Jesus talked about money extensively, having talked about it more than He did Heaven and Hell combined. He devoted nearly 25 percent of his words in the Gospels to the topic of money, a total of 28 passages.
It being one of his favorite subjects, He had a lot to say. And when I did a topical study on what exactly he said, I was shocked by what I’d found. I had always known the typical offenders were wrong – the Creflo Dollars and the Joel Osteens. But by Jesus’ standards, it seems we’re all wrong, it seems we’ve all missed the point. Greed and materialism is much sneakier than we’re led to believe. It’s a sin that, by its very nature, blinds you of itself. It’s deceptive. And as a result, the Prosperity Gospel is far more prominent and subversive than I had originally thought.
However, here are what I believe to be four truths that debunk the Prosperity Gospel’s lies:
1. There’s Only A Limited Amount Of Money In The World
About a year ago I was in a church service and the pastor happened to be talking about money. He was using language like “God’s economy.”
He went on to say that you shouldn’t feel guilty about your spending because “God is big enough.” God is big enough to give you an extra bedroom and to feed the "hungry children overseas" as well.
Where did this logic come from?
If God is big enough for you to have your mansion and to feed the hungry children overseas – why hasn’t He? Why are they still hungry?
Why is it that there are pastors with mansions and hungry children overseas as well?
I thought God was big enough?
I’m not questioning God’s power (or size). I know God is capable of feeding anyone and everyone, but He’s given us the responsibility. We’re His hands and feet. We’re His body. We can't afford to sit around and wait for God to feed the poor, He’s not going to – He uses us to do it. We are His economy.
He’s given us a limited amount of money and resources (enough to feed everyone in the world, by the way), but it’s being hoarded by pastors with mansions waiting for someone else to do it. In fact, they’re waiting for God to do it.
We must not ignore the fact that there is only a limited amount of currency in the world; that the choices we make and the money we spend impact the people around us.
If God gives me "the best parking spot,” that means everyone else is missing out on it. Not everyone can get the best parking spot, or the promotion, or the house, or whatever it may be – only a few people can, because there's only a limited amount of money and resources in the world.
If you think about it – if you or I do actually get what we’ve been praying for, if you or I do get the parking spot or the promotion, that means someone else doesn’t. And seeing that there is only a limited amount of money and resources, we’re left with a choice.
I get the best parking spot, or they do. I get the promotion, or they do. I get the this or that, or they do.
But both of us can’t have it.
We have to choose – give or take, selflessness or selfishness. We’re given an incredible opportunity to be sacrificial and submissive and Christ-like.
Here is what The Prosperity Gospel has done: it has eliminated the choice. They’ve told us that we don’t have to choose. We can have both. We can have a mansion and we can feed the "hungry children overseas," because “God works in His own economy and He is big enough.”
Scripture doesn’t seem to follow this logic. In Acts 2 what we see is a group of people who loved one another so much that when one of them was in need, the others would sell what they had to in order to fill that need.
This wasn’t easy for them. They did not simply sell something that they never used. They sold nearly everything that they had to their name. They sacrificed.
We don’t do sacrifice anymore.
Maybe we’ll cut back on a few things that we don’t really ever use, but we won’t sell a necessity.
“We need it too much! What would we do without it?”
What we see in Acts is a choice. The members of this group of people had a choice. They could either sell what they had and use the proceeds to help those around them in need, or they could hold onto what they had and neglect their needy brothers and sisters.
They couldn’t have both. That was never an option for them. They had to choose: possessions or people.
We all have this choice. We’re all making this choice in the countless decisions we make everyday. Possessions or people. We can’t choose both.
2. Prosperity Isn’t An Object, It’s A Character
In Matthew 5 we read: “Jesus opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
– Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
– Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
– Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
– Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
– Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
– Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
– Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God.
– Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
– Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account."
Did you catch that?
Do you see what Jesus is saying here?
Jesus’ idea of blessing is completely contrary to ours. It has absolutely nothing to do with what we have, and everything to do with who we are.
How did we miss that? Where have we been?
It’s not our income that renders us blessed, it’s our pure, meek heart.
