Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Prosperity Gospel Part Three


Russell Kelly’s Review and Outline with Additional Thoughts of the Excellent book:

Health, Wealth and Happiness
David W Jones and Russell S Woodbridge, 2011


Luke 6:20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.

Matt 19:23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Mt 19:24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. (125)

Suffering is part of being human. Since the entrance of sin all men are to toil and sweat and all women are to bear children in pain. Even the subservience of the woman to her husband is part of the curse of sin (126-127).

Part of Israel’s Old Covenant law was protection of the people from abuse by the more wealthy. None could be forced to work on the Sabbaths, many debts were to be forgiven on the seventh-year Sabbath and property was to be returned on the Year of Jubilee. Gleaning rights took from those who had and fed those who had not. The possession or lack of material goods is neither commended not condemned anywhere in Scripture in and of themselves – abuse is condemned plus the consequences of being so rich that one forgets his need for God (129).

Biblical justice does not require or expect equal distribution of resources (130). The Bible continually endorses hard labor in order to meet material needs (not sitting and putting faith in faith and faith in words apart from obedience to God’s Word) (130-131).

Prov 10:4 He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.

Prov 28:19 He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough.

Prov 6:10 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:
Prov 6:1 So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.

Prov 19:15 Slothfulness casteth into a deep sleep; and an idle soul shall suffer hunger.

Prov 20:13 Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread. (131)

(1) He was born in a stable.
(2) As a carpenter’s son he was part of a lower or middle class family
(3) His parents were poor enough to qualify to offer two pigeons – the sacrifice designated for the poor (Lk 2:24).
(4) Jesus associated with and ministered among the lowest classes of society.
(5) Matt 8:20 And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
(6) He apparently had no home, no land and no regular income.
(7) Jesus borrowed often: a boat, food, a colt, a room and a tomb. (132)

(1) When he associated with the rich and influential, they were often his antagonists (133).
(2) He ministered to a rich young ruler, tax collectors, and a centurion but did not ask them for financial support.
(3) Jesus neither advocated wealth nor poverty (133).

Poverty itself is not presented in the Bible as being inherently sinful (134). It is the causes and effects of poverty which are sometimes sinful but that is also true of wealth.

Jesus did teach His disciples to be on guard against the temptation of material wealth.

Matt 19:23 a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Luke 14:33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. (135)

Wealth was often a spiritual stumbling block in the Gospels.
1. The Pharisees were lovers of money.
2. Money changers in the Temple.
3. Judas Iscariot’s betrayal

Matt 6:19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
Mt 6:20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
Mt 6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Paul understood laboring to meet material needs a normal part of the Christian life (135-136).

Eph 4:28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

Acts 20:35 I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

2 Thess 3:10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. (136)

Money can do more harm than good.

1 Tim 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (137)

1 Tim 6:17 Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;
1 Tim 6:18 That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;
1 Tim 6:19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

Covetousness and greed afflict both the rich and poor. Many examples of the rich coveting are provided in the book.

Heb 13:5 Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee(139).


Spiritual wealth leads to material wealth.

2. JOB’S FRIENDS -- wrong
Spiritual poverty (sin) material poverty.

3. ASCETICISM -- wrong
Material poverty leads to spiritual wealth.

4. MATERIALISM -- wrong
Material wealth leads to spiritual poverty. (139)

The error of all four views is that they insist upon a REQUIRED connection between material wealth and spiritual wealth (140). Unlike the prosperity preachers, material wealth is not a required result of spiritual wealth.

1. GOSPEL: requires people to work in order to meet their needs.
PROSPERITY GOSPEL: emphasized the conjuring of mystical forces of faith in order to meet material needs.

2. GOSPEL: focuses on the material needs of others.
PROSPERITY GOSPEL: focuses on acquiring wealth for oneself.

3. GOSPEL: warns others of the spiritual pitfalls of accumulated wealth.
PROSPERITY GOSPEL: is consumed with the accumulation of wealth (140-141).

Throughout history the most influential Church Fathers gave up great wealthy and preferred to live in poverty in order to serve the needs of humanity. This is true of Cyprian, Tertullian, Augustine, Chrysostum, Jerome and Aquinas. They literally interpreted Jesus’ words to the rich young ruler.

Luke 18:22 Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me.


Why Should Christians Give?
To be faithful stewards (142)

Giving is an Act of Obedience.
Christians are obligated to give from that which they have been entrusted (143). The O.T. system under the Law was tithing. There were three different tithes from the increase of food from the holy land of Israel (143). In the New Testament God commanded Christians to give in order to assist believers, strangers and the poor (144).

Giving Demonstrates Love (144)
A second motivation for giving is love for God and love for others (144).

1 John 3:17 But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?

GOSPEL: should be motivated by love.
PROSPERITY GOSPEL: teaches, a desire for personal flourishing.

Giving Brings Glory to God (145)
A third motivation for giving is to bring glory to God – to show that God and his kingdom are more important than things of the world (145).

Giving is a Result of the Gospel (146)
A fourth motivation for giving is the gospel itself. One’s view of ownership changes.

God knows that we can become enamored with the things of this world (146). A person’s finances, abilities and time all compete with God for worship (147). People cannot love both God and money because God cannot share His glory.

Matt 6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Jesus makes an explicit connection between our love for God, our hearts and our possessions. When the gospel of grace takes root, one’s view of eternity changes (147).

Giving Results in Reward (148)
A fifth motivation for giving is reward. Heavenly rewards will consist of differing levels of responsibility in eternity. The question remains as to whether these rewards are material or spiritual in nature (148).

