I was reading some interesting articles over @ Ben Witherington and came upon this “What’s Wrong with Prospering? The Gospel according to Joel Osteen”. Joel Osteen is one of those buzzword celebrities right now, isn’t he?
Anyway, half-way down I came upon …
“How very different indeed this message is from John Wesley’s Famous Sermon “On the Use of Money” in which he stresses that if you make all you can honestly and save all you can, but do not give all you can to relieve poverty, feed the hungry, make well the sick you may be a living person but you are a dead Christian.”
Now, I have seen “both sides now” in my experience and where I am presently is in neither camp. That heavy obligatory giving message is on both sides with different emphasis. And while the Methodism might seem the more holy of the two…. I think they both miss the mark. And that is how I live, understanding the message of both, but giving my life to another focus.
I don’t know much about Joel Osteen, but I do know alot about the Prosperity message. I synthesized through it. Don’t like that thought? Ok. Here is me: from an early age I have learned to like giving and I have the tendency to be quite literalist. Because I acted out on teachings of Jesus to give to everyone who asks, etc. I have learned alot of ‘giving lessons’ along the way. When first confronted with prosperity teaching I was pretty strapped financially, and it went against all my previous teaching …more along Wesley’s lines. But I tried out some of the Prosperity teaching and I worked through what the abuses were and what the Word of God says on it. I came out on the other side with a definite ‘giving ‘ gift in my life. I love to have enough to give… if I don’t have enough, I scrounge together to give “out of my need” . I have seen wonderful things from God because of this. And if you don’t like the present teachings, I don’t blame you, but read the life George Mueller, read Basilea Schlink1 .
Sit neither in the seat of the scornful nor the arrogant… move on into the joy of giving and the blessing of compassion.
I found out God does want to bless us. And I found out lots of other things, but where I am now on ‘money’ and ‘giving’ and ‘prosperity’ is that what God wants most from us is to conform and grow into the image of Christ. That means that compassion is to be a characteristic that is both large and overarching in our experience. I believe that God blesses some of us with ability to make money and to give wisely, but this giving is to arise from the type of compassion that is evident in Christ’s character, neither self-serving nor ascetic. Compassion, … think about it.
There is so much that could be said in rounding out this attitude and focus I now have, but I just wanted to post a short thought on it. Consider this yourself when you hear strong opinions on either side …start being more risky in the amounts you give, not only financially, but personally. I cannot believe that God desires for those who follow His direction to give to end up spent and ruined- this would be so contrary to His revealed character. The Bible also has teachings of how God replenishes and restores, the law has within it promises of return and how God’s Ways tend toward life and prosperity. Yes, there are times you are taken advantage of when giving, but you will learn how to give with wisdom and efficacy and you will also harvest something surprising: the great joy that rewards the giver.
Perhaps that is something that God most wants us to understand about Him: how much it rejoices His heart to give. It isn’t the entirety of His revelation, but it is a part that somehow gets very misunderstood.
I would strongly suggest that the purpose of prosperity is that we may exercise compassion, and that involves “reaching out the hand to the needy”. But we aren’t dead or “bad” when we don’t hand over everything at all times… this wasn’t required either in the Old Covenant or in the New. We have freedom to give abundantly because we have been given an abundant life in Christ.
There are many types of prosperity and all may be utilized for service to God and to mankind. The thing is, God doesn’t approve of muzzling the ox so that he just works and never has the ability to eat some of the provender. It is not a good balance to try to make people feel guilty for times of enjoying life or thankfully living with plenty. The balance is gratefulness with responsibility. We are our brother’s keeper, but that has boundaries. Learning to give, showing compassion … these things teach us to keep our balance. And such balance and moderation in all things is good.