Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A “New” American Heresy

I spend a good amount of time in the car, especially this time of year, going from home to home for house blessings, so I tend to listen to the radio. What I listen to tends to go in cycles, ranging from podcasts and liturgical music to local radio.

For months now I have been intrigued by a commercial for the “Biblical Money Code” and its assurance of guilt-free, God-endorsed, wealth building. The man who discovered this code, according to the radio commercials, used to be a Christian Pastor and “NOW DONATES MORE THAN 50 THOUSAND DOLLARS A YEAR!” There is no hidden message; follow the code, and become filthy rich. And… the way, when you’re rich you can finally give a lot of money away.

I have so many difficulties with this premise; I’m not really sure where to start. We live in a society consumed with money; how to get it, how to spend it, how to save it, and how to get more of it. How any Christian Pastor can endorse a system of wealth building which is rooted in the Sacred Scriptures, seems counter-intuitive to the message of Christ.
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6.9-10)
And yet, when a rich man confronted Jesus with the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life,” Jesus said,
"If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Then Jesus said to His disciples, "Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 19.21-23)
Ultimately, what Jesus desires is our entire love and devotion. He asks us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. (see Mark 8.34) Jesus says, “Seek first the kingdom.” (Matthew 6.33) If we seek wealth, we cannot seek Christ and His Kingdom.

So where is the heresy? The most dangerous heresies are those based upon partial truths. (Check out my post on "Partial Truth is More Dangerous") The so-called Prosperity Gospel contends that Jesus actually desires us to be wealthy, comfortable and “enjoy life,” which brings us true happiness. Many I have heard, base this heresy on a short passage in the Old Testament.
Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this," Says the LORD of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it. (Malachi 3.10)
It is perpetuated by New Testament quotes such as,
But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. (2 Corinthians 9.6)
I suspect this is also why the radio commercial makes a point to proclaim how much the former pastor is now “able” to donate. His presumed guilty conscience is soothed by a charitable donation, just as a promised donation is rewarded by God.

But how is this reconciled with God’s commandment for us to be willing to die to the world, and lose everything, just for our love for God? It can’t be, but that is nothing new. 

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