This is the opposite of Western Christianity. In America, what signifies blessing more than a successful business or a large house? Jesus’ logic here is foreign to us.
I’ve found that when Jesus spoke of blessing, He wasn’t talking about a good harvest or a new stable or some more cattle – He wasn’t talking about the physical or tangible at all.
He was talking about characteristics and virtues.
What we must notice is that you can’t purchase any of the blessings Jesus listed. Jesus’ idea of blessing is not something that can be bought. No amount of money will buy you a pure heart. Everything Jesus sees as a blessing can only be given to you…by Jesus. I think that's worth taking note of.
3. We’re Rich. Why Should We Have More Than Enough When Some Don’t Even Have Enough?
Occasionally I'll find myself asking God for more money. I might even spiritualize it and ask for "provision.”
Who am I kidding?
Has God not already provided for me? Do I not have a house, a car? Food on the table? I have more than 95% of the world. Am I seriously asking God for more? Do I not already have enough?
There are millions of people starving today. Millions. How selfish would it be, as a Christian, to put my well-being before someone else’s? Why should I have more than enough when there are human beings who don’t even have enough?
We’re rich. We are.
After dividing the average American’s annual expenditures in 2013 by 365: We spend a little more than $18 on food everyday, roughly $4.39 on clothes everyday, and just about $6.80 on entertainment everyday. Entertainment. Everyday. While 1,400,000,000 live off of $1.25 everyday. That means Americans spend 5.44 times more money on entertainment everyday than 1,400,000,000 people make everyday.
I’m rich. By the world’s standards, I’m incredibly rich. You are, too.
Why is it that we never ask ourselves questions like: Is this an appropriate amount to be spending on rent, on food, on clothing?
I believe it is because we rub shoulders with people who spend about as much money as we do and make about as much money as we do, if not more. We’re surrounded by people of the same pay-grade and same social-class, if not higher.
We’re frequently exposed to people with more than us and rarely exposed to people with less than us. Unless, of course, we live in the city. Even then, we typically do not spend an extended amount of time with people who make far less money than we do.
We don’t feel rich because we don’t know what it feels like to be poor.
In America, we don’t know what genuine poverty looks like. We're hardly exposed to it. We’re barely connected to it. We’ve only ever been surrounded by extreme wealth and luxury and abundance. We’re accustomed to it.
Of course we don’t feel rich. We don’t know any different. Greed, I’ve found, is often a geographical issue.
4. Materialism Is The Opposite Of Contentment
It seems that no matter how much we acquire, we always want more. It’s never enough. There’s always something. Something newer, something nicer. It’s an endless cycle. We’re never satisfied; we’re never content.
We’re slaves. All of us. There are no exceptions.
Throughout the narrative of Scripture, I’ve picked up on a theme that seems to imply that possessions aren’t really something you try to acquire; rather they’re something you try to free yourself from. This is not the way of America.
I don’t believe anyone reading this would dare say: “I don’t have a problem with materialism. I couldn’t be more generous. I couldn’t live more simply. I’ve given away everything I could possibly give away.”
No. That’s not the case. We’re all in the same boat. We’re all living in abundance. We’re all slaves.
We always want what is not ours. It’s intriguing. We think if we can just get that, we’ll finally be happy. The lure of what we do not have is deceptive.
True freedom, however, is found in being content with what we already have. Can you imagine it?
Can you imagine being whole, complete, fulfilled – content with what you already have? It sounds too good to be true. Utter satisfaction? That is freedom. That is what everyone is searching for.
Where, though, can you find this kind of contentment?
I've noticed that the more I’ve come to know Jesus, the less I've desired material things.
Materialism is what happens when you find your joy in things. Contentment is what happens when you find your joy in Jesus. They’re complete opposites. You can easily differentiate a materialistic person from a content person.
A materialistic person always needs the latest and greatest. They need the newest phone, the nicest shoes.
A content person is grateful for what they have. They see no need in spending money on more, when they already have enough.
Here’s the thing: You don’t need to earn more money in order to be generous with your money. Some people use that as an excuse to be greedy. Jesus seemed to believe that the key to generosity wasn’t having more, but being content with what you already have.