When our last article was shared on facebook, one of the followers of our page asked this same question: “Does God want us to be poor?” One of the main questions adherents of the ‘prosperity gospel’ ask whenever their theology of “come to Jesus and be rich and healthy” comes under scrutiny is, “do you think God wants us to be poor?” This might seem a legitimate question, especially if you have grown up in certain parts of Africa and Ghana my homeland specifically where poverty is ripe and endemic.
However, this question has one objective in mind, it is often meant to push back against any criticism of the false teaching of the “prosperity gospel”, and silence those who call out these false teachers.
In John 12, Mary took a pound of expensive ointment and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. Judas Iscariot, one of the disciples was dismayed at such a waste(by his assertion), according to him, the perfume could have been sold and the proceeds given to the poor. Jesus’ answer was astonishing, “leave her alone…for the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.”
Was it that Jesus didn’t care about the poor, condoning such waste when so many poor people could have been helped? Of course he cared! It is the height of pride to think that we who are evil care more about the poor than Jesus did. Sometimes the peddlers of the “gospel of health and wealth” want us to believe they care more about the poor than everybody else, but just like Judas, they care more about their own stomach than the people they claim to help.
Jesus knows what our truest need is. In Luke 19:10 he tells us that “…the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” We must never confuse the gospel with poverty eradication. The question “Do you think God want us to be poor?” is just an alibi used by false teachers to advance their own cause. If Jesus came to make us rich, then he should have made every poor person in his day rich. But he didn’t do that, he actually said, “The poor you always have with you”
Now, poverty is not the lack of that car or house or job or comfortable life (things the “prosperity gospel” often promises) . Poverty, is actually a life enstranged from God. And God is more concerned about our spiritual wealth than our material comfort or riches. In Mark 8:36 & 37 Jesus asks “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul?” Material riches is no barometer of how well a person is doing spiritually.
There are those who will still ask, “Is it not possible to be a good Christian and be rich?” to that I don’t need to give my own opinion. The words of our Lord Jesus in Luke 18:24 is the most sobering, he said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” Then in verse 25, he puts the nail in the coffin, “For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God”. It is very frightening that the very thing Jesus warns us to flee from, is the same thing we crave the most. What a rebellious people we are!
The reason why the “gospel of health and wealth” is so dangerous and deadly is that it preaches a different God. In Matt. 6:24, Jesus in his sermon on the mount told his listeners, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money”
Money is not neutral, it has a cunning ability to offer itself as a God-alternative. What the “prosperity gospel” preachers are peddling is not some sort of harmless call to become rich, they are effectively extolling a different god, the god of Money.
Our approach to life should be what Paul admonished in 1 Timothy 6:6-10:
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs
We should be a people who are content with God’s daily provision for our lives. Jesus taught his disciples to pray to their heavenly Father for their daily bread. God has promised to provide for these things (food, clothing and shelter) (Matt. 6:25-34), and if we have these things we should be content for those who desire to be rich fall into temptation. This is exactly what has happened to these false teachers; their desire to be rich led them to this false doctrine in the first place and unfortunately they are taking many unsuspecting people down with them.
God is more concerned about your soul than your material comfort in this fleeting world. Don’t be fooled, we have been promised unimaginable riches and inheritance (1 Peter 1:3-5) but it is not on this side of eternity. It is in the world to come. Beware! For many false prophets have gone out into the world!