Galatians 3:8,16). God did not exaggerate His Plan when He said “all.” Nor is He incompetent to make it happen. That “seed” of blessing would be like the “stars of heaven” and also the “sand upon the seashore”—both heavenly and earthly (Genesis 22:17).
The heavenly Seed—Jesus with his Church—is first being prepared to bless. The “anointed” members his Bride suffer all the things “common to man”—sickness, sorrow, poverty (2 Corinthians 1:21; 1 Corinthians 10:13). Why? So that in the Kingdom they can be sympathetic rulers mediating as “kings and priests” between the rest of earth’s billions and
God (Revelation 1:6; 5:10) as part of the Bride of Christ. When the unsaved of humanity return to life on earth during the thousand years, Satan will be bound to “deceive the nations no more.” (Revelation 20:3). All human beings will then have their first real opportunity to obey God’s righteousness—and live prosperously forever! They will be gradually blessed with health and earthly abundance
Hundred-fold Blessings—then Life Eternal
In the meantime, the Church is still being pruned and chiseled and prepared to reign. Although the Christians may have to leave their families’ opinions and preferences to follow Jesus—they will be compensated “a hundred-fold” with a spiritual family! They will be warmly welcomed into other Christians’ houses—even though they may be persecuted by the worldly.
The deprivations now suffered by the Church in the flesh “are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).