Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Prosperity Gospel vs the Sovereignty of God

"Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and struck Job with loathsome sores from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.

"Then his wife said to him, 'Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.'

"But he said to her, 'You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?' In all this Job did not sin with his lips."
-  Job 2:7-10

The folks who teach the so-called Prosperity Gospel don't like this passage. They want their followers to think of the Christian life as the line in that song, "and now I am happy all the day!" They want their followers to see wealth as the favor of God. Of course, this allows the preachers to drive Cadillacs and live in mansions off the donations of those followers. They can claim that, the more ostentatious their wealth, the more favored they must be by God. If only they remembered the parable of the rich young ruler, whose wealth was a stumblingblock to his spiritual prosperity (Luke 18:18-30).

Suffering and deprivation in the life of a believer serve several purposes.

First, they remind us that we are sojourners in this world (I Peter 2:11). In our fallenness, a life of ease and comfort too easily enslaves us to this world. Deprivation weans us from the comforts of the world, to long for the life and world to come (Romans 8:18, James 4:7). Second, they teach us to call upon God, who adores to be sought by us as a Father (Matthew 7:7-11, I John 5:14-15). And third, they teach us to be compassionate and generous to others (Psalm 112:9, but read the whole Psalm).

When Job spoke of evil from God (or disaster, as it may also be translated), notice his dependence on the sovereignty of God. Unlike his wife, and unlike the followers of the Prosperity Gospel, who lose faith when life goes against them, Job is confident, not in many children, many livestock, or gold and silver, but in the person of God. Life is unreliable, but God is always faithful. It is that awareness that produces spiritual stability, maturity, and progress.

Of course, we are human. Yes, including me. It is only natural for us to prefer spiritual growth in easy circumstances. But in all things, God alone must have the glory.

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