I'm a believer in being grateful for the small blessings of life. Don't get me wrong, I have many great blessings in my life: family, friends, satisfying work, as well as many more conventional blessings of health, housing, transportation, and a few playthings. Every so often, I need a reality check.
Back in September of 2014, I read this quote by Al Molher: Prosperity Theology is a false Gospel. The problem with Prosperity Theology is not that is promises too much, but that it aims for so little.
I liked the quote for both shallow and deep reasons. Shallowly, because I hate - that is a strong, but appropriate, word - the so-called Health-Wealth-Prosperity ‘gospel. This quote by Molher, whatever it means, clearly is not pro Prosperity Theology. And I agree with that notion. Prosperity “Theology” is an abomination (also a strong term, and a bit old-fashioned, so it grants me gravitas) and a modern occurrence of the Apostle Paul's warning to his friends in Galatia: "... a different gospel -- not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ" (Gal 1:5b-6). The HWP ‘gospel’ is not a gospel - it's a pathetic and corrupting distraction from what Jesus and his apostles taught and lived.
Dr. Molher's quote also echoes C.S. Lewis:
If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. . (emphasis in original, "Weight Of Glory").
And, the same for "Prosperity Theology." We are distracted from great things that can be ours by the minor trivialities that push themselves upon us. We pursue things of our world, now without much thought for the future – our REAL future.
This world is a nice place, isn't it? When the weather is nice (as it is right now as I'm writing), the blue sky, the cooling breeze, the green of trees and grass, the color of flowers are pleasant and meant to be enjoyable. We can enjoy the people we are with, the sense of fulfillment for a task done well, the satisfaction of understanding something we didn't realize before ... all those things are good and bring joy. Again, as they were meant to.
But for many, even most, our joy-happiness receptors are damaged. We want more; we want reward without effort; our imaginations are stunted; our vision is locked into the horizontal. For some, they know joy-happiness as only fleeting and wispy moments. For a few, joy-happiness is so corrupted that they find a substitute in the pain, control, and submission of others.
But it is in the realm of money, riches, 'prosperity,' wealth, and affluence that we tend to go a bit crazy. Why? Because ‘money’ is never just about money. ‘Money’ is not merely a medium of exchange but a key to status, comfort, control, and ‘prosperity.’ Or, so we think.
But, it never works out that way. While it is true that status usually comes with a lot of money, that status also comes with negative notoriety, resentment, and conflict. Comfort can come with a lot of money, but the sacrifices required are very uncomfortable. Control is an illusion. Steve Jobs – very rich, very influential, and still very dead over something that was out of even his control: disease.
There are rich people who are happy. Yet are they happy because they are rich, or are they happy because of other blessings in their lives? Money, for truly happy people, is a small thing. People can be happy with or without wealth – but not all wealthy people are happy.
We work so hard for wealth when wealth doesn’t deliver what we really need or want. To quote Lennon-McCartney, money “Can’t buy me love.” Even more reliable wisdom tells us that, “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evils” (1Tim 6:10). And, just before that thought is this: “But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (v.8). What we need is food and clothing; what we want is … well, more. And that’s where the wheels come off the wagon.
What is the MORE we want? Nobody can explain that.
But. The so-called ‘Prosperity Theology’ guys definitely want you to want more. And through a convoluted and misleading rationalization – including badly interpreted Bible, they assure us that as we contribute to their wealth, God will somehow have us become wealthy as a result.
So, not only does Prosperity Theology promise wealth, which doesn’t create happiness; but they make God into a genie who grants our wishes when we rub his lamp. That is, we can control God and his blessings by giving to the Prosperity Theology guys. If we can control God, then who is really more powerful? Ah, there’s the rub.
Not only is wealth really a small thing that may very well cause the disintegration of the really great things this world has to offer (as well as creating roadblocks to the next world, Matt. 19:23-24), but the Prosperity Theology people would have you embrace the illusion of control – that you can manipulate God himself. A god who can be so easily manipulated in not God.
Prosperity “theology” is not anything about the God who I worship. Prosperity Theology is the study of the god, Mammon.