On the way home from work recently I was listening to a radio preacher who said the following:
“We need to stop sitting on our own spiritual gifts. It’s time to take hold of those personal gifts and take our rightful position, promotion and prosperity. Each of us has a destiny for receiving our position, promotion and prosperity because we are God’s children.”
Should we get off our butts and start walking in our gifting? Absolutely! Are we God’s children? Without a doubt. Yet, as the radio preacher shouted the above statement the crowd was shouting back with a loud “Amen!”, “Hallelujah!”, and “Let’s take it back!” Let me say that it did not set well with my spirit. If it were a couple decades ago I would have felt the same way as his audience. The tone and atmosphere were not that of desperation and need for God’s presence, but rather there was a sense of entitlement and privilege. It was like listening to the prodigal son demand that his father give him his inheritance….now!!
As I continue to study the words of Jesus and the Apostles, they make the words of the radio preacher fall flat and sour. While we should all discover our gifts and exercise them, I just don’t see in scripture where they are meant for us alone to receive personal gain. Jesus and the Apostles taught about becoming selfless servants. We are to be servants exercising our gifts to build up the body of Christ in order to take on the ministry of reconciliation for a messy humanity.
I always find it fascinating that these radio preachers make the whole message about the individual receiving a blessing for his/her own profit. It is also interesting that the crowd went nuts as he rolled into the “prosperity” rhetoric. It breaks my heart that his message was very misleading and the convicting crescendo of his message sounded like this: “If we all take hold of our gifts we’ll need to build a bigger sanctuary because people will want to discover their blessing and destiny in Christ. They will want their position, promotion and prosperity in God’s kingdom.” This saddens me because his words speak of a Gospel and kingdom that do not mirror that of Jesus. Those words are not a call to be a sent people into a broken world. They are not a picture of the New Testament church. It was the modern day prophet, Leonard Ravenhill who said,
“The early church was married to poverty, prisons and persecutions. Today, the church is married to prosperity, personality, and popularity.”
These words from Ravenhill go straight to the heart of my concern with some of the shameless rhetoric being spoken from pulpits today. Is that how we should live? I think not. My first mentor would also say “no.” Early in my journey with Christ my first mentor would say to me, “If what you live and teach about Christ, the gospel and his kingdom cannot ring true in a third world country then it’s not the gospel.” The point is this: It would be a disservice to the Lord if I went to a poor people group and told them to receive their position, promotion and prosperity due them from Christ without living out the gospel through love. Jesus and the Apostles spoke words of a greater inheritance of hope, which rang true to the religiously oppressed, politically abused and spiritually hungry people of their day. Those words still ring true today. All of us are in need of reconciliation and redemption. We all need a Savior to release us from a bondage that is deeper than things and money, because those are only on the surface. The heart is a much deeper and messier thing to cleanse and heal.
Prosperity doesn’t have to be a bad word if we keep it in check with the way of Christ. There is nothing wrong with filling up the storehouse, but it can’t be for ourselves alone. It must be a storehouse for our family, our community, the poor and the needy. Blessing is meant to be shared with others so they might see the evidence and beauty of God’s reign.
As we journey into 2013 let this be our challenge:
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 ESV)
May you discover your position in the kingdom by being promoted to be the one who carries the towel and basin, as others prosper because of your servant’s heart.
be the branch…gibby
Is Ravenhill correct in saying “the church is married to prosperity, personality, and popularity.”?
Do you see the poor through the eyes of Jesus?
What does the kingdom look like where you are?
Are you sharing from your storehouse?
[Leave a comment. Enter into a dialogue. Be kind and respectful.]
Great Post from my friend Miguel Labrador about poverty: A Theology of Poverty & Praxis