About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Selling Prosperity


According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Canadian TV evangelist Len Lindstrom has preached what is called the Prosperity Gospel for 25 years.  He has persuasively preached prosperity to the degree that many of his followers are convinced God's will is for them to be blessed beyond measure with financial and material abundance.  Therefore, when he asked his supporters to invest in his gold mining company in Libya, many of them jumped at the opportunity to exercise their faith for profit.  How excited they must have been to know they were about to be millionaires.  Well, the millions never came.  The search for God's golden blessings ended in bankruptcy.  Everyone lost his investment.  Some people lost their life's savings.  Ironically, Lindstrom blamed the Libyan government for blocking God's blessing.  Although Lindstrom lost his investment, he still drives a luxury car and receives a reported $200,000.00 yearly salary from his incorporated ministry.  The business of preaching prosperity can be quite lucrative.   


In 2 Corinthians 2:17 the Apostle Paul said; "Unlike so many, we do not peddle the Word of God for profit".  Unlike Lindstrom, Paul's ministry wasn't so lucrative.  It actually knocked him out of the cultural, social, and financial, elite of his day.     


One thing that irritates me concerning western style Christianity is the business of ministry.  Apparently Paul felt the same irritation. The word "peddle" in 2 Corinthians 2:17 is translated from the Greek word "kapeleuo", which means "to sell".  The noun form of this word means "a retailer", as in, "a seller of the gospel for profit". 


Parts of our western world church have been heavily influenced by the Prosperity Gospel.  This false gospel states that we should expect abundance of wealth as part of the salvation package.  Wealth is ours for the taking.  If we don't take what is rightfully ours, we demonstrate a lack of faith. 


One prominent preacher of prosperity these days is Joel Osteen.  He goes as far to say that poor Christians can't effectively share the gospel because their lack of prosperity is a disincentive to the non-believer.  The Biblical fact is that material wealth is not the power of God that leads to salvation.  Material wealth is not the incentive we dangle before the non-believer to lure him to Jesus.  In fact, the gospel spread at a rapid pace across the first century  Roman Empire by poor disciples of Jesus.  One example of this is seen in 2 Corinthians 8:2 where Paul notes that the Macedonian believers lived in extreme poverty.            


Don't get me wrong.  I can make a Biblical case for the accumulation of wealth through hard work.  I can make a Biblical case for investing the wealth you've worked hard for.  I can also make a Biblical case for legitimate Bible teachers receiving appropriate remuneration for their services, but none of this is what prosperity preachers teach.    


From my vantage point, North American style Christianity and that which we call church looks more like a Fortune Five Hundred Corporation than the Body of Christ we're meant to be.  Notice what Jesus said about this in Revelation 3:17.  "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".  So I say, "Shame on those who profit from selling a false gospel, and, shame on those who have cashed in the community of Christ for the corporation we call church".  I say, "Pity the poor soul who has lost his life's savings in what has been disguised as God's blessings, and, pity those who don't understand the Bible sufficiently enough to avoid the pitfalls of false teaching".  Hosea was right.  God's people are destroyed because of lack of knowledge. (Hosea 4:6)   


Although you can find wealthy believers in the Bible, Jesus wasn't one of them.  He didn't even have his own bed to sleep in. (Matthew 8:20)   Paul, Peter, and most of the first generation saints weren't wealthy either.  Unlike preachers for profit today, those precious but poor first generation saints effectively preached the pure unadulterated gospel because they knew that Jesus alone was the power of God unto salvation. (1 Corinthians 1:24)  They didn't need to preach prosperity as an incentive to bring sinners to Christ.  Countless Christians throughout the centuries have led more productive Christian lives than many prosperity people live today, and that despite their poverty.  I suggest that the most dedicated and effective Christians today live in nations like Iran where their faith in Jesus prevents them from accumulating material wealth.    


This will sound harsh and religiously incorrect in some circles, but unless western world Christianity comes to its Biblical senses, Jesus will vomit it out of His mouth.  These words won't generate a $200,000.00 yearly salary for you.  They're not nice sounding words; and neither are they my words.  You see Jesus speaking these words in Revelation 3:16 to a materially rich but spiritually poor group of people who claim to be a body of believers.  Many of you may remember the words of this old hymn.  "I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold.  I'd rather have Jesus than riches untold "  I wonder if we really believe what we're singing.  


"What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul"? (Mark 8:36)  What shall it profit me if I embrace the buying and selling of a gospel that entices my sinful nature to lust after that which could possibly destroy my soul?  "We brought nothing into this world and it is certain we can carry nothing out". (1 Timothy 6:7)

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