Blessed, favored and prosperous.
Three words we (Christians) toss around loosely without understanding the oppressive pressure it places on people. We can thank a flawed prosperity theology for their misuse.
These are terms some Christians speak to each other without understanding they also carry a dangerously flawed perspective of the Christian life. I’ve been reading and meditating on the Beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount and the three words as we have used them terribly deviate from the words of Jesus.
Some time ago, someone “spoke” those three words to me and they sounded like this:
“Gibby, you are currently in an oppressive situation with your job. You need to know that you are blessed and favored of God. He has released you to prosper financially in a new job. Then you will receive more blessing and favor.”
Let me say the person who spoke this believed and meant it. Sadly, as a prophetic type, I didn’t buy it then and I don’t buy it now. Honestly, my job is not oppressive. Like any workplace there are issues to deal with and overcome, but I don’t despise my job or my coworkers.
Three thoughts came to mind as I continued to ponder the “prophetic word”:
Blessing is deeper than stuff. My stuff does not determine whether I am blessed or not.
Favor is deeper than a job or status. My job does not determine whether God favors me or not.
Prospering is deeper than finances. My finances do not determine whether I am prospering or not.
None of those three words in their flawed meanings define me. I don’t always get this right because I usually get in my own way. Still, I hope to find my identity in Christ Jesus and him alone.
My friend , Kevin Copeland, who is now with Jesus, said it best in a conversation we had on this issue:
I live in an area way too close to Houston, so I hear a lot of Christians talk about being blessed and highly favored of the Lord. You live close to Fort Worth, so I bet you know exactly what I’m talking about. It doesn’t really take much to figure out that they equate “blessed” with “prosperity.” In fact, I know two people with “blessed” on their license tags. One drives a Cadillac and the other one a Jaguar. Oddly enough, Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20) And, “Woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” (Luke 6:24) In addition, they equate “favor” with “popularity.” The way that it’s explained is that if someone has favor (popularity) among men, that it’s a direct result of them having favor with God. However, Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.” (Luke 6:22-23) And, “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:26) Kinda seems like Jesus and some of his followers are saying the exact opposite thing. Christians claim that the rich and popular are blessed and highly favored of God. Christ proclaimed the poor and those who are hated, excluded, reviled and spurned are blessed, favored and rewarded by God; while proclaiming woes to the rich and popular. Kind of sounds to me like Christ and some of his followers aren’t quite on the same page. Be careful pointing that out though, because you will lose your favor and become hated, excluded, reviled and spurned.
Working off of what I say above regarding being blessed and favored, how that has become synonymous with being rich and popular, and what Christ said about being rich and popular as opposed to being poor and unpopular; I would like to take this a step further. What do we so often use as metrics for success within churches? Money and popularity. I know you and I both have been to several conferences where more than one pastor has approached us and one of the first things out of their mouth is, “How many are you running on Sunday mornings at your church?” Based on what Jesus said about the rich and the popular in Luke 6:24 & 26, I’m not sure Jesus would use money and popularity as a good metric to measure the success or health of a church community. He might be more likely to shoot a warning in their direction based on this passage. Did I go a step too far?
I agree with Kevin’s thoughts and share his sentiment. Now, to be clear neither of us is saying you should go and sell everything, or that it’s wrong to have stuff. The issue is whether we have stuff or if it has a hold of us. The issue is also whether our stuff and status are used for the sake of God’s kingdom, or for our own agenda.
Sadly, many will be offended by this post and ignore the opportunity to examine themselves deeply. Many will hate, exclude, revile and spurn me. Consider this post the warning shot across the bow. Maybe it’s time we step into this issue a bit further.
Photo by La Casa Youth Ministry.