A few folks who know my "sordid past" (ORU student!) know what I feel about churches that lead their flocks astray with the Health & Wealth or Prosperity Gospel.
Someone on an email list today asked for responses to the recent Time Magazine article "Does God Want You to be Rich?"
Here's a slightly edited version of what I said back to the group:
I glanced at the article when it first appeared, but didn't take the time to read it thoroughly until today--thanks for the reminder. Interesting also, after attending the Women's retreat, where we heard from Ecclesiastes that the end result of "getting lots of stuff" was just to leave it to others.Got just a bit snarky at the end, I fear.
Comment on the article:"Its signature verse could be John 10:10: 'I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.' "
In my experience, the driving verse was more likely 3 John 2: "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." (KJV, the way I heard it in the 1970's in faith churches.)
Folks I heard preaching and teaching back then really latched onto the prospering and health, assuming that, because they said so, their souls were also prospering. I've never heard a clear description of a prosperous soul, but I certainly saw few of them in the prosperity movement. Mostly, I saw lots of frustrated people trying to understand why they weren't receiving all that they had asked of God.
Two anecdotes on wealth and prosperity:
1. As an undergrad at Oral Roberts University, I arrived really believing that God wanted to bless me and that He would give to me in proportion to what I returned to Him. I also knew that it was critical to SPEAK, not just believe, the words of faith that God had given us. SAY (not pray) "I AM healed" etc. (Watch for that whenever you hear a faith preacher/teacher.)
What I started to see in the required ORU classes was that the Health & Wealth, or "Name It and Claim It" gospel demanded that God take a certain course of action because we spoke a certain formula of words. It seemed as if God were expected to be my butler, and a butler that would cater to my whims, not provide what was best for me. If Jesus could speak death to a fig tree, I could speak life to an overheated engine.
With no small contribution from Izzy, I began to see that what I was being taught utterly denied the sovereignty of God. The prosperity doctrine made no allowances for circumstances that I perceived as negative, other than to blame them on what MUST be my own doubt (double-mindedness) or sin. This movement was disregarding"Thy will be done." Working on an oncology floor allowed me to see incredible grace and the presence of God in suffering; I saw great joy in acceptance of God's will by some and great dismay in others whose families kept "speaking against" their cancer. These experiences finally led me to transfer schools.
2. Izzy & I have a friend who has entered the Novitiate with the Missionary Society of St. Paul. After the completion of this year, he expects to make his initial promises (vows) of Celibacy, Obedience and Simplicity. His order believes that no one with health insurance can truly be called poor, so they do not take a vow of poverty.
So, does God want us to be rich? I think He wants us to be generous, faithful, grateful, etc., with and for whatever He gives us. I think that far more of us are "rich" than recognize it, and that we do far less than we ought to alleviate the suffering of those who have less than we do. Those who focus only on God's material blessing of us miss the point.
And when I see the Joel Osteen Homeless shelter open up next door to the Creflo A. Dollar free clinic, I'll re-think that last sentence.