A recent Time magazine cover had a picture of a Rolls Royce with a cross as the hood ornament. The headline read: “Does God Want You To Be Rich?" The article talked about a trend that is developing within the American church to preach what some call the “Prosperity Gospel. "
I sometimes wonder what all the controversy is about. I remember going to a meeting with some other Christians and listening to the preacher talk about God's blessings. After the event was over, one of the people I was breathed a sigh of relief and said, “For a minute there I was worried that he was going to start preaching health and wealth. "
I believe that I understand what this person was getting at, but I have to ask: “Would you have felt better if he had preached sickness and poverty?"
There is a lot of confusion around the topic of God's blessings in our lives and what it means to live an abundant life. And I have no doubt that some preachers are simply teaching something that a lot of people want to hear, and they may not be all that sincere. But I also believe that God wants to bless His people, and no they don't have to wait until they get to heaven, and yes they can, and should, create and enjoy wealth in this life.
A story from the Gospels that is often cited when talking about the evils of riches is the story of the rich young ruler. This young man came to Jesus asking about what he needed to do so that he could have eternal life. (Matthew 19:16-26)
What I find interesting is that Jesus answered his question in some very odd ways. If we look at it from a “Christian" point of view, He said some things that really don't make sense. The first thing he told him was to obey the commandments. That's odd because Paul tells us in Galatians 2:16 that no man will be justified by obeying the law, but through faith in Christ.
And I know that some people may say, “Yeah, but this was before Jesus died on the cross. " Still, even the Old Testament taught that the righteous live by faith. Even Abraham was justified in God's eyes because of his faith. God's word has always taught that we are justified by faith and not by works.
But even this young man realized that obeying the law wasn't enough because when Jesus gave him a list of commandments that he was to obey, he replied, “‘All these I have kept, ’ the young man said. ‘What do I still lack?'" (Matthew 19:20)
It was then that Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. " (Matthew 19:21) The story goes on to say that this man went away sad because he had great wealth.
Now before we begin to think that Jesus just told this man he could earn his way in to heaven by giving his money away, let's take a look at what Jesus said. He just gave this man an incredible promise. He told him that, if he would give his earthly wealth away, he would have treasure in heaven. Jesus wasn't trying to find out if this man was too attached to his wealth, He was pointing out that this man didn't really believe in heaven.
Let me ask you a question. If God said to you, “Sell everything that you have here on earth, where moths eat it, rust corrupts it, and thieves steal it, give it to the poor and I'll make sure you can enjoy it forever, " what would you say?
Well, if you believed in heaven you'd say, “You got a deal!"
This young man, and everyone who trusts in their earthly wealth more than in their heavenly treasures, will have a hard time getting into heaven. Jesus wasn't preaching to this man that he needed to earn his way into heaven by being poor, He taught us all that our faith, what we really believe, is displayed by our actions.
Rob Marshall is the author of “Taking On Goliath - How to Unleash the David in All of Us. " Learn how you can unleash your faith and overcome any “Goliath" that may stand between you and your dreams. Get two free chapters from “Taking On Goliath" when you sign up for our free newsletter. Just visit: http://www.TakingOnGoliath.com