I ended my last post with a question. How are so many Christian leaders able to get people to place their hopes on things that God has never directly promised them? Prosperity ministers are able to convince us that God has promised us things that He hasn’t promised by preying on our normal desires. Of course, we would all like wealth, greater health, to prosper at our jobs and in our community. Those things aren’t bad. There is nothing wrong with having those things or working hard to try to get them. We have to remember though that they are not promised to us by God. It also means that a life filled with contentment that is productive and pleasing to God is possible without those things as well. When ministers lead people to believe that our natural desires are actually God-ordained rights, problems arise. They seek to convince us that God wants us to have the things we want, because that’s what a good God would do.
But is it?
A similar question would be: do parents want everything for their kids that the kids want for themselves? I have a two year old that has a pretty good appetite. His favorite food currently is yogurt, which is ok, because most yogurt is relatively good for you. If he had his way, he would enjoy yogurt for every meal, and for all snacks in between. We don’t allow that, not because we don’t love him, but precisely because we do. That much yogurt wouldn’t be good for him. He doesn’t know that, but we do, and so loving him looks like giving him what he needs rather than just what he wants.
It’s a simplistic analogy, but God does much the same for us. A loving God would never give us everything we want. In fact, think back to when you were 16 years old and list the things that you wanted very badly. Aren’t you glad you didn’t get all of those things? Hoping for things is good, wanting things is fine as well. As a Christian one of the things that gives me most comfort, however, is that I can discuss my desires with God knowing that He knows and wants what’s best for me. It’s good to know that he might say no to something that I might want, because He knows it wouldn’t be best for me in the long run.
At the heart of the prosperity message is an arrogance that assumes that I know exactly what is best for me. I have some ideas, but in the end, God knows better. My friends might at times know what’s best for me. The government may claim to know what’s best for me, but God truly and consistently can be trusted to know what is best for me at all times. In fact, the entire Christian life is really a submitting to that one truth. God knows better. God knows what I need and is also aware of what I want. So, I choose to trust Him, even when it feels like it goes against something that I thought was best.
I hope that helps us understand why the prosperity message is so intoxicating. But it doesn’t explain how some leaders are able to get followers to purchase jets, opulent houses, and stadium size buildings for them in the name of God and the gospel message. That will be the focus of the next post.