Sem Juuko Mathias
Alokolum National Major Seminary
Is it imperative that the gospel is preached in its context, explained well, and the application of the message is in line with the actual bible text in this meticulous period? The world is not only budding in matters of Christianity but it’s also undignified in its peculiar assembly of explaining the Gospel.
Initially, the Gospel of prosperity is on rise and it has eventually caused sophisticated spiritual dilemma. In other words, Prosperity Gospel can be defined as the religious belief among Christians that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for them, the faith, positive speech, and that, donations to religious-causes will increase one’s material wealth.
In the interim, J. K Ayantayo succinctly described prosperity gospel as a strong teaching that requires Christians to be prosperous while on earth. The gospel of success being rooted in the faulty interpretation of numerous biblical verses, depicts wealth and riches as a covenant and the fulfilment of the divine promise of God to his people. One is required to sow a “seed-faith” by the religious leader for one to receive the plan God reveals. Does God base his blessings to church members solely on giving? Is giving God’s criterion for blessing humankind?
David W. Jones claimed that over the years, the message being preached in some of the prime churches in the world has changed, a “new gospel” is being taught and has been ascribed many names, such as: “name it and claim it” gospel, the “blab it and grab it” gospel, the “health and wealth” gospel, the “prosperity gospel,” and “positive confession theology.”
Most Christians at the moment are spiritually on a crossroads, have a wrong concept of God and that of themselves, because of this, the number of half-Christians and proliferating demi-god preachers is multiplying which swells the evil. Right from its source in the United States, prosperity gospel emphasizes “Three ‘Ps’: Power, Prestige, and Prosperity.” It depends on three factors; ignorance, fear, and poverty to be well-known; this emphasizes the importance of personal empowerment as it proposes that God’s will for His people be blessed. It’s too ill-fated that Christianity currently is blemished by superfluous spiritualities and philosophies as most Christians are living below the biblical standard as faith is now made superficial and wobbling due to this gospel.
Hence, the prosperity gospel being that branch of Christianity that promises a direct path to the good life with a bold claim that God will give you your heart’s desires; money in the bank, a healthy body, a thriving family, and boundless happiness and that is what people pursue like a storm chaser in megachurches. Most believers who seek this Gospel are those who want an escape: from poverty, failing health and the feeling that their lives are leaky buckets.
This points us to the ‘why’ of disproportionate curiosity in the prosperity gospel. People want that state-of-the-art Mercedes Benz, relief from the wounds of the past and present, salvation from dreary therapeutic diagnoses: some want talismans to ward off the things that go bump in the night and the iota of power over the things that frayed their lives apart at the stratums.
What they all want is that assurance: that if they pray, believe and lived righteously, they would be awarded with some portion of comfort. In fact, people always want to hear what is sweet to them; their splendours and triumphs. The message of doom is unequivocally secluded because the preachers are interested in wealth. If you’re a prophet preaching the message of doom like those in the Old Testament like Hosea, you will definitely be unfollowed and exceedingly criticised.
The folks nowadays want to only hear their magnificence but they don’t want to perceive their flaws and that is the pro the false prophets use to accrue treasure from the congregation. Jesus always preached the truth and that mounted enmity from the scribes and pharisees nonetheless, the truth also these days is vastly eradicated.
In addition, the ignorance of the scripture is ignorance of Jesus Christ as St Jerome stated it, we barely know Christ now. The obliviousness of the scriptures is giving intensification to the gospel of prosperity; the fear to confront the pastors about misinterpretation of the gospel has made the world to slowly let go off the grid of Christianity to the grid of worldliness full of broadmindedness. That is why Karl Marx called religion the rich man’s opium. Christians of today are so myopic to understand what is pivotal, nevertheless it’s not their undertaking as they have clumsy pastors.
With the theology of giving and the theology of expectation, prosperity pastors unjustifiably over emphasize on giving “sowing of seed” as an investment for future affluence backed up wrongly with off-beam interpretation of the Scriptures resulting to half-truth. They are all full of promises they cannot deliver. Jesus does not promise us a rose garden in this life. Instead he tells his disciples: “In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). One should ask what happens to such maxims as “no pain no gain” or “no cross-no crown” in the prosperity churches.
To these preachers, the only way to prosper is by paying tithe and sowing seeds. So, they will never talk about those who have through hardworking and dedication placed themselves in the world map or Guinness Book of Records. Subsequently, countless people experience no transformation in their lives, remain in their abject poverty while their preachers smile as they receive alerts on their bank accounts. It is however unfortunate that Christianity today is defected by redundant mysticisms as Christians live beneath the scriptural standard as faith is now made deceitful and quaking because of prosperity upshot.
Evangelic Tozer said, “Worldliness is now an acceptable way of living and it is rated high above the Gospel values.” Our religious mood is social instead of spiritual. We have lost the art of worship but we are only in the certainties of pride and falsehoods of the gospel. Our literatures have been shallow and scarce that anyone appears to care. Many have been perverted by the new doctrines of this faith; Christian successes are now being measured by the types of cars and rides one has, the type of house one dwells and clothing put on. Being poor is now seen as an effect of sin and lack of faith. According to the message of the very problem as advocated by David Oyedepo and others is that “it is the gospel that defines poverty as sin.”
According to that, two points sum up the veiled message in the adage: It is exclusively financial, and it neglects the spiritual well-being of the people.” The finances are a pre-eminent for one to have assurance of God’s blessings and well being of them, their businesses and family.
More so, the Gospel of prosperity weathers the redemption in Christ Jesus is also redemption from financial poverty. 2 Corinthians 8:9, where Paul says: “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich.” This appeals to both the poor and the rich as it seems to mean the poor will become rich and rich become richer. After all, Jesus also says those who leave their house or land or brothers or sisters or father or mother for the sake of the gospel will receive a hundredfold return (Matthew 10:29-30).
Many preachers take advantage of this to butter money out of Christians by making them believe if they give to their churches, God would give them a hundredfold return but they forget Jesus is talking of the spiritual returns. Becoming rich at the expense of their congregation through the art and act of fleecing the flock by the prosperity preachers is now justified by these texts. Preachers use indigenous systems and circumstances in providing interpretations of the word of God in order to attain money from people.
Some set up seminars on financial responsibility only to make sure this ideology is highly inculcated amongst people. T.D Jakes, Pastor of The Potter’s House Non-denominational mega-church, urged in favour of prosperity, rejecting what he sees as the demonization of success. He views poverty as a barrier to living a Christian life, suggesting that it is easier to make a positive impact on society when one is affluent. The preacher is the custodian of his flock who are the receptors of the message of Christ. Scripture explains that faith is the undoubted belief in that Christians have in the mysteries of God without seeking proof or evidence for the things of Divinity.
In this light, it can be argued further that Christians are saved by faith, live by faith and receive the righteousness of God by faith. Christians have access to the grace of God, stand firm in their belief, receive the promise of the Spirit by faith, and wait for the second coming of Christ – all by faith not by first giving money as a pre-eminent for blessings as the prosperity gospel puts it down. In contrast, it uses faith to decree health, wealth and happiness that depicts faith as a matter of believing in fashioned things rather than believing in God as the Saviour, the Lord and Liberator. We must linger to stand against their manner of interpreting and explaining the message to our fellow Christians.
Due to the impact of this gospel, we are experiencing a rise on denominations basing on wealth in the church. Seats are now divided midst the rich and the poor. People have been diverted on the truth of what the gospel is, preachers choose sermons backed by prosperity and some claim a specific blessing can be exchanged for money and sometimes the blessing vary according to the currency note offered. But is this the way to go? We are only on roads full of confusions as each one seeks where he can lean or stance.
Our life has been ruined just on a heap of ruinous lies of temporary happiness by promises of wealth. God offers a wonderful plan for your life which may not be that richness the prosperity preachers orate. The Gospel of prosperity and miraculous healing is doing well because it glitters as it charms publics but let’s not disremember that not all that glitters is gold. Actually, the prosperity movement has no genuine, systematic theological doctrine, and has no structured, logical system on which to build a chronological critique but only imparted in fiery sermons. Everything is entirely replicated and capitalised in this era.
The Gospel was not left in the relaxing precinct and now people are using the word of God into coinage amassed business. This is the instant publics must open their thoughts on who and which preachers they listen to. Though we are in a monetary world but there is more to life than just money as evidenced by the lesson of the holy family of a poor carpenter from Galilee who taught that a good life is a simple one. My self-effacing plea to all pastors of different churches is to take up the right cross without other implications.
This is the time religious leaders shouldn’t give up on their professionalism but it’s the time they should bring back the congregation God has given them by evangelizing rightly what God speaks. Its not the moment to sweet talk Christians but to call a spade a spade. People nowadays go to church not because they seek God but because of poverty as they crowd on lines of holy water, holy oil and holy trees that pastors claim to make them rich.
This is the exact stretch for ministers to remember their commitment to Christ and devote themselves to that, which our Master Jesus Christ left for us to shadow. The challenge is up for all of us; lets embrace it with seeking of God’s guidance in all our phases and goings-on.
Sem. Jjuuko Mathias
Alokolum National Major seminary