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The Prosperity Gospel And The Laodiceans


In this article I'd like to show how I think Jesus feels about the prosperity gospel as it has come to be  known.  I'd also like to state the Biblical alternative to this teaching.  


A man named Reverend Ike recently died. He was one of the early promoters of the prosperity teaching. He claimed that Jesus was a capitalist.  He also said that Christians should be swimming up to their armpits in green.  That's green as in money.  Many prosperity teachers tell us that we should expect, almost demand, excessive material prosperity from Jesus.   I often envision the apostle Paul shaking his head at this teaching as he sat tied in chains in some archaic prison.  If he could see us now, I imagine him thinking, " and I gave up all things and counted them as dung for the sake of Christ so these guys can accumulate great wealth?"        


I think we get a clue to how Jesus feels about these things in Revelation 3:14 to 22.  The Laodiceans must have believed in the prosperity gospel.  I don't think they're much different from many segments of our western church today.  To put it mildly, Jesus wasn't very happy with the church at Laodicea . 


In Revelation 3:15 Jesus says, "I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish that you were either one or the other!  So, because  you are lukewarm I am about to spit you out of my mouth."  That doesn't sound like the meek and mild Jesus I learned about in Sunday school.  I'd suggest that some of the over-simplistic Sunday school material we use to teach our children doesn't really represent who Jesus is.  Anyway, Jesus introduced Himself to these people in verse 14 as "the ruler of God's creation".  That's the Jesus we  should teach our children about. 


Verses 17 and 18 tell us why this church was lukewarm.  The church boasted of being "rich, wealthy, and in need of nothing."  That sounds like the prosperity gospel to me. 


Jesus responds to this church's material prosperity by saying, "you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked."  Obviously, material prosperity means very little to Jesus, and like many today, the Laodicean church didn't realize this. 


In verse 18 Jesus gives this church the following advice.  He says, "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."   Jesus isn't selling gold, clothes, and salve here.  He's speaking of laying up treasures in heaven, not here on earth, as He spoke about in Matthew 6:19. 


Revelation 3:19 says that Jesus loves these people, and that's why He is being so harsh with them.  It's called discipline.  He is portrayed standing outside of this church community's door.  As He stands knocking on the door to their hearts, He offers them one last chance to repent (Revelation 3:20).  Jesus' harsh words are actually a demonstration of His love.  Note that Jesus was outside this community of believers, looking in.  I think Jesus was gracious even calling this group a church.  I probably wouldn't be so gracious.


Those of us who criticize the prosperity gospel sometimes neglect to teach the Biblical alternative.  So what does buying gold, clothes, and salve from Jesus mean?  How do you lay up treasures in heaven?  The answer to this is the Biblical alternative.   


Back in verse 15 Jesus said that He knew the "deeds" of the Laodicean church.  The word "deeds" is the key to understanding to what laying up treasures in heaven mean.  Deeds that are based on self-centeredness as seen in Laodicea are repelling to Jesus.  Deeds based on heart-felt love and trust in Jesus are pleasing to Him.  Laying up treasures in heaven is all about "selfless deeds done as a result of trusting Jesus with your life."  Laying down your life now to serve Jesus and those He sets before you at any given time will be credited to your heavenly account.  You forsake now, and trust Jesus for your future.  That's what laying up treasures in heaven means.  That's the Biblical  alternative to the prosperity teaching. 


Let's expose the prosperity gospel for being the false gospel it is.  At the same time let's teach the Biblical alternative.  Teach "deny self, serve Jesus, serve others, be rewarded in the next life."  If you teach  this, you're teaching Biblical truth.  If you can actually live this, then you're living Biblical truth.  May Jesus help us all.  Our selfish human nature often prohibits us from laying up treasures in heaven.  Living the Biblical alternative to the prosperity gospel isn't easy, but it will have its rewards.   The best way to counteract the prosperity gospel is to live the Biblical alternative.     




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