Ever Heard of Idolatry?
Have you heard the good news?
Jesus wants you to have a boat.
The cover story from last week’s Time magazine posed an interesting and troublesome question: Does God want you to be rich?
According to the article, the notion stems from a movement begun in the Pentecostal sect of the Christian church known by many names, but for our purposes here prosperity theology will do, and it is espoused by personalities as varied as Creflo Dollar (“Prosperity attached itself to baby Jesus immediately, and that same gift to prosper has been given to us as heirs of Christ.”) and Mary J. Blige (“God wants me to bling!”)
Prosperity theologians aver that a verse from the Book of John, 10:10, a quote from Jesus which reads: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly,” can be taken to mean that the Man Upstairs wants us all to live the good life. And by the good life He means fancy cars and swimming pools.
And according to a Time poll, 61 percent of Christians believe that God wants them to be prosperous, materially or otherwise.
To be fair, there are a few pieces of text in the Bible that support the prosperity proponent’s claim that money is but one of the blessings bestowed on the faithful by a loving God. But we’re of the mind that the Bible is like statistics: Dig around enough and you can make either one support whatever claim you want. And if we’re talking about numbers, there are reams of passages in the Bible concerning the dangers and inherent sinfulness of acquiring wealth, a lot more than there is to bolster the sentiment that God likes to give Benjies to all the good little boys and girls and way more than there is about the gay stuff.
After all, wasn’t it our man JC who threw the moneychangers out of the temple? And when he fed the multitudes he wasn’t selling loaves and fishes. There’s also the old salt about how it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the gates of heaven.
So does God want you to be rich? Well, the short answer is “No,” at least according to the overwhelming majority of Biblical scripture that stipulates in no uncertain terms that it’s hard to be good when you’re rolling in dough.
The Book of Proverbs is rife with cautionary wisdom about the folly of accumulating riches, most echoing the sentiment of 28:22: “He that hasteth to be rich [hath] an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him.”
And here’s a gem from Mark 4:19: “And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.”
So What Would Jesus Do? No doubt He could have been wealthy had He so chose, selling wine made from water and racking up on merchandising. But JC chose to live in poverty and asked His apostles to do the same. He spent a lot of time around the poor, valuing things like sacrifice and generosity while condemning greed and false idolatry.
And if He is planning on coming back soon, we doubt He’ll care what your retirement account looks like.