“Bilbo had heard tell and sing of dragon-hoards before, but the splendour, the lust, the glory of such treasure had never yet come home to him. His heart was filled and pierced with enchantment and with the desire of dwarves; and he gazed motionless, almost forgetting the frightful guardian, at the gold beyond price and count.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Hobbit”
As an underclassman in college, I overheard another student suggest that theology should be done in conversation rather than recitation.
Someone engaged me in such a conversation after my last blogpost entitled: Trust Him… when Disappointed? This valuable friend (Prov. 27:17) brought up Jesus’ Parable of the Sower. He reminded me that Jesus considered the “deceitfulness of wealth” a significant threat to the sower’s seed. Here’s the text from Mark 4:
“Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.”
In my last post, I asked: “What’s the danger of prosperity gospel?” Unfortunately, I down-played the dangers, reducing them them to merely “disappointment.” I neglected a greater danger: the “deceitfulness of wealth.”
Prosperity gospel would not pose a problem, except for the “deceitfulness of wealth.” This deceitfulness leads a person to treasure economic wealth and the comfort, success, and prosperity that often accompany it. Adherents to a prosperity gospel may unconsciously risk the elevation of economic prosperity over spiritual prosperity, which is found in the faithfulness of Christ.
We likely fail to appreciate our dearest treasures until they are threatened. One way to discern what your heart treasures is to test the effects of sacrifice. To ensure you own escape from the “deceitfulness of wealth”, make sacrifices that threaten your prosperity and your wealth, your comfort and your success. To the degree of seriousness to which you take this test, you will ensure that you treasure Christ over prosperity. A man named Job went through a similar test, though it was not self-inflicted. You can find the story in the Old Testament. Do you think he passed?
Anyway, what does the prosperity gospel say about Jesus Christ? If a deity sustains an individual through prosperity but not through poverty, the faithfulness of that god proves petty even when compared to a traditional wedding vow: “in sickness and in health” On the contrary, Jesus Christ is not the means to a financially prosperous end. Christ is the means and the end. Do you believe the prosperity gospel implies that Christ does not sustain a person through poverty?
There are two ways to address a questionable teaching: confrontation of error and proclamation of truth. To conclude, let’s meditate on this truth! A missionary from southern Turkey expressed the importance of Christ in a letter to the church in Italy.
“For from Him and through Him and for Him are all things.”
Read it again… slower this time please.