Prosperity Gospel For Real
By Patrick Badstibner
As a retired landscape architect and artist who designed pools, outdoor rooms, unattached buildings, patios and driveways, I had the opportunity often depending on the homeowner’s budget to work with many real and artificial things. In fact, in design and architecture there is one word often seen and heard, the term F-A-U-X, meaning fake, often used.
The Reality of FAUX
It can be anything from a real stone, or clay pot, or one painted that way, to finishes on the house that seem real, but are often no more than styrofoam. You can also see this term used in other things like clothing, shoes, jewelry, so forth. Here is what one can be assured of, anything faux no matter how good it looks, no matter how attractive it is, no matter how dressed up it is or how real it looks, it is always an imitation, usually a cheapened fake version of the real and unquestionably a perversion and not in a good way of the real thing.
A FAUX Gospel
In an age of selfies, where magazine covers talk about how to be a better you, where commercials tell you constantly how to remake yourself, hold Hollywood stars and athletes up as examples of a happy, healthy, wealthy lifestyle, is it any wonder why those preaching the prosperity gospel message are indeed attracting so many to their message?
Let’s face it the biggest churches, the biggest conferences seem to be those spreading the message of how to have the life you have always wanted, be the person you were meant to be and how every day ought to be a Friday. In such messages, God is turned into someone who is there to make life easier to live and to make sure those promises he has given become reality in one’s life. God has indeed become our servant, rather than us being his beloved.
The Trouble With A FAUX Gospel
One of the many ways in which evil traps us, is by making what seems real, sound good, what sounds right seem to be truth, what appears to be truth become bedrocks, upon which we falsely build our lives. Yet, ultimately that bedrock is not solid rock, but sand (Matthew 7:24-27), that message of truth is not truth, but a deceptive lie, and what sounds real is actually faux and even worse…perverse.
Through this faux gospel we take the knowledge that God loves us and twist it into, He loves us for our sake and not because it pleases Him and for His sake. Even David before he closed out Psalm 23 said that, “He restores our souls and leads us in the path of righteousness for His sake.”
The Effects Of a FAUX Gospel
When the troubles, difficulties, dark nights, sun scorched, crazy maddening days of living on this little blue marble leave us tired, weary, weakened, looking for relief, looking for a reprieve, looking for anything that will bring us happiness in the midst of madness, some comfort, even if just a bit, in the midst of the pain simply in everyday living. We become susceptible to listening to those who tell us that God indeed does not want us to experience such things and all He wants us to know is happiness, wealth and health.
Sure sounds good, sure is encouraging, sure sounds like what a loving God would want. So, just like everything else, evil has encouraged us to choose to turn the message of the gospel into something about us. After all it is always about us, isn’t it?
WAIT – Don’t THINK We’re NOT ALL Swallowing
Now, before you think that is radical and that does not apply to me. I don’t buy into that prosperity gospel stuff, don’t be so quick to dismiss, for all of us have swallowed, even if just a gnat of this faux truth.
When we look at the link given above on the Wikipedia article on prosperity gospel we see this line, “The doctrine emphasizes the importance of personal empowerment (self-improvement, emphasis mine),” or might one say getting stronger, better, an improved version of ourselves.
Now, let’s put that in a different light, a light that those who are among more so called conservative teachers might say or word it. What would that look like, maybe something like this, “Have you set specific goals of work you want to carry out for God, improvements to make?”
Well there are two things to be asked here to decide whether this statement is true, “What is the purpose of the improvements?” and “What is the motivation behind such improvements?” These questions help us find whether this statement is faux or real, which in turn helps us decide whether we have swallowed a gnat of the faux gospel of prosperity.
So, What’s WRONG
This post is not dedicated to the errors of morality, legalistic, merit/ demerit teaching, we would need more space. However, to not touch on it at least briefly would allow the rest of us to be off the hook.
For, in truth all of us have too much thought in, “If I just improve in these areas, if I just change here, God will be happier, love me more and look upon me with greater favor.” We all at some point today will relate to God in a merit/demerit basis or someone else will be treated by us on such a basis.
The Size of the GNAT
Then there is the standard setting that all of us have said at one time or another “I’m getting better, I’m not who I used to be, getting stronger everyday,” while the holiness that is Christ in us should be becoming more clear to all every day, is the object of the Christian personal improvement, to boast that we are getting stronger, better, a more improved version of who we once were or something entirely different.
Often, teaching that takes God’s Word and makes it about our performance, places the focus more on what we are doing, how we are improving, how we are changing, how we are doing better and it sounds right, but when we look at verses like 2 Corinthians 3:4-6, we see it is not us that should be claiming personal improvement, but us who should be claiming that it is not us living this life, but Christ through us (Galatians 2:20).
It is not our strength that we should be boasting of, for it is not our glory, but Christ’s that is the point, 2 Corinthians 11:24-12:10. The size of the gnat we swallowed is determined by the degree that we make the Christian life about us and all of us do it.
REALITY AWAKENS WITH TRUTH
In Isaiah 46:9-11, Ezekiel 36:22, Ephesians 1:5-6, 2:7 we see that all God does, He does for His sake, just like what the Psalmist says above. This is the solid foundation upon which all others things should be built, all other things that give us the foundation for this journey we are on. Not to mention that everything we do Paul said in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “we should do for God’s glory.”
To Know Prosperity
YES, God does indeed want us to know prosperity, but not the prosperity that makes it about us, He wants us to be prosperous in glorifying Him, in making the most of Him.
He wants us to be prosperous in living out the gift of Christ’s righteousness (2 Corinthians 2:14-16), He wants us to be prosperous in being His hands of grace into the lives of others. He wants us to be prosperous in obedience and being his ambassadors to a very dark world (1 Peter 2:9) .
To Know Real Wealth
He indeed wants us to be wealthy, wealthy in His grace (Ephesians 3:14-21), wealthy in knowing the resurrected Christ (Philippians 3:8). He does indeed want us to be healthy, how much healthier can one get than being transformed from death to life (Colossians 2:13).
To Know Real Joy
He is continuing to transform us into who we were designed to be and how we were designed to know life, that we might know real joy. Not a faux form of happiness found in grabbing hold of and working to hold on to what are the sprinkles on the ice cream of life He is dreaming about for us, but a joy found in making the most of Him, in serving others in living out the vertical/horizontal relationship He has called us to.
HE WILL GRAB YOUR HEART
Today let’s enjoy experiencing the real prosperity that He has called us to, that comes not from making it about us, but HIM. Don’t worry, He’s even got it covered for when we choose those idols that bring instant gratification, rather than HIM (Ezekiel 14:1-5).