I was given a link to a Youtube trailer for an upcoming show being sponsored by Oprah Winfrey called Preachers of LA. I need to start by saying I do not know any of these Preachers personally and have never been to their respective churches so the only thing I have to go on is the trailer itself. With that said, the opinions expressed in the trailer are at the very least far more prevalent in our churches than they ever should have been. Simply put, the biblical message is that Christ took on our sins due to the nature of God’s love to give man the ability to be redeemed and the opportunity to live forever in communion with God the creator of the universe. The message of this trailer and show appears to be that gift from God is a brand to be sold and make people rich. It made nauseous.
The idea of the health and wealth gospel is not really new; it has been distracting people for decades. It is preached by televangelists, supported by celebrities, and completely and totally contrary to the bible. I know this appears harsh but I have no other way to communicate it. If we centralize the focus of the biblical message to one verse ripped whole heartedly out of context about a minor character in Israel’s history (Jabez) and miss the crystal clear focus of the rest of the text we are clearly not honoring God. The overwhelming message is to love, have compassion and mercy, seek justice, and be content with God’s grace. One of the major character traits of God is justice. How can that be pursued if we are looking for our own reward at the expense of others.
I know that the practitioners of this would say that they do not do this, but in reality, how can that be supported? The bible clearly shows how God rewards people. However, he does so on his desire and not because we “name it and claim it” or “visualize it”. If we are so self focused that our prayer and faith life is structured only on what we want, how can we say we are serving God. I think Peter should feel better about denying Christ in the courtyard of the Sanhedrin than any preacher should ever feel about preaching this garbage. If a person can reconcile owning a Bentley while members of their congregation go without food to help fund it, their moral compass is so off I am surprised they can find their way to work. I am overwhelmingly concerned that this kind of garbage is seen as acceptable and actually thrives.
The church’s job is to provide a safe place to experience God and support his people’s relationship with him. If people are using it as a venue to make money, they are missing the point entirely. The prevalent idea is that God wants his children to be happy. The Bible never says this. The word happy in modern terms is a state of being. The words used that are translated into “happy” in the bible refer to recognizing the blessings God has given you, not being in a state of continuous reception of good things. God promises to care for us. In order for that to occur, we need to be serving him and following his direction in our lives. If we choose to live outside that direction, we choose to live outside that care. That does not mean that bad things will not occur. Telling a person that bad things happened to them because their faith was poor is frankly cruel and should be condemned. The bible never says that things will always be good, bad things will happen. Our ability to be content in all circumstances is what should determine happiness, not a Mercedes.
I am sure that when I stand before the Almighty God, there will be many things that his presence will expose in me that I will not want to have exposed. I do not see how people who preach this type of gospel will even be able to say they did with a straight face. God expects us to live sacrificially for the sake of others, not build designer kitchens in our mansions while children die from hunger. The simplest way to say it is that we need to focus on God and stop focusing on ourselves.