Tim Tebow Doesn't Play for the Prosperity Gospel
Tim Tebow is back in the news after cancelling an appearance with a group of pastors spouting the Prosperity Gospel. Apparently, Mr. Tebow agreed to speak before he realized whom he was supporting.
The Prosperity Gospel reflects a new variant on an ancient apostasy presuming our material standing proportionate to our moral stature. Many of America's fastest growing churches feature this errant blending of theology with materialism.
Megachurches espousing this feel good nonsense litter the landscape while televangelists have been catapulted into the public face of Christianity. It's compelling and easily misleads because it's intuitive. Those who serve God best should be rewarded most. The vilest sinners ought to incur the harshest wrath.
However, rewards earned in this life are mainly meted in the next. Jesus specifically spurred us to burnish treasures in Heaven, not earthly riches susceptible to moths, rust or presumably gyrating markets. For those thinking fortunes their prize, it might just mean they found their reward in full. Eternal peace may forever elude them.
Preachers grown wealthy peddling a watered down gospel often extol this "health and wealth" farce for the same extenuating rationale Pharisees did in Christ's day. It exonerates them and tickles congregants' ears (2 Timothy 4:3), but Jesus repeatedly denounced pharisaical hypocrisy for espousing such self-serving dogma.
If God were prone to the foibles which befall man materialistic theology could ring true. Worldly rulers reward those serving them well while punishing those who won't. The Prosperity Gospel errs because it conflates God's character with human failings.
In His infinite wisdom, our Lord designed our worldly station largely independent of our spiritual state. He could have erected a gigantic billboard in Heaven forcing us to bow before it daily. Such submission would be false and not reveal sincere faith, the higher spiritual reverence our Heavenly Father deserves.
It's like joining the Communist Party in Stalinist Russia. Despite pronouncements of equality, party members enjoyed substantial privileges so ambitious souls naturally gravitated there. Doing so didn't necessarily reflect devotion to Marxist principles as much as opportunism or fear. God doesn't desire men to serve Him for obvious worldly increase, nor from dread. Faith, not sight, guides us.
Following Christ sacrificially signifies real submission. Serving under a jackboot is shallow; predicated not on belief, but survival. Serving for gain is false devotion too. Service and charity should be voluntary, sacrificial and accrue no external benefit to meet God's perfect standard. We must die to self. Christ, not lucre, represents the wages of grace.
In Matthew 11 Christ proclaimed his burden light. Believers stand justified before God because Jesus liberated us from the Law's condemnation. These passages are not vindications of comfort and indulgence. For Christ had just admonished in Matthew 10 that we take up our cross; ours, for we cannot bear his.
Jesus never instructed us to live well now. He came as a shepherd instructing his flock to follow. Unless one presumes his holiness higher than Christian martyrs or one's service superior to missionaries who leave behind all they have, it's difficult to take prosperity gospellers seriously.
Are wealthy Americans really more righteous than say the disciples whom endured persecution and horrible deaths for Christ's sake? Are they holier than Christians residing in destitute lands or living in less prosperous periods?
What about unbelieving billionaires?
Christian stewardship clearly includes sound economics. Since sin banished man from Eden, life is hard, but it's easier when people live rightly. Much social dysfunction could be avoided by following God's blueprint.
Proverbs offers that responsibility often ushers affluence while prodigality generally brings poverty. Marriage, hard work, thrift and delayed gratification, obvious hallmarks of Christian living, provide firmament foisting economic success. Living rightly can be extraordinarily lucrative especially in lands where justice is upheld.
Americans are blessed enormously being left free to pursue our dreams where markets are respected. Christians should be both thankful and circumspect regarding the bounty liberty bestows. For even as God made such rewards feasible, Christians mustn't measure success by abundant possessions.
It's not wealth that matters but how we came by it and for what it's used. Money and wealth are inanimate, neutral. Money is a tool, wealth a blessing. Loving money is the root of many iniquities and trusting affluence over God errs, but money can be an instrument for righteousness too.
Part of Christ's mission was to alleviate temporal afflictions to prove his deity. He lets suffering persist to test and purify faith. Hard times present opportunities to emulate Christ. Loving our neighbors is an essential element of a Christian's walk. Like Jesus, who healed the lame so they would believe, true love points to the cross; salvation supersedes comfort.
Without wealth nothing avails for charity either conducted cheerfully through church evangelism or that coerced forcibly by secular states. The Westminster Catechism entails that we "endeavor, by all just and lawful means, to procure, preserve, and further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own."
Adam was tasked with cultivating creation. God provided man the means to prosper. According to Dr. David Noebel, "God designed a world in which the existence of private property encourages men to be fruitful."
Markets direct our efforts serving others. Charity fills the gaps for those incapable. We acquire wealth by creating things that improve the well-being of neighbors with whom we transact. But don't confuse economic value with virtue.
Christians ought to conduct our affairs honestly, make ourselves useful and work diligently as if God is our ultimate boss. Such attributes will frequently be remunerated well, but they prosper non-believers too.
Our merciful Father sends rain for the just and unjust alike. The Prosperity Gospel confuses general grace -- that man inhabits an ordered, rational, livable planet -- with the special grace of salvation attainable only through Christ.
Being entrusted with riches ensures Believers will be presented with opportunities to act generously, but affluence also amplifies temptation. If materialism distracts us, temporal goods impede the true riches gained only through Christ.
The gift of grace wasn't wealth as the Prosperity Gospellers suggest, but Christ himself.