Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Christianity's Greatest Enemy

What is Christianity's biggest enemy today? Would you say it's Islam? Maybe it's Hinduism, Satanism, Atheism, or the entire Democratic Party. Perhaps you believe our enemies are members of the liberal media, scientists, HBO, The Rainbow Coalition, Al Gore, or The Walt Disney Corporation.

My answer might surprise you.

I think Christianity's greatest enemy is the Prosperity Gospel.

The faithful and hopeful are looking to Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Joel Osteen, and the like to inspire them and to build their faith. If you just "have faith" the money will come, you will be healed, and all good will come to you. I wonder how these men would council the apostle Paul whose faith could not cure the "thorn" in his flesh, or keep him out of prison.

Of course there are Faith "Hall of Famers" who were definitely prosperous by the world's standards. I think of Abraham, David, Isaac, Job, and Solomon - just to name a few. But again, their faith could not shield them against tragedy, loss, brokenness, and deep heartache. Financial gain does not guard against sadness and disappointment.

This past weekend I attended a conference at a mega church in Southern California. As is always the case at these gatherings, there were several offerings taken through out the course of the two days. Each time the pastor took the stage before the passing of the buckets (or joy bags), he offered words of encouragement––a rally call of sorts. He told us how he and his wife now give 50% of their income to the Lord. Just last week he spoke at another church and one woman was so inspired by his message that she wrote a personal check for $20,000. This, he assured us, is what happens when you give your money away.

My friend has been attending this church for fifteen years and she gives a great deal to the ministry because of its unique outreach goals. She's also $50,000 in debt. She believes that Jesus is coming soon and she accepts the fact that she'll never be out of debt, so why worry?

Psalm 37:21 says, The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously. It seems that we easily claim the second half of that verse, but gloss over the first half. 

I've seen an awful lot of people give a great deal of money to ministries they whole-heartily believe in. But in the end, the ministry and its leader gets fat and prosperous, while the giver is left with an empty wallet and a broken heart. This just isn't okay.

Should we give to the poor? Of course! But, look at Proverbs 22:16–One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and one who gives to the rich–both come to poverty. Wow! Many of these prosperity gospel teachers do not see themselves as rich, but compared to the majority of their givers, their lives are opulent (generally speaking). When we give to the rich, we will come to poverty! Scary.

Do I believe in tithing? Yes. Do I think we should give to the poor? Yes. Do I agree our troubles are a direct result of our lack of faith? Occasionally. For the most part, however, this is life. We will have struggles and challenges and setbacks. When preachers add to the burden of our troubles by heaping guilt on us isn't fair, isn't right, and isn't Biblical.

Get off the pew and do what is right. Get out of debt so that you can give freely and without fear or anxiety. And remember; When you give to the needy, do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing so that your giving may be in secret. Then your father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:3-4.

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