2 Cor 9:6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.

1 Tim 6:18 That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;
1 Tim 6:19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

GOSPEL: Rewards are primarily future and spiritual. Christians ought to give to God out of a loving heart knowing that He will reward as He sees fit.

PROSPERITY GOSPEL: emphasizes rewards as if they are the only motivation for giving. It views rewards primarily as material in nature. This false gospel turns God’s grace into a law which He must obey.

How Much Should Christians Give (149)
Nov 23, 2007, Wall Street Journal, The Backlash Against Tithing.
Mar 2, 2008, CBS News Sunday Morning, To Tithe or Not to Tithe (149-150). Without a doubt the discussion about tithing among evangelicals is becoming more prominent. All agree that generous giving is a biblical mandate.

Page 184, footnote 5. For example see David A Croteau, A Biblical and Theological Analysis of Tithing, 2005 … and Russell Earl Kelly, Should the Church Teach Tithing, A Theologian’s Conclusions about a Taboo Doctrine (2001) 2007. Kelly’s book is a revised version of his dissertation.

Givng Before the Mosaic Law

Gen 14:17-20. Abram tithed off other people’s goods, not his own income. The act of giving appears to be a single occurrence. No evidence in the biblical narrative suggests that God commanded this tithe or that Abraham regularly tithed off his own income.

Gen 28:20-22. Jacob apparently doubted God’s promise and told God that if He would grant him safety, provide food and clothing and bring him back to his father’s house in peace, then he promised God a tenth of his increase (150). When he returned safely two decades later, there is no mention of him tithing (151). As with Abraham, it is difficult to develop a clear on tithing from Jacob.

Giving Under the Mosaic Law

Most O.T. passages that mention giving focus on calling God’s people back to the standard of giving (i.e. tithing) prescribed in the Law.

Malachi 3:8-10. While it may be tempting to use this passage to insist that contemporary believers give 10 per cent, one must keep in mind the context. Malachi is an O.T. prophet confronting the nation of Israel for its violation of the Mosaic Law. A valid principle from the text is that one’s giving can be used to measure one’s love and devotion to God (151-152).

Giving in the New Testament.

Somewhat surprisingly, the New Testament does not appear to prescribe a formal method or amount of giving for Christians.

Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42. This provides little help for a discussion of tithing because the Pharisees were not Christians, but Jews under the Mosaic Law (152).

Luke 18:9-14. The reference to tithing in this passage is largely incidental and is also applied to a Jewish Pharisee living under the Mosaic Law (153).

Hebrews 7:1-10. The main point of this passage is not to teach about tithing.

The New Testament, then, is fairly silent regarding tithing. The New Testament does provide several principles of giving that most evangelicals embrace despite differing views of tithing – principles that ought to encourage many to give more than ten per cent (153).

Principles for Giving: (154)
1 Cor 16:2.

(1) periodic – weekly
(2) personal -- everybody
(3) planned – put aside; store up
(4) proportionate – according to means
(5) plentiful – no collection when I come (154-155).

To Whom Should Christians Give.

Scripture does not specifically direct believers where they should give (155).

(1) Local church (Gal 6:6)
An elder or pastor can reasonably expect support from the church where he serves. An elder does not have to draw support, however, as he may minister in a bivocational manner and receive little or no support from the church (Acts 18:1-3; 20:33-35; 1 Cor 9:6, 12, 15-19; Phil 4:14-16.

(2) Other Christian organizations (156).

(3) Give to charity; those in need (157).

Give to ministries that exalt Christ and exhibit transparency in their financial dealings. Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability; also Wall Watchers – Ministry Watch.

A Christian organization that refuses to disclose its financial statements and fails to follow normal accounting practices gives a clear warning sign (157).

How to witness about the prosperity gospel.

1. Why does God exist and what does He control in the world?

GOSPEL: We exist in order to serve and worship and glorify God (159).

PROSPERITY GOSPEL: When you start thinking that God exists to serve you and grant your desires, you usurp his place (160).

2. What is the purpose of suffering and how do I react when I suffer?

GOSPEL: Does your opinion of God change when you suffer? The Bible depicts God as Sovereign and All-Knowing. Suffering is an instrument to make you more like Christ and that God is working all things in your life according to His purposes.

PROSPERITY GOSPEL: God is dependent on people to act. You are in control of your own destiny; thus suffering is an indication of your failure to utilize divinely designed means of blessing.

3. What do I deserve in life?

GOSPEL: If we have food and clothing we should be content (1 Tim 6:8) – anything beyond this is pure grace. Eternal condemnation would be a just reward for sinners.

PROSPERITY GOSPEL: You are entitled to a good life with good health, beneficial relationships, an abundance of resources and overall success.

4. Why did God save me?

GOSPEL: God saved you on account of his great love for you (160). God saved you so that you might glorify him forever and so that he might display his grace for all eternity (Eph 2:4-10) (170-161). We were rescued to glorify God and do good works.

PROSPERITY GOSPEL: Did God save you so you could be famous and wealthy? Did God save you so you can fulfill all your dreams? People are encouraged to think too highly of themselves (161).

5. Why do I give to God?

GOSPEL: Give out of a cheerful heart. Give to please God. Give out of love.

PROSPERITY GOSPEL: Expect God to pay you back. Give to see if God will come through for you. give out of guilt and obligation.

Incorrect reasons for giving sets one up for failure and short-circuits the true motivation for giving – grace (161).

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