December is ladies' month at our church, so there are always some extra things going on. For one thing, we buy the same cloth and make matching outfits. This year's cloth was a real stretch for me. I DO.NOT.WEAR.YELLOW. EVER.
During ladies' month they sing special numbers at church, are very involved in preparing and serving the Christmas dinner, sometimes lead the singing at church, occasionally speak at church, and other involvements. One of the big things they do is a conference for the women and teenage girls of the church. They invite other churches as well.
Before the flood our church had started a project of adding on to the church to increase the sanctuary size, something that was really needed. But then we got flooded out and were in exile for several months. Once we moved back to our building, little by little the church addition has been finished off and the sanctuary has been spruced up. It looks like it's pretty much finished now with a fresh coat of paint, a new pulpit, and carpet on the platform.
So for the ladies' conference, the women decorated and they did a fabulous job on it! It looked beautiful and was very tastefully done (no cotton balls on the wall).
I don't know who the speaker was and I wouldn't give his name if I did. But his message concerns me. It concerns me because it is something I hear so often here. In fact, the next day at a different church, the closing prayer was pretty much the same. It concerns me because people in the church don't seem very discerning about error even though our pastor has spoken against this.
Granted, I don't always follow the French very well, but the gist of the message was that if you obey God, He will bless you and if you ask God for anything, He'll give it to you. You should never be sick. You can even command the mosquitoes to leave (I'm pretty sure that's what I heard him say). He gave examples of people who prayed and because they were giving generously to the church and involved in the church programs, they were given what they prayed for.
I do believe that God blesses us. I do believe He punishes us when we refuse to repent. I do believe He heals. But I have serious problems with the whole health and wealth teaching. This isn't meant to be a serious, theological discussion, but in no special order, here are some of my questions and objections.
1. He based the message on Deuteronomy 28. This was God's covenant with Israel: in brief, if you obey I'll bless you and if you disobey I will punish you. So I think the principal holds for all believers....but the way I hear it approached here is with a sense of entitlement and of demanding of God.
2. So what if I do obey and I do tell God what I want and it doesn't seem like I'm blessed? Even worse, what if instead of blessings, terrible things happen to me? Like they do to Christians all over the world every day.
3. What about Job? His friends all assumed he had sinned because God wasn't blessing him.
4. Doesn't this then become a works-based belief system? If I am good enough, give enough, help the church enough God will bless me. So if I don't get a material blessing, I'm not doing enough or my faith isn't great enough. If I don't get a material blessing, it's somehow my fault.
5. Our society in the US is very materialistic. Many in the society here are living in poverty, but would like a better life for themselves (understandably). But aren't we promoting materialism with this belief?
6. And so if I am poor, shouldn't becoming a Christian bring me out of my poverty, out of my illness, out of my problems? So what if I become a Christian and I'm still poor, sick, or troubled? What does that mean for my relationship with God?
7. And speaking of relationship, doesn't this kind of teaching just focus on what I can get from God rather than on my relationship with God?
8. And then there's Jesus. He had no place to lay His head, was despised, rejected, persecuted, and killed. Hmmmm, what happened to His prosperity?
9. And Jesus chose to give up all to come to the earth. Will this kind of teaching prevent church members from being willing to give up all to go to isolated areas to preach the Gospel?
10. Jesus tells us to not worry about what to wear or what to eat. He'll provide. He does tell us to ask Him for our daily bread, but I think that means we should ask Him for our needs to be met, not necessarily our wants.
11. What about Proverbs 30:8 & 9 "Give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God's holy name."
12. This morning I was reading Revelation 2. I was struck by what it said about the church in Smyrna: "I know about your suffering and your poverty--but you are rich!" This is also the only one of the seven churches that doesn't have a criticism about it. They were persecuted and they were poor, but they were faithful and God considered them rich.
13. I think we need to strive for balance. Live victorious lives, but also focus on our relationships with God, on our spiritual health, and on being faithful to Him. Then let Him bless us and provide for us. We need to learn to trust Him when things go wrong and when things are going well.
I don't in any way mean for this to be a criticism of our church. Overall our church takes a balanced approach and the pastor has even spoken out against this kind of teaching. But it does concern me because of its prevalence and the way it is so easily accepted.
What do you think?