Dear child of God,
You are loved. You are cared for. The great and the good are fully engaged in a thankless task of saving you. They think of you as a victim; a hapless prey in the web of a deceitful and opportunistic theology; the so-called “Prosperity Theology”.
The Internet is awash with clarion calls for your re-awakening and revival. Books, tracts, seminars, talks, missions and a whole lot more for which I couldn’t begin to devise adjectives are dedicated to the task of your salvation. That’s not all.
There’s warfare also. Preacher against preacher, evangelists at daggers-drawn. The protagonists are robust. The ‘enemy’ is more robust. The latter are resilient. “(They) are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” 12Corinthians 4:8-9
What is their staying power? You might ask. Money, your money – a lot of it. And, of course, you.
There are also those for whom your plight is proof Christianity is a huge joke. Pastors are at the receiving end of a good deal of bollocking. The church of Christ Jesus gets some too. Opportunistic theology tars all with the same brush. In much of the debate on this virulent theology, everybody’s on your side.
What is served as the promises of Christ is often the devil’s porridge.
On one side of the debate are claims that it’s all about liberating you from an oppressive temporal economic system that impoverishes you. It’s all devised for your sake – an exegesis to lift you on to a ‘Kingdom Economic’ dynamic. A holy grail to make you stupendously wealthy. Didn’t Christ himself promise you life in abundance?
At the other end are those who are labouring over you on this very matter – for the love of Christ, and you, of course! These lot say it’s all a farce, a scam, a corruption of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. They say prosperity preaching is a cake laced with hemlock. What is served as the promises of Christ is often the devil’s porridge. The unsuspecting swallow it but remain unfilled. The hungry eat it and become hungrier.
Let’s not forget the Third Element, enemies of the church. You are the reason they affirm that religion is opium of the people. They bemoan the manipulation of the weak and desperate for filthy lucre.
You’re thus at the least a not-so-welcomed distraction to the work of salvation.
Opportunistic theology tars all with the same brush.
I will not join issues with any of these. Not that I struggle to situate myself in any of these positions. It is hard to fault antagonists of prosperity theology. The misgiving of much of the well informed towards those who make merchandise of the children of God is understandable. Righteous indignation towards crass opportunism has a divine pedigree. God Almighty Himself warned against putting a stumbling block on the path of the blind. 2Leviticus 19:14
Rather, in this letter, I prefer to address my thoughts to you because I believe that Christ Jesus had a foreknowledge of your experience and left words with which one might address you.
First let’s see what the gospel according to St. John reveals about you. In that book the Lord acknowledged the reality of thieves and robbers posing as shepherds. However, he was not worried about these because he knew that those who are truly his’ would be discerning. In his words:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep…and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.’’ 3John 10:1-5
In other words if you are Christ’s and are in the church for Christ, the Holy Spirit would help you discern between truth and bull. You would be able to tell the difference between those Christ chose to heal you and those who chose themselves to fleece you. As many as lack this freely given divine blessing ought to ask themselves some hard questions.
You are not in the church to know Jesus but to use Jesus.
If Christ dwells in you indeed, why is it that you lack this essential discerning faculty? Why do you hear the voice of strangers and dance to the tune of those who are in this business to steal, destroy and in some cases kill?
This is not about how long one’s been in church or whether one is a matured Christian or a neophyte. Scriptures tell us the sign that people have had an encounter with Jesus is that they received the Holy Ghost, sometimes at the point of hearing about Christ Jesus for the first time. 4Acts 10:44 Why so quickly? You might ask. It’s so that your fledgling walk of faith is not derailed. Allow me to expatiate.
Jesus had a problem with the religious leadership of his time. One of the reasons was that they left converts twice as much the children of hell as they were before conversion. 5Matthew 23:15 So his first promise to the church was the Comforter who would lead the church into all truth 6John 14:16-17 – for the truth makes free. 7John 8:32
If the Holy Spirit is in you, why does he appear to be resting comfortably in a space that is daily loaded with lies? Why are you able to stomach the garbage with which you’re fed? But if your appetite for ‘Sermon on the Mammon’ is insatiable because you lack the Holy Spirit, then why has Jesus denied you his promise to the Church?
Let’s dip further into scripture and perhaps we may locate you in the experience of others who treaded similar paths.
In the period of Babylonian captivity, Jewish elders visited the Prophet Ezekiel and asked that he should seek the face of the Lord for them. God told Ezekiel that his guests were not visiting for the sake of heaven. In his words:
“Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the LORD will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols.” 8Ezekiel 14:4
As they say: God is not mocked.
You may say you have not set up an idol in your heart before seeking the Lord. And I will ask, what is Mammon, if not an idol?
I am inviting you to consider the possibility that the reason you lack the discerning faculty is because the space in you that the Holy Spirit might otherwise have occupied is already filled by Mammon. The Lord did say that there would be those who would not be able to receive the Holy Spirit, not because it is not freely given but because such people are worldly. 9John 14:17
Could you dare to consider that perhaps you are not in the church to know Jesus but to use Jesus. However, instead of using Jesus, you’re getting used, instead of getting rich, you’re getting done. You have become a victim of the ‘multitude of your own idols’. You’re trapped in the web of those adept at playing the players.
The great commission was not to go out and start an organised religion. It was about raising students of the principles that Christ taught in words and in deeds, for that is the meaning of discipleship. In his stint in the wilderness, after 40 days and nights in prayer and fasting, the devil preached the prosperity gospel to him. He rejected every offer of glory for the sake of glory, miracle for the sake of miracle, abundance for the sake of abundance. He resisted the enemy’s efforts to sell him a porky, 10Matthew 4:1-10 but chose to be encouraged in the words of God only. 11Deuteronomy 8: 3
Leave off a pick and choose, materialistic, text without context, approach to scripture.
He taught that the value of ones’ life is not summed up in abundance of possessions. 12Luke 12:15 St John wrote that to be born again is to be born not after the manner of the flesh but by the will of God. 13John 1:13 For this reason St Paul encouraged us to live our lives in pursuit of divine purposes, because a life in Christ is a new life. 14Galatians 2:20 The old with it’s passions are supposed to have been crucified with Christ and the new belongs to Christ.
If you are a disciple of Christ, why are these lessons lost on you? Why is your walk of faith driven, not by a divine purpose but by a ‘Get Rich Quick’ mentality? Why have you brought with you to church the very culture Christ wanted his church to rise above?
There are those that will encourage you to dismiss this message as an exercise in victim-bashing. I exhort you to consider the exchange between Brutus and Cassius in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
Cassius: “Tell me, good Brutus, can you see your face?
Brutus: “For the eye sees not itself, but by reflection…”
Cassius: “…So well as by reflection, I, your glass, will modestly discover to yourself that of yourself which you yet know not of.”
And this I have set out to achieve by holding the scripture to your face. The Good Book is a powerful mirror.
I adjure you today in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to enter into a relationship with the Lord. I appeal to you to leave off a pick and choose, materialistic, text without context, approach to scripture. A relationship with God is a holistic enterprise. The call to walk with God is a call to walk within the ambit of God’s own purpose, a partnership to demonstrate to the world an elevated way of being. I pray that you will experience a transcendental encounter – an experience to convert you, and turn you into a divine instrument for the healing of the nations. You are more than you have become.