The Prosperity Gospel And An Unwelcoming Jesus

If something doing something to make the message of Jesus unwelcoming, then I’m doing something gravely wrong.
If something I’m doing or believing or saying makes the message of Jesus unwelcoming to the majority of the world, then I’m d
If something I’m doing or believing or saying makes the message of Jesus unwelcoming to the majority of the world, then I’m doing something gravely wrong.

I can see why some skeptics think believers are crazy. I mean, I talk to the Creator of the Universe about my day like it’s no big deal. I can see why that’s loopy to some people. I get it. I’m going to keep doing it, but I get it’s kinda weird too; the idea we get to be in a personal relationship with God is pretty cool and a little out there all rolled into one.

Here’s the question I ask God the most: What in the world are you doing?!

I ask him this when he surprises me with opportunities and crazy adventures.

I ask him this when friends die and couples divorce.

I ask him this when I’m happy and overjoyed.

I ask him this when I’m heartbroken and struggling.

He doesn’t always answer me. In fact, most of the time he doesn’t. But I get to ask him; I have the opportunity to engage with God in a conversation where I share my burdens or excitement and that is pretty awesome. I don’t pretend to comprehend how God can make beauty out of such brokenness, but I’ve seen him do it again and again. I don’t claim to understand how he can lavish such goodness on my life when I mess up every single day. And I’m not delusional enough to think I ever will.

I also don’t pretend to understand when people die too young, when kids get cancer, and when marriages implode. I don’t buy the “everything happens for a reason” excuse and I don’t find comfort in you saying it to me.

But I still trust God to redeem mess, broken hearts, death, and destruction.

But I still trust God to continue to amaze me with his provisions, his blessings, and his plans.

If I sit too long, I can easily focus on all the horrible things that have happened to me: miscarriage, death of friends, loss of income, marriage to a drug addict, friends trying to ruin our marriage, and things I don’t mention on the internet because they would damage other people too much or because I’m just a supporting character in the story and it’s not my place to share. But I can assure you when things look especially shiny on the outside, it just means you don’t have the whole story.

On the other hand, if I only look at the good parts of my life: the happy marriage, the healthy kids, the cute house, the work-from-home job, the two vehicles, the vacations, the friends, the food overflowing our pantry, the ability to live within our means and be debt-free, the great hair (that’s a joke), I begin to believe the lie that I deserve all these things and that the Gospel is about me having a good life.

But that’s not what the Gospel is about, and I often get that twisted because I live in America and I’m surrounded by a world that tells me how I “earned” that new shiny cell phone or those really expensive shoes. I’ve been convicted recently of how embedded in our culture those fallacies are and how important it is to make sure I don’t fall into that trap.

We don’t deserve anything.

Actually, that’s not true. We deserve death because of our sinful nature.

But because we serve a gracious and merciful God, he’s doesn’t give us what we deserve. Time and time again, we get better than we deserve. And that’s how I can best describe my life to someone else: a lot better than I deserve.

I recently read For the Love by Jen Hatmaker and her chapter on what the Gospel really promises completely shifted my perspective. I’ve often struggled with people that preach the prosperity gospel (the idea that God wants us to be rich and drive nice cars and live in big houses) for many, many reasons, but one of them is because so much of the world doesn’t live with that wealth and my God is their God too. So what does that say about God when people struggle with finances? Or don’t own multiple cars? Or live in a shack in South Africa? Or aren’t rolling in dough?

Well, the truth is, it doesn’t say anything about God. But it does say a lot about me and how I misinterpret the point of the Gospel.

A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough.

But if it’s only money these leaders are after, they’ll self-destruct in no time. Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after.

But you, Timothy, a man of God: Run for your life from all this. Pursue a righteous life―a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith. Seize the eternal live, the life you were called to, the life you so fervently embraced in the presence of so many witnesses.     I Timothy 6:6-12, The Message

In Hatmaker’s book, she says she uses the Haitian single mother test. If someone tells you something about the Gospel and it can be true for you and a single mother in Haiti, then it’s the Gospel. But if someone tells you something about God rewarding hard work with money, or that we deserve nice clothes and new cars, or that my vacation is because I love God enough. THOSE THINGS ARE WRONG. That is not the Gospel.

Because the Gospel is for everyone. Jesus and his death on the cross is for everyone. He doesn’t change his promise, his love, his grace, or his mercy based on our geographical location. Grace is grace.

Reading her words (that she says so much better than I, so just read the book), rocked my world. So much of what I’ve always thought about Jesus was because I was an American following Jesus. I’m a white, middle-class, educated, Jesus follower. Those are some hard obstacles to overcome when I’m looking at what real wealth in Jesus is. Those are some huge barricades to get past when I live in a culture all about encouraging me to reward myself for my hard work, my “busy” life, and my growing bank account.

Believing those lies makes the Gospel inaccessible for millions and millions of people.

If something I’m doing or believing or saying makes the message of Jesus unwelcoming to the majority of the world, then I’m doing something gravely wrong.

That is shameful.

What in the world are you doing, Lord? I say it all the time. When there’s good I’m celebrating or when there’s heartache I’m having trouble leaving behind. Sometimes I wish he would just, clear as day, answer my question and let me in on the plan. That has yet to happen though which is why I’m sitting in my office writing to you and not in the loony bin. I don’t know why I have so much and others have so little. I don’t know why Christ followers who are doing Kingdom work I can’t even fathom die young and I get to sit in my comfortable house and write little stories with a full belly in a comfortable chair.

Just some more things I’ve got to discuss with Jesus when we get to heaven. Until then, I’ll keep wrestling with my preconceived notions and asking for wisdom when I feel so lost. Oh, and praising him regardless. Because I can do that one without all the answers.