Wednesday, September 11, 2013

No Gospel of prosperity
By Editor
Sun 18 Aug. 2013, 14:00 CAT

THE suffering of many of our people makes them vulnerable and leads them sometimes to look for easy answers and shortcuts.

Jesus warns his followers to be aware of false prophets who offer empty promises. If a preacher says: "If you believe in Jesus, all your financial problems will be solved," then he is indeed a false prophet, because Jesus never made such a promise.

There are unfortunately some churches and preachers in our country who act irresponsibly by making empty promises to the vulnerable people who are struggling for survival. There are preachers who ask their congregants to make huge tithes, sometimes giving almost everything they have, so that God can give them more. They say: 'If you give more, God will give you more. If you give less, God will give you less.'

They refuse to get small tithes from their congregants. They ask for all sorts of expensive things from their congregants. The preachers become rich while their congregants become poor. Their lives are continually improving while those of their congregants are continually declining. They are building big houses; they are driving expensive automobiles; they are always buying very expensive clothes, perfumes or colognes. They live big while their congregants live small. They are much happier while their congregants are less happy. The church has become a business for them. They seek a fortune from the church while their congregants seek salvation from the same church.

There are no easy answers and no quick fixes to the many problems of money being faced by our people.

We urge all to be aware of preachers who promise miracles, or jobs, or who claim to have the power of curing HIV and AIDS. They often exploit the vulnerability of our people and misuse the bible for their own gain.

The same can be said of preachers who predict the imminent return of Christ. No, Christ will return at his own time: "The day of the Lord will come like a thief" (2 Pt 3:10). The Bible is not a commercial book to be used for personal and material gain. It is the good news of salvation because it is God's communication to assist his people in their daily lives. The Bible reminds us of the covenant that was established between God and humanity.

The Bible contains the mind of God. God wants us to live according to His will. It is sad to see preachers abuse the Bible, abuse the word of God to make money for themselves, to enrich themselves.

Churches have become big business in Zambia today as in many other places in the world. People are making a lot of money from running churches. There are so many people today struggling to start their own churches. Why? To make money, to live better. They have turned the word of God into a commodity, merchandise to use in making money. So often, we hear people fighting each other over church money, over Sunday collections. We also so often hear of people fighting each other over ownership of a church. Is this right? What is causing all this? Money! Money seems to be the source of all this evil.

We need to look at our problems, especially the financial ones, differently. If we are unable to solve our financial problems prudently and in an honest way, we may end up in a spiritual and psychological confusion or even in crimes. As a result, we may try out different churches, pastors, but end up discouraged and confused. Going to church to make money leads to confusion.

This happened to the two disciples, who after the death of Jesus went to Emmaus (Luke 24:16-19). They had thought that Jesus was a political messiah, and after his death, they thought that he had failed in his mission. When they saw him crucified, they became discouraged and confused. They lost hope and became strangers to themselves, but they regained hope and strength by recognising Jesus at the breaking of the bread.

In the confusion of our own lives, especially when we are financially troubled, when we can see no solution to our many problems, Christ still walks with us and leads us to our destination. He gives us the strength to continue in our struggle, and not to give up. When somebody is discouraged, he or she should not run away from Christ but turn to him with hope and faith.

Christ has said we shall have the poor always with us (John 12:8). This assures us that the heart of the redeemer sympathises with the lowliest on earth. He tells us that they are his friends on earth, placed among us to awaken in our hearts the love he feels towards the suffering in our communities. If anyone hates the poor, they hate Christ. If anyone betrays the poor, they betray Christ. If anyone steals from the poor, they are stealing from Christ. This shows us that the poor should never be abused, manipulated, neglected.

Job suffered to the extent that he cursed the day he was born (Jb 3:1-4). Many people in our poor communities are like Job. They have no work, little food and clothing, poor shelter and no running water, but still - God cares for them. The destitute Jesus on the cross consoles them. This does not mean that they have to accept the misery as it is, but in a spirit of trusting God, they are able to offer the situation to God, so that He may guide them to find a way out. The Bible presents a peaceful way of living, even in the midst of misery, poverty. But it is not through being robbed by one's pastor to enrich himself or herself. There is no gospel of prosperity.

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