The “Health And Wealth” Gospel–Part 1

(Author Note: This is not meant to be an exhaustive treatise on the subject or any excuse for those who call themselves Christian and manipulate others for their own financial benefit and gain. Enough said.)

“And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you the power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant, which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.” Deuteronomy 8:18 (NKJV)

There are very few topics which generate more heated discussions in Christendom than that of the so-called “health and wealth” gospel.  I have heard passionate arguments on both sides of the fence. Like all, I have struggled with it, but ultimately I am left with: what was God’s original intent before sin came into the picture and made a mess of things? How did He manifest this in the lives of His servants?

No matter what we believe on this subject, we would probably all agree that there was no poverty, lack, or sickness in the Garden of Eden and there will be none in Heaven. If we start with the premise that what God created as “good” at creation is also His perfect will, then we must at least consider that God does not want us sick or broke. From there it is likely to get sticky. As I understand it, poverty and sickness are part of the curse of the law that Christ redeemed us from.

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” Galatians 3:13-14 (NKJV)

There are many who hold fast to the view that wealth is evil, citing the well-known “truth” that “money is the root of all evil.”  But is that what the Scripture really says?

But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” 1 Timothy 6:9-10 (NKJV)

Money itself can not be evil. It is an inanimate object. It is the sin in our own hearts that makes wealth problematic: the love of money. I believe the root of our strong beliefs and emotions about wealth are likely two-fold.  We are afraid of the greed and envy we suspect (but are usually not willing to admit) is hiding in our own hearts and we have seen the abuses of wealth by others. Thus, I have one question: should this be motivation for our behavior and the standard for belief? Do we pattern our lives, as Christians, on what we fear in ourselves and what we despise in others or, should we pattern our lives on what God has said in His Word?

Clearly God does not have a problem with wealth, per se. Look at Job, Abraham, Joseph, David, Solomon, and others. None of these men had problems paying their bills. Their wealth was not the central focus of their lives. It was, rather, a by-product of something else: their relationship with the Living God and their faithfulness and obedience to His commands. God blessed them, and just as we find great joy in blessing our children with gifts and provision, how could we say that our loving Father would do less?

I can’t speak for any others, but as for me, I have always been afraid of money and wealth. I did not despise it. I was terrified of the responsibility of it. I was afraid of other people’s greed and envy if they thought I had it. I was afraid of the visibility which came with money. I was afraid of its seductive and destructive power. Easier to be “average” and just bump along like every one else with just enough to get by.  Like many, I had the attitude of: “just us four and no more” when it came to considering God’s financial blessing in my life.

Like a hammer, money is only a tool. It is a convenient and portable medium of exchange for something we value more than that piece of green paper we call the “dollar.”  A hammer can be used to pound nails and build a house or it can be used as a weapon to kill. The hammer can only do what the hand is wielding it makes it do. It has no will of its own. Likewise, money can be used for good or for evil purposes depending on the heart of the one who is using it.

We are commanded to go into all the world “making disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19 NKJV). Practically speaking, we are not all able to go to the mission field, but there are many fine mission organizations doing just that. It is a fact each one of these require money (and other things) in order to do the job God has called them to do. And, as I was often told as a child: “Money doesn’t grow on trees, you know.”  We can, by extension, be a part of the work these mission groups do with our financial support. As we sow into the work they are doing, we then share in the spiritual blessings that result from our financial partnership with them. Like it or not, money is the international means of exchange.

What if the whole point of wealth and money is not about us? What if the only point of wealth is to advance the Kingdom of God, establishing His covenant on the earth (as noted earlier in Deuteronomy 8:18)? By espousing poverty (in its various forms and degrees), do we actively thwart God’s purposes? Do we cause the Gospel to not go where it should because we discerned the purpose of wealth incorrectly?  How can we possibly be a blessing to others if we have nothing extra to give?

We knew someone many years ago, who by any standard would have been considered wealthy. He was a committed Christian with a heart for the Gospel and was very generous in his support. When others would question him about his obvious wealth (and the visible results of it), all he would say was: “When you are an irrigation ditch for the Lord, even the evaporation amounts to a fair bit.” That was usually the end of any discussion on the subject.

God gave R. G. LeTourneau multiple inventions that resulted in great wealth. He was eventually able to sow ninety percent of his income back into the propagation of the Gospel, living on the other ten percent. Even on that ten percent, he did not have trouble paying his electric bill. His inventions are still in use today, and there is a university which bears his name that is training young men and women to use their God-given talents and abilities in service to God.

When we look at others, we view them through the lens of our own soul. We often ascribe to them the motives lurking in the darkest corners of our own hearts.  It is obvious to all there is no shortage of examples where wealth has been misused, even within the church.  The issue here is not whether or not you have money.  It is only an issue of whether or not money has you.

Wealth, in and of itself, is not the end game. The use of our wealth (in whatever amount God has blessed us with) must be about stewardship. Stewardship is about what we do with what God has given us. I do not know why God gives some “one talent”, some “five talents”, and others “ten talents” (parable of the talents: Matthew 25:14-30); that is within His sovereign will and I am not wise enough to figure that one out.  I do know we cannot judge whether someone has been a faithful steward of God’s financial provision by the car they drive, the house they live in, or the clothes they wear.  It is impossible to know how obedient they have been to God’s required stewardship on outward appearances alone. We can not see their heart nor judge their intent. We can only judge if we have been good stewards with what has entrusted to us. We can only judge whether we have a “love of money.”  We will only give an account before God’s great throne of judgement for our financial stewardship.

My husband has a standard set of questions for others when the subject of wealth and money comes up.  He is especially vocal when the subject involves criticism of those within the ministry that are wearing, driving, or living in an example of what others would call wealth.  He asks: “Why should it only be the rock/rap stars, business tycoons, actors, and sports stars that are allowed to have that level of financial blessing? Why do we believe Satan treats his servants better than God does?  Why would anyone want to be a Christian if the only benefit is “fire insurance” for the life hereafter? They can be broke and sick without the Gospel. The Gospel means “good news.” Most Christians aren’t living like there is much good news in their lives. Why isn’t the world saying about us: ‘Man, those Christians really know how to live’?”

It is time for those of us who profess Christ as our Lord to examine our hearts and make the Gospel and the Great Commission top priority with our financial resources. It has been estimated that only between five to twenty percent of church-goers tithe (depending on the source of your information).  What could be accomplished for the Gospel if we were at least obedient in this alone?

I do not believe God is opposed to wealth and the enjoyment of His manifested financial blessings. He is, however, opposed to greed and envy. He has a specific purpose for wealth: the advancement of His kingdom to all corners of the earth.

The question then becomes: how much do we value the Gospel? What do we think it is worth in comparison to the other things we value in our lives? Do we value the “Great Commission” and our obedience to fulfill that mandate more than whatever else we spend our money on?

Where else but in God’s economy can we take something with no intrinsic value, like a piece of paper money, and exchange it for something of eternal value, like salvation of the lost? If we are not faithful with the $10.00 He gives us, why would we think He would ever give us the opportunity to be faithful with larger amounts? It is time to be faithful in the small things like money, so that He will trust us with true riches.

That’s my “two cent’s worth.”

He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own?  ‘No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.'” Luke 16:10-13 (NKJV)

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(The “Health And Wealth” Gospel, Part 2–Health, to follow)

Copyright © 2011 by Susan E. Johnson
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