Tuesday, 22 March 2011

In Whom do you trust?

One day Jesus was met by a rich young ruler who wanted to know how to inherit eternal life. Jesus spoke to him and reminded him of some of the commandments, to which the young man replied that he had always been careful to keep these commands of God. Then Jesus put His finger on the real issue in his life, by telling Him to give all he had away to the poor and follow Him.  It then goes to say that “When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy.”(Luke 18: 23) 

I have heard this verse quoted many times to justify a wrong doctrine that Christians should possess nothing, but that misses the point of the story. The issue was not that the young man had wealth, but that the wealth had him. His trust was in his riches and his position and Jesus’ instruction would have meant a transfer of his faith onto God as his source and provider. The question Jesus was really asking him was; "will you put your trust in me?" We would undoubtedly describe the young man as materialistic.

The thing is, you don’t have to be rich to be materialistic, in fact some of the poorest people I have met have been the most materialistic of all. I have seen people who clearly have very little in terms of wealth queue up to buy a lottery ticket on a Friday afternoon, in the vain hope that a huge windfall would make them happy. I have seen people seemingly give up all common sense in order to participate in some get rich quick scheme to get hold of the possessions they so crave after. Even more sadly, I have seen ministers of the gospel compromise their integrity and fail to confront unrighteousness in their own church, out of fear of losing their job and security. The Bible tells us that it is faith that pleases God (Hebrews 11:1), and faith means that we trust Him as our source no matter what the prevailing circumstances might be.

Jesus told us that it is the pagans that worry about and chase after wealth. He instructs us to seek after His government in our lives and His righteousness, which is by faith, and all the things that the world worries about and seeks after, God would supply to us anyway. (Matthew 6:25-33)

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Not Enough, Just Enough or More than Enough?

Most people have a problem with what they term as “the prosperity gospel,” because they see it as just a pretext for Christians to chase after money and feather their own nests, so to speak. There are some for whom that accusation is probably true, but the problem is that the proverbial baby is often thrown out with the bathwater as Christians shun wealth and embrace the gospel (?) of poverty instead.

However, choosing to live your life in lack, because you don't understand that God wants you to prosper is more selfish and destructive than you may think. Let me explain.

If you hear someone pray like this…”Don’t give me too much Lord, just enough for me and my family.” Who is that person primarily concerned about? It may sound pious and holy, but it is in fact completely self centred and misses the heart of the gospel. If you have just enough for you and your family how can you meet the needs of others? How can you give to the poor what you do not have yourself? What hope can you give to others when the only hope you have is of just surviving? How does the “just enough for me” mentality fit in with a message of abundance that Paul preached? (2 Corinthians 9:8)

Why does God want you to prosper financially? Why does He want you to have more than enough for your needs? Quite simply so that you can be a blessing and meet the needs of others. It is important for you to know this as it will help you to have faith that God will not only meet your needs, but will go above and beyond, so that you are blessed and can also bless others. It will help you to give to God cheerfully and willingly, knowing that He who gives seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply the seed you have sown and bring increase and abundance into your life. (2 Corinthians 9:7-11)

Good News for the Poor?

A few weeks ago a friend of mine posted a ten minute video clip of a well known Christian author attacking, what he called, “the prosperity gospel.” This particular author has , I believe, sold hundreds of thousands of books, and I could be wrong, but I doubt that he is struggling to keep a roof over his head. That aside, I cannot understand how someone who is apparently well versed in the scriptures could attack one of the fundamental elements of Jesus’ ministry, by claiming that financial or material prosperity is not God’s will for people’s lives. In fact I believe that one would have to twist, misinterpret or miss out completely large portions of scripture to try and justify the claim that God is not interested in the financial and material well being of His children.

It is important to completely debunk these wrong teachings which have been perpetuated over the years, resulting in many Christians being kept in poverty all their lives, wrongly believing that it was the will of God. The Bible clearly teaches that God wants to bring people out of poverty and into abundance, so that not only will their needs be met, but they will be able to meet the needs of others also.

So lets begin with the first major statement that Jesus makes about His ministry in Luke chapter 4 and verse 18.

“ The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;

Jesus came with GOOD NEWS, for that is the meaning of the word “gospel,” and the first people he mentioned were THE POOR. Let me save you some time at this point by letting you know that the Greek word translated into English as “poor,” means financially and materially poor. It is used 34 times in the New Testament and overwhelmingly refers to people who are living in material lack, such as beggars and widows. In other words those in dire financial straights.

If that is the case then what would be good news for these people? Well I have heard some utter nonsense preached on this verse over the years. Things such as “poor people are actually being blessed by God by their poverty,” in other words, they are in some kind of spiritually enviable position by being poor. “Wow brother so and so, you are so blessed that you can’t afford to pay your rent and you don’t know where your next meal is coming from. God must really love you” I am sure brother so and so would really thank you for those words of wisdom and comfort(sic).

On the contrary God wants to meet the needs of those in lack, to feed the hungry and to clothe the naked, even to pay the tax bill of the one who cannot afford it (Matthew 17:27)

The GOOD NEWS for the poor is this…God wants to release you from your poverty, plain and simple. Is God interested in your financial needs? Yes He is. Let us stop trying to over spiritualise this simple truth and miss the point. In the days ahead I plan to continue on this theme. As I do so, I hope that a new light will dawn in your life, especially if you have believed a lie concerning God’s ability and desire to provide for your physical needs. I believe in a gospel of prosperity because prosperity is at the heart of the gospel.