IS THE GOSPEL ABOUT PROSPERITY OR POVERTY

IS THE GOSPEL ABOUT PROSPERITY OR POVERTY

Since time immemorial, there has been much disagreement in Christiandom over many things.

When Israel was coming out of Egypt, they debated over their interpretation of God’s instructions. Some said leave Egypt, others said stay. Some said take Canaan, others said ‘no’.

Then in the middle ages, Christiandom debated over their interpretation of God’s laws. Some said thou shall not divorce your wife, others said I’m king, you’re not the boss of me and I’m going to start my own branch of the church.

Not too long ago, Christiandom debated over the way they worship. Some wanted rock guitars and drums, others wanted to stick to the pipe organ.

And most recently, the debated seems to have shifted to ‘Prosperity’ and ‘Poverty’ gospels. Some say that some preachers are focusing too much on the blessings of God and downplaying the role of suffering in our lives, others say that those who come against the ‘Prosperity’ gospel are themselves suffering and are merely looking on jealously on the side of the family who are doing well.

But you know what? Does any of that really matter? I mean really, if you are going through a tough time right now and you can’t seem to get yourself out of the rut, sitting through a ‘Prosperity’ sermon is either going to leave you with a lot of hope, that your situation is going to turn around soon, or it is going to make you feel nauseous from skepticism. And if you are doing well right now, sitting through the same ‘Prosperity’ sermon is still either going to leave you with a lot of hope, that your good run is going to continue, or it is going to make you feel, that’s right, nauseous from skepticism because you think you did it all on your own. Either way, no matter what situation you are in, the end result is going to be the same.

You see, what really matters is not what others say about Christ. What really matters is how real Christ has been to you, how much you feel Christ has done for you and how much faith you have in Him to continue the good work in your life. Because really, the camps that ensue from this personal experience are really just people being people, setting out to prove their own biases and congregating with like-minded people.

It’s like this. If you feel that you have a little too much around the waist, you are going to go to the gym; then low and behold, you are suddenly surrounded by people who all, in some form or another, feel like they need to get in shape. Or if you feel like indulging in a long latte and a giant chocolate cake, you are going to head down to your corner cake store; then suddenly, you find yourself surrounded by people who all, in some form or another, want the same thing.

So likewise, if you feel that God has blessed you tremendously, your eyes have been opened to His provision, then you are going to park yourself in a church that preaches the ‘Prosperity’ gospel. But if you feel that God has not done enough to lift you from your suffering, then you are going to park yourself in a church that reinforces suffering in the Christian life.

But surely there must be some reality. Our lives cannot merely be the sum total of what our rose-tinted glasses tell us. There must be some factual basis to that perception. Well, beloved, yes and no.

Our lives are shaped more by our perception and our emotions than we think. Like I showed you just now, a rich man and a poor man can come out of the same service feeling the same; a successful broker and the owner of a ‘mom and pop’ store struggling to survive can have the same outlook on the future. I’m sure you have met people whom society would label as ‘less fortunate’ be filled with so much more hope and joy than those who are able to retire at 30. Our riches, our intellect, our abilities, though important, don’t do one ounce of good if we don’t have the hope and faith that our futures will be bright.

Yet, there is a reality. If you have an illness that is causing you pain, yes, that pain is real. If you have bills that need to be paid, yes, those bills are real. If you have a teenage child that is rebelling, yes, that child is real. And if you have faith in Jesus, that faith is real too.

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:1

We have been justified by faith. That is a reality. If you believe that Jesus came to die for you so that through His suffering and death you may be set free from sin, made righteous from sin and now even have the God-given power to say ‘no’ to sin, then you are doing exactly what God wants, because,

“Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?”
Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” John 6:28-29

And what does that work ‘earn’ you?

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12-13

You have become a child of God. That is reality. That is fact. Whether you believe in ‘Prosperity’ or ‘Poverty’, that is not going to change the fact that God is your Father.

Now, because of that,

“Through Him we also have access by faith into this [remarkable state of] grace in which we [firmly and safely and securely] stand. Let us rejoice in our hope and the confident assurance of [experiencing and enjoying] the glory of [our great] God [the manifestation of His excellence and power].” Romans 5:2 [AMP]

We have a firm, safe and secure standing in Jesus’ gift of grace. All the blessings that we don’t deserve are ours. We have a hope, a confident assurance of experiencing and enjoying the glory of our Father, and there will come a time when He will manifest His excellence and power. All that is reality. All that is fact.

You see, Jesus said it best,

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Matthew 7:11

It’s logical, isn’t it? It’s not far-fetched. It’s not a fairy tale. In fact, on earth, we put fathers who are not like that in jail, don’t we? So do we somehow think that God is lesser than we are?

So the million dollar question therefore is, what is the reality in the gospel, prosperity or poverty? Well, in a word, both.

To those who like to take things literally, Jesus never said that life was going to be a bed of roses.

“Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and will deceive many.” Mark 13:5-6

“For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be earthquakes in various places, and there will be famines and troubles. These are the beginnings of sorrows.” Mark 13:8

“But watch out for yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues. You will be brought before rulers and kings for My sake, for a testimony to them.” Mark 13:9

“You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake.” Luke 21:16-17

“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” Matthew 24:9-12
Need I go on? But at the same time, because God is our Father, because Jesus came to suffer and die for us, so that

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:17

Why, pray tell, would God still want to punish you? So how can suffering be from God, by God and something God wants for you?

Beloved, we need to remember that on the day Adam and Eve decided they wanted to listen to the serpent, the world has been perverted. Satan has been let in and since then,

“sin crouches at your door; its desire is for you,” Genesis 4:7 [AMP]

And because we are, as Jesus says,

“They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” John 17:16

So “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” John 15:18

For “If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” John 15:19

So “…If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. …” John 15:20

Therefore, will trouble come? You bet your bottom dollar. But is it from God? Of course not. Instead, just like Joseph,

“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” Genesis 50:20

Remember beloved,

“We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose.” Romans 8:28 [AMPC]

So is the gospel about prosperity or poverty? Neither. It is the love story between the almighty God, creator of all heaven and earth, and you. It is the reminder of how much hope we have because of His love for us and why we should, in the face of all things, cling on to our faith in Him.

All this talk about ‘prosperity’ or ‘poverty’, in my opinion, is really nothing more than a distraction to sow discord amongst ourselves, because of false teachers, Jesus said,

“You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” Matthew 7:16-20

And what is this fruit that we are talking about?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. ...” Galatians 5:22-23

He never said anything about ‘prosperity’ or ‘poverty’ teachings.

But He did say,

“Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned.” Matthew 7:15-20 [MSG]

Like all the other fads that Satan uses to distract us, one day, this ‘prosperity’ / ‘poverty’ debate will fade away and something else will take its place. In the meantime, don’t let it distract you. Yes, the world is screwed up. Yes, there will be a ton of trouble coming your way. But that does not change the fact that our Father loves you and will always be there with you, because He is for you.

The Gospel is not a teaching. The Gospel is a love letter written by God and delivered by Jesus to you, reminding you of just how much He loves you.

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