There were a lot of things that happened in my life during the last few weeks, but one that keeps after me day to day is a nagging issue that really hit me during my illness. I have plenty of issues with the “prosperity gospel” or the “health and wealth gospel”, but the one that bugs me most is the fact that those who preach it either haven’t read all of their Bible or are willfully ignoring parts of it. I don’t truthfully know which is the case from one person to the next, but it troubles me greatly. I know it is a serious charge to make, but I intend to back it up. If there is anyone who reads this that would like to “set me straight”, you are certainly welcome to make your case. I just ask that you do so from Scripture and not from personal experience or personal testimony. I will make my case from Scripture as well as give you some of my story to illustrate.
This really hit me hard a few weeks ago. As I have mentioned here, I was quite sick and really not doing anything productive for a while. I was running high fever and had chills, bodyaches, ect. Recently the doctor has told me that I likely had parvovirus B19, which certainly fits. The reason I bring this up, is that I watched a lot of TV in my downtime. I was sleeping in a recliner, because I couldn’t be comfortable laying down and the recliner is conveniently in front of the TV. During this time, I elected to sample some of the religious programming on TV that I don’t normally sit and watch. Based on my sampling of some of these programs, I learned some fascinating things about Christianity that I never knew before. One preacher told me that if I were a Christian, I couldn’t be sick. If I just had faith and did what God said, He wouldn’t let me be sick. This was news to me as I lay there in the chair running a fever of 103 or so. I mean; I have acknowledged Jesus as my Savior and Lord. One of us must have missed something in the Bible, but who? Let me see if I can clear it up a little bit. How about John 11:1-6?
1Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. 3So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
4When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.
If I am reading this right, someone Jesus loved was sick. And Jesus didn’t run right over and heal him that instant. He didn’t even need to did He? He had healed people at a distance before. But did He heal Lazarus? NO! Wait a minute, why is Lazarus even sick? That preacher on TV said people that know and love the Lord don’t get sick, can’t be sick in fact because “by His stripes we ARE healed” and so on. I know, it is because Lazarus was going to be raised from the dead to show Jesus power over death. But this doesn’t change the fact that he was sick. He was so sick it killed him and Jesus let it happen. Are you starting to see what I mean by the whole truth? This TV preacher, whom I will not name, rather flippantly suggested that a “real Christian” shouldn’t be sick, heck couldn’t be sick. This doesn’t wash with Scripture at all. Frankly, I laughed out loud at the TV when the guy said it. Well, at least I tried to laugh out loud. I was pretty sick at the moment, so I don’t remember how well I could laugh. I wish I could say it was an aberration, but he is far from the only one out there teaching this. In fact, he was preaching in his daddy’s church when he said it. His dad didn’t stand up and correct him, so I guess he buys into this “theology” as well.
When did we get the idea that everything will come up roses for us if we are a Christian? Did it come from the same school as the “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” teaching? Certainly God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life, but the wonderful plan may only look wonderful from His perspective. How about His plan for Jim Elliot’s life? Go show End of the Spear to a group of non-Christians and ask for their opinion on how “wonderful” that plan is. I have lost track of how many “Christian” programs on TV promote the idea that the Christian life is a ticket to health or wealth or your “best life now” or all of the above. Is this the story of the Gospel in the Bible? Can this coexist with the statement that Christ gave to his disciples and to us in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Did you see that? He actually promised we would have TROUBLE. Trouble with a capital T that has nothing to do with pool. Where does this promise fit in with these people preaching Christianity as the ultimate “self-improvement” plan?
This brings me to my final point for this post. I have looked for but cannot find a single one of these people, who proclaim this incomplete gospel, that have preached a message on 1 Corinthians 4:8-17:
8Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have become kings—and that without us! How I wish that you really had become kings so that we might be kings with you! 9For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. 10We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! 11To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.
14I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you, as my dear children. 15Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16Therefore I urge you to imitate me. 17For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.
Can someone point me to one sermon by any of the “prosperity” or “health and wealth” teachers on this passage? I am not being sarcastic, like Paul is in this passage. I am genuinely interested to hear what they would have to say on the subject. I want to know if this is part of the Bible that may have been inadvertantly overlooked by some of these wonderful teachers. Some of these men and women teach and proclaim the good news that Jesus is the Christ and the only way to get to the Father is through Him, and for that I am overjoyed and commend them. But the failure to acknowledge that Christ has called us to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him results in Christians who are shallow and prone to fall away or turn away. The failure to tell a new believer that Christ has promised we will have trouble in this life, that we might be persecuted and impoverished for our faith can only cause trouble when the storms come. I plead with my fellow teachers and preachers of the Word of God. Let us please tell the truth, the WHOLE truth, and nothing but the truth.