I have never been so determined to keep an article short. The point here is so important that I would not want it to be buried in a lengthy diatribe that only added more confusion to the abounding controversy that has already arisen.
The saddest thing about the whole controversy is that it may become yet another reason for unbelievers to remain just as they are. Christianity should be known for its presentation of the immutable gospel of Jesus Christ not a series of constant controversies and disputations. It strains the credulity of any reasonable man to read about the horrific persecution of Christains in over fifty countries while the big question in America is whether Christians should all be floating in God given riches.
Today thousands of Christians in Islamically controlled countries are facing the very loss of life and limb while American Christians are debating whether God is supposed to be giving them all untold riches, houses and lands. Sound silly, it is but thats exactly what one proponent of the goody gospel espouses. In the Time magazine article Does God Want You to be Rich Kirbyjon Caldwell said God wants you to own land. The entire Old Testament is all about land. Land represents that God is with you and God has blessed you.
Between the recent interview of Joel Osteen by Barbara Walters and the September 18, 2006 issue of Time on the same subject one question comes to mind. Why is America so engrossed in this question about Christians seeking wealth or resigning to poverty? More importantly is the question, does the Bible really present a conflict on the issue or is it yet again, man meddling with the message?
Time, a largely secular news outlet gave a fair presentation of both sides and included the scriptural proof texts used by each side. They quoted such Christian notables as Rick Warren, Joyce Meyer, Kirbyjon Caldwell and Ron Sider. They gave a fair breakdown of the general views of others on the subject as well such as T. D. Jakes and Creflo Dollar. How I wish they might have attempted to balance it all with a quote from the late Kathryn Kuhlman.
I will have to paraphrase the statement I once heard on Kathryns radio program because it was so long ago that I heard it. But forget it I never will, I hope no one else will ever forget it either.
What she said is that we should never isolate and amplify any verse of scripture to the exclusion of other verses that also speak to the same subject. Simply put this means, dont teach or make a big deal out of one verse and forget the other verses that also talk about the same thing.
The verse of scripture I will quote here gives support to neither side of the argument and yet it is the final and consummate answer to the whole matter. The verse takes its authority as final in the matter not from me, but rather from a sovereign God who decides each mans destiny, and each mans wealth or the lack of it on a one to one individual basis.
I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings. Jeremiah 17:10
The heart is still deceitful and desperately wicked (Jer 17:9) in the twenty first century and we would like to level the ground that God alone has reserved to his own regulation. Those who persist in this argument could find themselves coming under the same kind of rebuke that Peter got when he questioned the fate of another apostle after hearing of his own. (John 21:19-22)
Only a sovereign God has the right and the wisdom to decide who gets what portion in this world. Teaching believers that God has one plan for all is flying in the face of Gods authority to plant, lead and call to accountability every person he calls. Each of us must account for what we do with what we are given; the parable of the talents is proof that not all receive the same portion. (MT 25:15)
Heres the bottom line. Whether you believe in the prosperity gospel or the austere life of denying worldly possessions there is one rule for all and that rule comes from God not either one of the aforementioned groups. That rule is, and always will be Jeremiah 17:10.
The real danger especially in the prosperity gospel is that it is not a universal gospel. The Gospel of Jesus Christ can be preached and produce genuine converts in any nation or community on earth. The prosperity gospel can only be preached in America and Western Europe in large part. That means it is coming dangerously close to what the Apostle Paul called another gospel (Galatians 1:8-9)
Years ago God spoke to the heart of Pastor David Wilkerson of New Yorks, Times Square Church about a coming time of great distress in this nation where the entire fiscal health of the country will collapse. He spoke the same thing to my heart over two decades ago. Id rather not mention this to anyone, Id rather I didnt hear it, but I did and I have no doubt it is nearer now by far than when I first heard this message so clearly.
Whether anyone heeds the message and whether they have the heart to see through the obvious weakness and error of the prosperity gospel is not up to me. One thing is certain. Those who insist on this gospel and their respective churches will be hit the hardest when the time comes. Conversely, those who have learned to live in the portion they are given and are content, will be affected least. As always with the great things God does the choice is yours.
Suffice it to say that when such a question reaches the height of being examined by one of the medias biggest interviewers, Barbara Walters it may be time to dig in and find the real answer. The Time magazine front cover was splattered with a picture of a Rolls Royce sedan with a huge gold cross as a hood ornament. The caption for the picture read Does God Want You to be Rich.
For some Christians Times cover may be a bit embarrassing but what it should really do is make us ashamed. Where have all those preachers gone who used to ask only, Does God want you to be saved?