BIBLE READING: 1 Timothy 6:3-21
TEXT: Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (1 Timothy 6:9-10)
An African pastor wrote to me a heartfelt plea when he heard I was writing this book: “Africans are encountering the challenge of poverty and dreaming of going to the West. The youth in Africa and particularly Burundi are encountering unemployment and go to the West where they hope there are green pastures. The Prosperity Gospel is taking advantage of the ill situation they are in and promising heaven on earth, scholarships, visas to the US etc. The proponents of prosperity gospel are from the West, yet they are depleting even the remaining wealth”.
It is a matter of great shame to the Western church that we have allowed, encouraged and created an atmosphere in which the prosperity gospel teachers such as Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar and numerous other televangelists flourish. It is even worse that we have exported the prosperity gospel to African countries where some African pastors now exploit their own people. In a recent survey it was found that half of the top ten richest pastors in the world are in Nigeria.
A Nigerian friend came to me and told me that he was really struggling with Christianity because his mother, who was poor, had recently saved $100 so that she could pay a local preacher to come and bless her house with holy water! Little wonder that he struggled. Such false teachers need to read our passage today. The prosperity gospel is not from God. It is the very opposite of what Paul teaches Timothy.
The prosperity gospel uses a very worldly logic that argues that God wants you to be rich rather than poor, he wants you to be healthy rather than sick, he wants you to prosper rather than struggle. So if you are poor, sick or struggling then it must be the devil, or your lack of faith. The prosperity gospel teacher then tells you that he/she can help you if you ‘sow your seed’ (give them money), and show you how godliness is a way to make money. Paul tells us that such teachers have been robbed of the truth. They have fallen into foolish and harmful desires which plunge people into ruin and destruction. They have wandered from the faith and, despite appearances of blessing and prosperity; they have pierced themselves with many griefs.
The Bible does not say it is wrong to have wealth – but it does say that it is a temptation and a snare. It warns those who are rich in this world not to put their hope in wealth, but rather in God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. We are to lay up treasure in heaven and not on earth. The early Christian church did not have many rich, noble and privileged people within it (although it did have some). The message of Jesus was way too radical for them.
The church in the West has distorted and perverted that message – even many of us who do not accept the Prosperity Gospel are guilty of that. Unless we repent of our materialism, greed and sinful trust in riches the Church in the West will go the way that the Church in Turkey and the Church in North Africa went in the past.
The future of the church appears to be in Africa, Asia and South America. I hope and pray that our African brothers and sisters will lead us in the future into a better expression of the wonderful gospel of Jesus Christ. Please don’t fall for the heresies that are a cancer on the body of Christ in the West.
None of this is to take away from the poverty and pain of the unemployed and poor in Burundi or other countries. But those who are Christians in these countries should not flee to the West seeking wealth, but rather stay and work as Jesus called us to, as salt and light in our own communities. Imagine an Africa with rulers, business leaders, academics and pastors who were not using Christianity as a means to gain wealth and power, but instead as a means to serve and empower others! That would be the world turned upside down. That is your calling. Use whatever God has given you to glorify him in this world, to seek justice and to be a blessing to the poor.
CONSIDER: Why has the Prosperity Gospel been so popular in the West and also in Africa? What is wrong with it? What is the good news for the poor?
RECOMMENDED FURTHER READING: Money Counts – Graham Benyon
PRAYER: O God, you are good and the giver of good. You richly give us all things to enjoy. We pray that if we have lots of material things we will not trust in them, we will not horde them, but instead use them for your glory. If we are poor, we ask O Lord that you would give us our daily bread and that we would learn to trust you for everything. Take away from us the desire to be rich, and help us to see that we are rich in you…and through you can do all things! Help us to fight the good fight of the faith, in the name of the one who for our sakes became poor, that we might become truly rich. Amen
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