Know, then, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to occupy because of your righteousness; for you are a stubborn people.”
— Moses, Deuteronomy 9:6
“My cup runneth over.”
— From Psalm 23
This is another in an ongoing series of frequent postings about poverty, both material and spiritual, as it’s addressed in the Bible.
The “prosperity gospel,” or the health and wealth gospel as it’s sometimes called, teaches that God desires the material, spiritual, and physical prosperity of us all.
The theology of the “wealth gospel” has it that in order to receive–in order to not only keep up with the Joneses but move out of their neighborhood to higher material ground–you only have to believe, and strive to be good and nice, and act upon God’s promises.
A prayer life is part of the prosperity gospel deal, for sure. In fact, if you stick an occasional prayer into the divine vending machine, you’ll get a nice house and job promotions and boxes of Cracker Jacks that come complete with the sweetness of good health.
Whatever you want or need, just name it; God’s operators are standing by to take your calls.
If the prosperity gospel had any validity whatsoever (and please pay attention here, you the many who buy into every word of Joel Osteen’s happy, happy, happy prosperity gospel), Paul and the Apostles and all those intensely faithful and obedient Christians in the first three-hundred years of the Christian faith tradition would have retired to Mediterranean beaches rather than breaking their backs in service to others, only to have their heads cut off or to get tossed to hungry lions.
If the “wealth-and-health gospel” was the valid gospel, the richly blessed and prosperous Job would never have had so much as a bad hair day.
If the “wealth-and-health gospel” was the valid gospel, the richly blessed and prosperous Job would never have had so much as a bad hair day and King David–the mighty king who had it all–would never have had such family issues with his beloved sons.
Remember this: When Jesus and Pilate stood toe to toe, Pilate was the prosperous one; Jesus was the vulnerable and truly blessed one, a spiritual ruler born of a vulnerable and humble but blessed young girl.
If anything, we should be striving in our faith not for prosperity, but rather to be more poor. For what we might call “the poverty gospel” teaches that it’s only in spiritual poverty–in the emptying of desire for riches and medals and power and control–that God fills our cup with true inner riches, inner blessings and inner peace that money can’t buy and new cars can’t provide.
A good “poverty gospel” prayer is not the sort you stick into a vending machine for a reward or the favor of God. It’s more like the “Covenant Prayer” that the Methodist Movement founder John Wesley prayed to ring in New Years in his covenant worship services:
I am no longer my own, but yours.
Put met to what you will,
rank me with whom you will;
put me to doing,
put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by you or laid aside by you,
enabled for you or brought low by you.
Let me be full,
let me be empty.
Let me have all things,
let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things
to your pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God,
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
you are mine, and I am yours.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
let it be ratified in heaven.