THE SCRIPTURAL TENSION
which gave birth to the
The Industrial Revolution gave rise to individual prosperity which was not known among the common people. It was quite a phenomenon whose effects are seen openly today especially among the industrialized communities. Even the relatively poor have cars and television and enjoy forms of entertainment. The television and billboards show all kinds of material things which create a thirst in the average person. And most of them are within his economic reach especially through leveraging debt. And so the far flung communities rose in their economic standing and began to prosper.
Most children can be financially better off than their parents and certainly their grandparents. Of course it is difficult to gain a full perspective because although this has happened within decades it still is assimilated slowly. Some of us can remember only having one television and one telephone and even one car. Those days seem like ancient history. This culture of getting more and more and striving for status and economic prosperity has swallowed whole the entire western civilization. Every election is now based largely upon who people think can provide a climate conducive to their prosperity. The moral issues are of little consequence anymore.
And embedded within these communities are evangelical churches of all stripes and sizes. And while the culture was being assimilated into a hedonist mindset, and while prosperity became the obvious goal, the believers began to experience some of the same prosperity as did their unbelieving neighbors. The water level was rising and all personal boats rose with it. And there came a point when believers would have to address the blatant inconsistencies with what Scripture taught and what they were experiencing as well as enjoying. Believers by the millions were adopting the cultural mindset and by definition they were leaving the teachings of the New Testament.
And so there grew a tension which had to be resolved. The two belief systems were incompatible at their face. But the western believers were not only reticent to give up their prosperity, but they were downright indignant. Much of the church refused to even see, much less address, such spiritual infidelity especially because little was being heard from the pulpit. And even if a preacher began to speak out against the culture of prosperity there was always scores of other churches within driving distance. And many faithful preachers became frustrated and acquiesced in order to keep the members they had and draw new ones. Even churches which spoke out against the peddlers of prosperity were significantly compromised in their own practices and lifestyles. Yes, they enjoyed their own prosperity while parading their orthodox credentials.
Now most evangelical churches who claim to be against the so called “prosperity message” practice a distinct form of the same even if they do not teach it. When a family experiences some financial prosperity it is almost universally deemed a blessing from God throughout all of evangelicalism. Persecution bad – prosperity good. Bigger church buildings good – outdated church buildings bad. And on and on it goes. Even the preachers were suddenly living large within the culture and enjoying the benefits of having a membership which was prospering and could afford to give them significant salary packages. The entire church structure became more and more like a business and its practices became a reflection of the fallen culture. But everyone was happy and content.
But since there was a tension between what the Scriptures teach and what believers began to espouse something must be done. Something had to change and, of course, it was the Scriptures which had to change to accommodate the flood of prosperity and hedonism. And so by way of a clever twisting of the Scriptures through well coifed men and women there arose a teaching which is generally referred to as the prosperity gospel or message. Using an amazing set of distortions this message began to appeal to millions. Through juxtaposing the Abrahamic Covenant upon the New Testament the diabolical message was applauded by the evangelical masses and allowed for open hedonism to run rampant within the church.
You see, even the prosperity panhandlers had to reinvent the Scriptures because they knew that if interpreted on their face it presents an unshakeable problem for that kind of message. In short the Scriptures teach the exact opposite. So little by little carnal men deconstructed the Scriptures and created a false amalgam that seemed to open the door for lust, greed, and the pursuit of material gain. And professing believers by the millions loved it.
And so the tension was relieved through a doctrinal sleight of hand and believers were free to submerge into the culture and enjoy all the earthly benefits of a life of hedonism and pleasure through all the culture taught and had to offer. And men like Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, and others became obscenely wealthy by not only teachings a message of divine prosperity, but by pounding home that the avenue to this prosperity was giving. And of course this giving was to go the “God’s prophets”. It seems like such an easy scheme to debunk, especially in the light of obvious Scriptural teachings. But the lusts of men are incredibly strong and when nourished by all kinds of promises that lust becomes a monster.
People would give to get God to save their loved ones and to secure new homes and cars and to bless all sorts of business ventures and many other things. This doctrinal golden goose continues to lay all kinds of eggs for false teachers. Under normal circumstances people would be wise to what is happening, but when you leave the Scriptures and follow your lusts then spiritual blindness sets in and you go deeper and deeper into deception.
But let us not kid ourselves. Even orthodox churches practice a form of prosperity even while denouncing the men I have mentioned. Do not assume that we ourselves are not tempted and at times led by our own lusts. And sometimes our doctrinal stand against the prosperity message becomes camouflage for our own spiritual compromises. Yes, the culture takes no time off and its allurement is strong and relentless.
Watch and pray with a broken and contrite heart.