Don’t blame God for your financial choices

I’ve been a bad blogger. With trying to keep up with everything (work, home, Trivia Bowl prep), I’ve mostly been posting the articles and stuff I find interesting to Facebook and Delicious. So if you were wondering what I’ve been reading lately, you should check those two links. The Facebook feed, by the way, is in my sidebar. :)

Flute Prayer posted this article from Time recently with the headline “Maybe We Should Blame God for the Subprime Mess.” As Trinity pointed out, the headline is misleading, since the article is not about God, but about churches preaching the “prosperity gospel.”

While researching a book on black televangelism, says Jonathan Walton, a religion professor at the University of California at Riverside, he realized that Prosperity’s central promise — that God will “make a way” for poor people to enjoy the better things in life — had developed an additional, dangerous expression during the subprime-lending boom. Walton says that this encouraged congregants who got dicey mortgages to believe “God caused the bank to ignore my credit score and blessed me with my first house.” The results, he says, “were disastrous, because they pretty much turned parishioners into prey for greedy brokers.”

The subprime lending debacle is an outrage. Prosperity gospel is a twisting of Scripture. I don’t believe prosperity gospel is the sole reason for the subprime lending boom and subsequent bust, but there is a point in this article that is valid — that prosperity gospel is flawed and trying to become rich or obtain some measure of wealth is no reason to go to church or call yourself a Christian.

According to Wikipedia, a summary of prosperity gospel:

Prosperity theology proponents promote the idea that God wants Christians to be “abundantly” successful in every way, with special emphasis on financial prosperity.

Support for the Prosperity Gospel is believed to be found by proponents in specific Bible verses and in its narratives of the lives and lifestyles of biblical characters. Critics counter that all of the verses Prosperity Gospel proponents use are taken by them out of their textual, cultural, historical and/or literary context thus falsely supporting their claims.[6]

Following are some Bible verses used by Prosperity teachers to support their theology:

  • Deuteronomy 8:18 – “But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day” (New American Standard Bible)[7].
  • Malachi 3:10 – “‘Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test 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 a blessing until it overflows.'” (New American Standard Bible)
  • John 10:10 – “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (King James Version)
  • 3 John 2-4 – “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers”

Taking Scripture out of context is always so popular in making sure God’s word says what you want to say it. However, I want to point a few things out.

  • Just a few verses before Deuteronomy 8:18 is verse 11-17. It says: Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments and His statutes which I command you today, lest when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them, and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good in the end — then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’
    Basically, it says don’t forget God’s commandments and rules when you have prospered (with homes and wealth) lest you forget how God took you out of hardship and humility as a slave, tested you by bringing you through a desert and think to yourself, “I did all this for myself.” No.
  • Malachi 3:10 is used to promote the prosperity gospel, but how many Christians actually tithe simply because it’s God’s due? The only ones who give anything even approaching a tithe of their gross income are the ones expecting something in return. The expectation of wealth in exchange for a pittance negates the whole idea of offering.
  • A notation in my Bible (a Nelson Study Bible, NKJV, in case you were wondering) says: more abundantly: The thieves take life; the shepherd gives it. Abundant life includes salvation, nourishment, healing and much more. Life here refers to eternal life, God’s life. It speaks not only of endlessness, but of quality of life. With Christ, life on earth can reach much higher quality, and then in heaven it will be complete and perfect. So, having life more abundantly is not the same as having a wealthy life. In the words of Biggie, mo’ money, mo’ problems.
  • The Wikipedia entry lists 3 John 2-4 as one of the Scriptures cited by the prosperity gospel, but its cut off. Verses 3 and 4 says: For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. Truth, of course, refers to God’s word.

One of the popular questions floated around this election season is ” Are you better off than you were eight years ago?” When I think about it, I have to say….why, yes, I am better off than I was eight years ago. Why is that?

Well, let’s see. I busted my hump to graduate from college, keep paying my bills and my car while I searched for a job, keep that first job, then move on to the next one. But I also have to give God His due when it comes to truly prospering — I got married to a man who somehow shares my convictions and views about the world and about life and success, I looked for God’s word when it came to making tough decisions (should I stay at the terrible job to go to one that might be just as bad, but at least its new???) and I also realized that even if it all went away right now — I’m still healthy, in no danger of starving and in a relationship that not only sustains me but challenges me to do better. And even though I’m way better off than I was eight years ago, this is not to say that I’m not still busting my hump. Shoot, there is a bed that Trin and I have been eyeing, but we aren’t going to get it until we can save up the cash to buy it, despite the fact that we could probably charge it.

As for the Scriptures I follow when it comes to wealth, here are some I’d like to share:

  • Luke 12:48 — For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.
  • Matthew 6:25-33 — Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what will you eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavently Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to your stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and toorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink? or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
  • Psalms 49:6 — Those who trust in their wealth
    And boast in the multitude of their riches,
    None of them can by any means redeem his brother,
    Nor give to God a ransom for him
  • Psalm 112:5-7 — A good man deals graciously and lends;
    He will guide his affairs with discretion.
    Surely he will never be shaken;
    The righteous will be in everlasing remembrance.
    He will not be afraid of evil tidings;
    His heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
    His heart is established;