The Prosperity Gospel is a Lie
Evangelical mega-churches are often able to grow membership (and balance sheets) by preaching and practicing what is known as the 'Prosperity Gospel'. Joel Osteen in Houston is a believer, as is the 'pastor' with no seminary degree or ordination, Mac Hammond at Living Word Christian Center. A few weeks ago Sky Pilot Mac offered some shocking rebuttals to a Star Tribune cover story and yet another complaint filed by CREW re: stunt planes, luxury real estate, and greed under the tax exempt cover of 501(c)3 IRS provisions.
The problem with the prosperity Gospel is that isn't based on Biblical truth. Read Matthew 6. Read all of it. The prosperity Gospel is a lie. It relies on feel-good bromides and motivational speeches delivered in the context of a sermon. It suggests that the more God loves you, the bigger your house, your mutual funds, your SUV, etc, will be. Does that mean poverty is a sign that God doesn't love you?
In the season of Lent, when traditional Christians focus on humility and repentence in preparation for Holy Week and Easter, sermons at the church I attend have offered a few sharp warnings re: the lie of a prosperity Gospel. In her February 21st Ash Wednesday sermon, Pastor Mary Pechauer offered the following:
Beware then of any preacher who says that God's good news includes no more suffering for you. Beware of anyone who points to success as evidence that God is blessing them for bigger and better things. The Gospel of Prosperity is on the rise and it proclaims that living the high life is God's desire for you. Wealth is a sign of God's stamp of approval of you. People are flocking to this message and I'm not surprised. Who doesn't want life to go well for them? Who doesn't want to avoid suffering and pain? But when we avoid the reality of pain in our life we avoid the reality of the cross on which Jesus suffered and died. Roy Hammerling writes: "If any teaching pulls the nails out of the cross or wipes away the wounds of Christ, then beware, for it is only quick temporary relief from true Christian pain."
In his March 4th sermon, Pastor Christopher Nelson made the following observations:
(Refer also to Paul's letter to the Philippians, 3:17-4:1, and Luke 13:31-35)
Now let me point out several things: First, I haven't the slightest idea where the notion of an easy, comfortable Christian life came from! It's not true for the vast majority of Christians living today- in Africa, China, India, who live in poverty and in all the dangers that poses, as well as the possibility of the danger persecution, depending on where they live! It certainly wasn't true for the first generation of Christians, as we see from Paul, or the generations that followed him. Luther, for example, faced similar persecution and death. And it wasn't true for Jesus himself: the one who took on suffering and death for our sake!
This was what Jesus was all about. he came to us to show us God in the flesh, to show us, to live for us what God has always had in mind for God's creation: all people are valuable and have worth. It is not God's way for the strong to lord it over the weak, for oppression to be the rule, that might makes right... It is not God's way that human beings should try and take God's place, putting themselves at the center of the universe, .
To the contrary, God even has, as Pope John Paul 2nd so inconveniently pointed out, has "a preferential option for the poor..." Remember Mary's song when she was pregnant with Jesus, visiting her cousin Elizabeth: "He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty..."
Jesus, and his whole ministry, his teaching, healing, preaching threatened those in power--those who would lift themselves up at the expense of the poor or anyone who might get in their way. His Great Commandment--to love God and to love the people around you, period, end of conversation, would, if followed literally, change the world forever for the better--and at great expense for the people in charge. You can't live as though you are the center of all things when you know God is.
No church is perfect, nor does any single clergy person have all of the answers.
But this I know - pride, arrogance, narcissism, stunt planes, luxury homes, perpetual man-tans, and greed are out of synch with an honest reading of the Christian Gospels.
When charlatans like Mac Hammond are hogging the airwaves, know that he does not speak for all Christians.