Thursday, February 19, 2009

The poverty of the Prosperity Gospel

I am NOT a believer in the "prosperity Gospel" -- you know, the whole "but God LOVES to bless His children materially, so it's okay for me to have this nice, million-dollar house and drive this Mercedes and have two others in the garage, not to mention the big boat and the lake house and ..." Yes, I do believe God may choose to bless His children materially, but I don't think it's so we can live in big, fine houses and drive nice, expensive cars.

Of course, I am also the world's biggest hypocrite about this (as are most of the Christians I know who would agree with my first paragraph). If I lived up to my own belief, I wouldn't have a room full of scrapping/stamping supplies that I don't even WANT to put a value on (i.e., how much money I've spent filling it up). I'm ashamed to think about how many starving children that stuff could've fed, or how much AIDS/HIV or cancer research it could've funded, or whatever. I don't think God intends that I don't have a creative outlet and do fun things -- for one thing, I do think He gave me the creativity and wants me to use it, especially when I can do so for His glory. But when I buy compulsively, when I "collect" more rubber stamps than I will ever use, when I have a paper stash that would get me through a hundred or more scrapbooks ... I don't think God is very happy about that. I think it's HARD to live in America (or Britain or France or New Zealand or Australia ...) and have any kind of comprehension of what the rest of the world is like, of what it's like to be a parentless child in Africa having to raise your siblings -- and, yep, we've got those here, too -- or being a single mother with HIV/AIDS, which you caught somehow because practically everyone in your village has it, trying to cope with raising your children as you grow increasingly weaker, as you have little or no money, etc.

I got a newsletter in my e-mail inbox yesterday with a link to this which is why all this is pouring out of my brain today. And you wanna know what's really awful? I don't know that I'll ever read this book because I don't want to have to feel guilty about what a shallow, lukewarm Christian I am. It makes me think of the Gollum/Smeagol exchange in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers where Smeagol ends up covering his ears and saying, "Not listening! Not listening!" God, please forgive me! And please, break my heart with the things that break Yours whether I want You to or not!

I found this that I had written several years ago while reading a book about Rich Mullins' life that ties in perfectly with this:

Consumption is the opposite of the Cross. Be indifferent to the world's view of consumption as all-important. "The world will respect us if we court it, and it will respect us even more if we reject it in disdain or anger; but it will hate us if we simply take no notice of its priorities or what it thinks of us." -- Brennan Manning

A "prosperity gospel" is no gospel (good news.) Money is dangerous. God doesn't "bless us" with money. It's a curse! We're so proud of ourselves for giving God ten percent -- we ought to give Him ninety percent because He knows how to handle money a lot better than we do!! -- Rich Mullins

(I'm writing this stuff down, Lord, because I'm trying to get it through my thick skull! I'm afraid to pray that You'll change my outlook on "stuff," because I'm afraid You will! I feel secure being able to buy "stuff" -- it terrifies me to think of having to go back to penny-pinching and "doing without," when, really, "doing without" materially = having more spiritually. Why don't I value the spiritual more than the material? I'm a Christian, for Pete's sake! "This world is not my home" sort of thing. But, boy, do I want to be comfortable while I'm here! I'm afraid to ask You for help with this, Lord, because I'm afraid You will help, and I see visions of lost jobs, smaller incomes, financial crises, and that's hard and uncomfortable and very, very frightening. Help me not to fear first, then help me with the rest!)

Isaiah 55:2 "Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?"

Ouch, ouch, ouch. Ouch.

I stand here busted, Lord. Utterly, utterly busted. Is there ANY hope for me?


Melb. said...

Stacy, Stacy, Stacy....I struggle with this too but don't shy away from a book that may make you feel guilty. Read the book to inspire you to change. Forget the guilt!Materialism is something that I have been working on in the past year. I have been working on impulse buying. I try to think through my purchases. I am reading Revolution in World Missions by K.P. Yohannan. I am reading this to inspire change. Last year I realized what an "addiction" I had to Starbucks coffee so I decided to sponsor a child in the Philippines with the $$$ I would have spent on SB everyday. I am developing a relationship with this child and his mother and it is very exciting. All of us are works in progress. I might struggle with this the rest of my life but I know it is there and I know it needs to be dealt with. I making any sense??? Get out and fight the fight girl!!! God is on our side!!!!

Jamie said...

I think about what you're saying here all the time. Not just as a Christian, either.

One thing I love about being an Orthodox Christian is the opportunity to fast. (Mind you, it is simultaneously one of my least favorite parts, too.) Fasting is not something that only applies to food, it applies to every aspect of our lives; food, possessions, passions, etc. When I think about trying to fast from 'anger' missing out on hamburgers seems a lot easier. :)

As I prepare to enter into Lent, I struggle to keep my focus on the spiritual challenge/growth cycle, rather than on the absence of stuff (right now, that would be MEAT!, but who knows what'll have my attention next week.). Himself and I are though a 'cleansing' period in our lives. Trying to not only control the excess, but also eliminate the detritus of years of it.

I don't have a Rolls (more's the pity), but my craft collection is, well, you know. So, up with charitable giving (time or money) and down with collecting non-essential stuff.

It isn't just about what fits in the house. Well, unless I think of me as a house. hmph. I don't need to lose that much weight...