Thursday, February 19, 2009

Right on the Money!

I recently found an article on titled "Right on the Money!" By Tom Dooley Ph.D. It was a very insightful article about the erroneous teachings of the prosperity gospel. This article is not trying to say that God does not want to bless His children, but rather that this message has been taken to an extent that God never intended it to be taken to. God never told us we had to take a vow of poverty to follow Him, but he also didn't tell us that we would all be as rich as Solomon either.

The preachers who preach this message often work their best to live a very affluent lifestyle that will help to inspire others to give to them. People tend to look up to them because of the money that they throw around. The Bible warns about following after money, and Dooley gives several examples early in his article: Ecclesiastes 5:10-11, Luke 12:15 and Luke 6:20-21, 24-25, 30.

Dooley says...
When Jesus was living as a man on this planet, did He live like a wealthy king? Did the forerunner John-the-baptizer live like a wealthy king? Did any of the founding apostolic-prophetic leaders of the Church live like a wealthy king? Oh, please listen! Some well-intentioned Charismatics express at this time, "I’m a child of the King, so I’m going to live like a prince (or princess)!" It is hard to defend Biblically this concept of a "nice God who is our ‘buddy’ and onlyprospers us" that is percolating through much of contemporary theology.

As Dooley points out, Jesus was an itinerant prophet-teacher without a home of his own. There were occasions when women who travelled with him met his financial needs. But let's not forget about John-the-baptizer in all of this. According to Matthew 3:4 "John's clothes were made of camel's hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey." Yeah, a real affluent guy there.

I have referred to the apostles in a previous post, they definitely did not live like kings. They had a compelling call to get the gospel out to the world, so they scattered and they all were tortured and beaten. Most of them were killed for the Gospel. How does being a sojourning martyr measure up to living like a prince?

Dooley mentions that there is wisdom in asking God to meet our needs. As a father, I couldn't help but to think of my toddler who doesn't really understand the difference between "need" and "want". She tells me that she NEEDS a cookie or to watch TV. Have we as Christians become so very immature that we do not understand the difference between our needs and wants anymore? Have we forgotten the Lord's prayer? Have we forgotten how God took care of the Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years? If you think about the fact that they had riches as they left, remember the fact that they were slaves for hundreds of years, God just finally got them just compensation for their labor. Remember the early church took care of each other's needs. People sold land to cover the needs of others. This wasn't putting up your mortgage to be surety on a fancy multi-million dollar structure. This was covering the gospel being preached and basic human needs of people.

Dooley says...

I like to remind myself that the really valuable things in life are Faith, Family, and Friends. The Creator’s blessings of prosperity are not measured primarily by wealth, although wealth can be one of the components of His blessings. If we judge by our natural eyes coupled to our greedy minds, we can be easily deceived. Many in the West live under the illusion of blessing, simply because they happen to live in affluence. But, it is a veneer! "You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent." (Revelation 3:17-19). The church of Laodicea in Revelation chapter 3 epitomizes our current Western worldview that elevates affluence. We are to obtain spiritual "gold refined by fire", meaning that which is virtuous and of eternal value. We are to obtain spiritual "white clothing", meaning that which is pure, forgiven, and redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb. And, we are to apply spiritual "eye salve" so as to have the "eyes of our hearts" healed to correctly
see the truth rather than deception or the illusion of blessing. It is my observation that few living in the West have this insight at present. Therefore, Revelation 3 says we need to be earnest and to repent. Our priorities must change!

Dooley reminds us of how Christians in other countries across the world are suffering for Jesus Christ. People have lost everything and yet God is prospering them. How can a person be prosperous and in poverty? Dooley says, "Prosperity that comes from God should not be viewed mono-dimensionally as: prosperity = financial blessings. Let’s not be short sighted in understanding the breadth of the meaning of Biblical prosperity. "

I had to chuckle as I read, "What a shame if we’re following Him just because we want Jesus to hand us a microphone, or a large bank account, or an annual ministry budget in the millions, or a Rolls Royce car, or a mansion on the lake, or a book contract, or our own television station. " Because I can just see some Prosperity Gospel preacher saying these days "Do you need a spiritual bailout? Give me a seed offering and watch God give you that bailout of a hundred-fold." Anyone notice that with those preachers it always seems that the offering you give them will ALWAYS return one hundred-fold. They always go for the top number, because they hope to fool more people with a bigger blessing. Let me remind you that Paul turned down an offering from the Corinthians because he did not want to give any kind of appearance that he was peddling the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Dooley says...

It should be noted that the principles of return-on-investment for the seed-of-faith sown each have a legitimate Biblical basis. It can be supported by Scripture, but only as principles. However, they are not assured specific promises for a specific circumstance. Often the anticipated rewards are not realized by the "seed" donors. They think unwisely in advance, "I’ll give this seed to the man-of-God, and I expect to receive that reward from God." This can be a disheartening reality. It can produce disappointments, because it is built on a faulty foundation. Biblical principles are not guarantees of a particular outcome for an individual in a particular circumstance. They are general patterns, not specific assurances or insurance policies. This errant thinking can and does destroy hope, because the hope was in the wrong person, place, or thing.

Dooley reminds us that now is the time to act. We as Christians must stand up for "the Whole Counsel of the Lord". If we do not, then the secular public arena will. When the Senate investigates these ministries, it makes ALL Christians look bad. When their families expose themselves to undercover officers it makes ALL Christians look bad. We must take care of this ourselves. Nobody said it would be easy, and nobody said we can end this blight today. But we must pray that God would open the eyes of people who are in these churches. We must pray that God would turn the hearts of these "ministers". We must try to reach out in love to those trapped in these churches. We can make a difference one day at a time, one person at a time. Most people will not respond right away, but we must continue to pray for them. These churches are very cult-like in nature, so it takes time to break through the brainwashing. When you leave a church like this, be vocal about why you are leaving. Preach the errors from the rooftops. Do whatever you can to help others avoid the trap of following these so-called "men-of-God".

Dooley encourages us to search out effective and efficient ministries to give to. Just please stop feeding the beast of the prosperity preachers.

All quotes were used with the authors permission.  Tom Dooley also told me that this article is a chapter in his upcoming book "Half-Truths are Lies".