I want to talk to you for a bit about the continued wave of what are called “prosperity churches.” These churches proclaim a false message that once you give your heart to Christ, you will prosper and have anything you want in life, because that is what God has promised you. False prophets on TV and in churches across the country are “packing the pews” with a false message that is literally destroying the eternal lives of people. So, let’s take a few minutes to look at the message these false prophets are preaching and broadcasting.
1. You can’t accept the fact that Christians are bound to suffer! The false prophets tell us that the Christians will not suffer. Several years ago, a Lutheran Pastor at a convention said, “Enough with the cross, enough with suffering, we want the milk and the honey.” We are told that once we come to faith in Christ, the suffering will be over. We are told that God has blessed us and will not let anything bad happen to us. Yet that is not the message of the Scripture or of Jesus. Jesus suffered and he told those that followed him that they would be treated no differently than he was. Paul talks about his suffering throughout his ministry. Eleven of the 12 Apostles were martyred for the faith. We are told that suffering is not a part of the Christian life, and if we do suffer, the false prophets cover themselves by saying, “Well, that person really didn’t have faith.” If you attend a church where you are told by the “holy person” up front or on the TV screen that Christians don’t suffer, RUN! DO NOT WALK! RUN FROM THAT CHURCH.
2. Poverty is just a lack of faith! The guy from Texas preaches a simple message: “If you are poor it is because you don’t have enough faith. You just need to name it and claim it.” I’ve been naming a Mercedes for a year now and all I have is this Ford that I drive. I guess I don’t have faith. A few years ago the guy from the Crystal Cathedral told me that if you just think it, you can do it. I have been thinking about shooting a 68 at my golf course, but to no avail. So, according to the false prophets, once again, I just don’t have enough faith. If I can just believe hard enough, I can win the Powerball lottery. I just need to believe more.
3. Personal prosperity is more than God’s peace! The guy from California, who has seven satellite campuses, says that if you aren’t baptized in one of his churches, “you have not been baptized”, and quotes Jeremiah 29:11 - “For surely I (God) know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” The “good” (I use the term “good” sarcastically) preacher out West tells us that this is God’s promise, to make us wealthy in a material sense. To him, the word “welfare” means “big bucks,” “moolah,” “mucho dinaro,” “the jackpot.” Sadly, for the “good” preacher, the word for welfare in the original Hebrew is “shalom.” It means: forgiveness, to be spiritually at peace with God, at peace with my neighbor, to find fulfillment in life.” No where does it mean MONEY. Yet that is the false message that the prosperity preachers proclaim.
4. The Gospel is not good news for the poor! The three-fold promise God makes to Abraham is Land, Children, and to be Blessed. For centuries the message was preached that if you had money, land, and kids you were blessed by God, while at the same time if you didn’t have those three you were cursed by God. But what do you do with Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor….” What about Luke 6:20, “Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Wealth is not the sign of FAITH. Wealth is not the sign of Godly blessings. Nor is poverty a sign of little faith and therefore God has not blessed you. In Luke 18:25, Jesus said, “It will be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” What Jesus is saying is that too often the wealthy, the rich, get lost in worshipping the false god of money instead of the one true God. There is nothing wrong in having money; it is the love of money, the worshipping of money that keeps a person out of the kingdom of God.
5. Predicting the future or doing justice! Too many people think that the role of the prophet is to predict the future. Might as well call on the great Kreskin or Jeanne Dixon because that is not the job of the prophet. The real job of God’s prophet was to call on people to REPENT (return to God) and to DO JUSTICE. Justice means to enable people to be what God intended them to be. The words “justice” and “righteous” go hand in hand. To be righteous means to “work properly; to do what you were created to do or be.” We are created in God’s image. We are created to be the sons and daughters of God. Justice helps us achieve that goal. Justice comes through loving mercifully and by being humble.
If you believe in God because you think he will increase your stock portfolio ten fold, or enable you to win the lottery, or help you find the lost City of Gold, you will do better to go to your local casino than to the church. God makes you rich with his GRACE, not with the “Benjamins.”