Sunday, December 27, 2009

Balanced View of Prosperity

I read an article against prosperity.

The Son of Man truly had nowhere to lay His head, as the article said.

But does that mean it was Jesus' will that everyone become homeless?

Imagine: at first the Israelites had nice houses to live in. Then Jesus comes, teaching. Next thing, the whole nation of Jews is living outside in the rain and elements, leaving their suitable homes empty.

The Romans would be thinking, "What idiots!"

Even their goats would have had enough sense to come in out of the rain!

But that's precisely what should have happened - if it was God's will for everyone to become homeless just because Jesus was.

And what about Ministries?

Someone once criticized Billy Graham for his ministry's big budget.

"Jesus rode a donkey," they said.

Billy Graham replied, "If you find a donkey that can fly me across the oceans of the world, I'll be happy to ride it."

It costs money to print Bibles, to broadcast via satellite into closed countries, to travel and to preach the Gospel. If every believer is penniless like the preacher, no-one would be able to pay for it.

I like the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater."

Often when trying to correct an extreme view, we can err to an opposite extreme, if we're not careful.

In my view, it would be an extreme view of prosperity if we taught that all believers everywhere will always prosper if only they have enough faith - because believers in some countries are experiencing imprisonment and martyrdom as a result of their faith.

But on the other hand, I think it's also extreme - and a bit blind - if a Christian in a free, democratic, Western country criticizes prosperity completely - when they wouldn't even be alive today to worship the Lord as a Christian, if it wasn't for the prosperity under their own two feet. I’ll explain.

It is mainly countries like UK, USA, Canada, Australia & NZ that saved the world during World Wars I & II. The Allied countries were able to win the Wars partly due to their prosperity.

And where did their prosperity come from? It came as a result of being free societies. And the freedom in their society only came as a result of generations of Gospel effort.

In other words, the freedom that we enjoy today to live as Christians (in Western countries) came about because somewhere back along the line, the Gospel produced prosperity.

And yet some prosperity-loathing person opens his mouth, standing on the very free soil which a previous generation sacrificed for, and blabs out some tirade about the Gospel having nothing to do with prosperity. That's either ingratitude or ignorance - or both.

If someone's prosperity message claims that persecuted believers in some countries didn't have enough faith - that's extreme. But it's also extreme if we refuse to see that God is delighted when a country becomes so infiltrated with the Gospel that its citizens start to experience freedom, prosperity, peace, health and longevity as a direct consequence.

"He taketh pleasure in the prosperity of His servants".

Take Uganda as an example. During Idi Amin's regime in the late 70s, a true believer, through no fault of his own, may have suffered confiscation of his goods or imprisonment. But today believers in Uganda have the opportunity for a normal, prosperous life. The President's wife was among those who attended Benny Hinn's Uganda Crusade this year.

Ask any believer in Uganda, "Has the Gospel improved Uganda's prosperity?" and hardly a person would deny it. It is the Gospel that improved Uganda's conditions, nothing else.

For a Christian in America or Australia who enjoys peace, to deny that prosperity has any place in the Gospel, is like a finger or an eye saying, "I don't believe the rest of the body exists" even though it's attached; or like the tip of an ice-berg saying, "I don't believe any other part of the ice-berg exists" even though the tip somehow sits suspended outside the water; or like the peak of Mt Everest saying, "I don't believe the Himalayan mountain system exists" although that very system of mountains is what is forcing the peak to rise so high; or like a sceptic looking for the Loch Ness monster saying, "I don't believe in it! Where is she?" while he and his boat are being lifted out of the water on top of the monster's head.

The best place to drive a car is on the road – not off in a drain to the left or right. Rather than holding an extreme view to the left or right, it's better to have a balanced view of prosperity's place in the Gospel.

The same could be said regarding any Christian doctrine: stay in the middle of our lane, not off in a drain on either side.

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