A Bodey in Motion

Building momentum, one step at a time

Which Gospel: Prosperity or Poverty?

Our lives aren’t all about money, but money touches almost every part of our lives. When you are a follower of Jesus, that’s especially true, and it’s important to take the time to learn what the Bible says about money.

Fortunately, that isn’t that hard to do. The Bible has a lot to say about money. Its pages cover working, and earning, and saving, and giving, and poverty, and debt, and etc. ad nauseum. You can learn a whole lot about money by reading the Bible.

Unfortunately, all of these different scriptures have led to a couple of conflicting theological schools of thought when it comes to Christians and their finances. Each have their standard bearers, and each have their critics. So, which is right?

Why don’t we start with a vague summary of each:

The Prosperity Gospel

This school of thought is shaped around the idea that God provides material prosperity for those he favors. Thus, if you are truly obedient to the Lord, you will be rewarded with growing wealth.  If you have wealth, you’ve pleased God and have been blessed by him. Paying tithes consistently and giving a big offering with the right heart always results in a greater material return.

Godliness and righteousness in life can be gauged through prosperity.

…or…

The Poverty Gospel 

According to this school of thought, poverty is required to experience true discipleship and sanctification. At best, wealth provides too much autonomy, and keeps the holder from experiencing true humility and dependence on God’s provision. At worst, it is sin, the result of selfishness and greed. To be truly obedient to the Lord, you must give up everything you own and live as simply and humbly as possible.

Godliness and righteousness in life can be gauged through poverty.

So, which is it?

The first ‘gospel’ has the benefit of synchronizing well with the “American Dream” that our culture idealizes. The second ‘gospel’ benefits similarly, though, as the very rich in America have been raised up as evil icons of a corrupt culture. We can look at Donald Trump and Mother Teresa and make a snap judgment about which is more holy. At the same time, everyday wealth is best gained through hard work, diligence, and living frugally, and those aren’t the bad qualities to have.

Which is it? Is God blessing the prosperous or the impoverished?

Why not both?

Why not neither?

The biggest problem with these two theologies is that they’re using finances as a sure measure of spirituality, and reality doesn’t match up. There are too many counter-examples to each of these ideas in the Bible, let alone the real world. God has called people to serve him from prosperity and poverty.

After all, none of our wealth is actually ours. It’s all been given to us. Whether we’ve been given a little or a lot, we’re called to manage it well, and use it to please God. Both prosperity and poverty are a gift from God to be used for his glory.

What do you think? Is it better to prosper or be poor? Which draws you closer to God?

April 4, 2013 Posted by | Christ and Church, Work and Money | , , , , , | Comments Off on Which Gospel: Prosperity or Poverty?

Secure Your Mask First Before Helping Others

How  many airline flights have you taken in your lifetime? With all of the family vacations and business trips, jumbo jets and puddle hoppers, multiple legs and layovers, all in over 40 years worth of air travel, I’m incapable of calculating a reasonable number. Suffice to say, except for TSA checkpoints and waiting for my ears to finally pop, flying the friendly skies is pretty uneventful for me.

The most uneventful part of most plane trips is the pre-flight safety demo. Although some airlines have tried to give it a bit more punch, the standard procedure is overwhelmingly lifeless.

Even so, on my last trip, that phrase from the title stuck out at me. Make sure you get your mask on and secure before assisting those around you. What’s the big deal? You’re an adult, why shouldn’t you take a few seconds first and just help that small child next to you before selfishly grabbing for your own bright orange breathing tube?

That's pretty blurry for a camera phone. Wait a minute! You can't have your phone on when you're flying! Bad David Monniaux, legal owner of this image which I am using modified under a Creative Commons license (click the image for more information).

Well, the logic goes that if you take care of others before you secure your own safety, you risk sacrificing yourself, and then neither of you is saved. While it’s true that no one has ever died from not using one of those safety masks, the logic is still sound, and we should apply it elsewhere.

I believe in generous giving. I encourage others to be charitable. It’s one of the two primary reasons I’ve invested in becoming a financial coach. However, I would never coach someone in the midst of a money crisis to give more. Paying for rent, lights, and groceries takes precedence.

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

1 Timothy 5:8

Broke people can’t help other people financially. Broke people can’t pay for a widow’s electric bill. Broke people can’t buy groceries to feed hungry children. Broke people are limited by the few resources they have available.

Stop making broke people choices.

This is a big dang deal. Get your house in order first. Get yourself back to a place where you can fill your cup to overflowing and be free to bless those around you. It takes resources to provide assistance.

Whoever multiplies wealth by interest and profit gathers it for him who is generous to the poor.

Proverbs 28:8

I need to end with a caveat: Tithing is an exception. Returning a percentage of your income back to God isn’t about generosity. It’s about attitude and perspective. It’s about recognizing the source of your income, and reminding yourself that you are just the manager of what you have.

Manage it well, so you’re ready to help others around you.

Question: You may not be able to help out financially, but there are still ways you can help others when you’re struggling. You can donate your time to them. You can encourage them. You can pray for them. How have you helped other around you?

September 10, 2012 Posted by | Marriage and Family, Past and Future, Work and Money | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment