Clothed in elaborate royal garments, still sitting on a throne, were the remains of the Holy Emperor of Rome, and something unexpected. Those who buried him in the year 814 placed a scepter in one bony hand and an open Bible on his knee. A cold, lifeless finger pointed to Mark 8:36: "For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?"
It is not known if Charlemagne requested this pose or if those closest to him decided to make a powerful statement of his failures to the generations that followed. It is known, however, that the great conqueror was depressed at the end of his life for not fulfilling his earthly goal of world domination.
There is a big difference in placing trust in things we can see that are temporary, and the things of God, that are unseen. “For the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” – 2 Corinthians 4:18
Martin Luther said, “I have held many things in my hands and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.”
There is a loud voice in many of America’s churches saying, “If you have enough faith, God will make you prosperous.” There is a problem with this message – it is not consistent with the Bible.
A minister visited a poor church in a poor third world country and spoke with a member of the church who had recently heard a faith based wealth recording that was exported from America. The message was not good news to the devout believer in Jesus Christ. He came away believing that since his town was poor and his church was poor and he was poor, that he did not really believe in Jesus.
Is this the good news of Jesus Christ that is for ALL PEOPLE?
American Pastor David Platt, author of the book Radical, stated in a 2010 PBS interview, “This idea that if you believe God, have enough faith, that he will give you health or wealth or prosperity… It’s not the good news that Jesus preached. More than health and wealth, Jesus I think gives us a picture more of a homeless and wounded gospel, and even the New Testament church is not a picture of prosperity theology. It’s a picture of adversity theology, persecution, struggles, poverty, helping one another out.”
How many of the original disciples were rich? None.
True, there are a few Bible verses and human examples that one can focus on to sift out a message of prosperity, but the good news of the Bible is Salvation through Grace. Yes, God’s Grace can, but does not always equal health, wealth and prosperity. Look at Peter’s first letter, “In this [good news] you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes…” – 1 Peter 1:6-7. Due to their abundant faith, early believers were chased from their homes, killed, tortured, and had all of their riches confiscated. Peter tells them their faith is for salvation, which is more precious than gold.
Christians still face persecution. Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani serves in Iran and has been in prison for over 1000 days. He is sentenced to die for simply being a Christian and refusing to renounce Jesus as his savior. If the message of health, wealth and prosperity were true, Pastor Yousef’s faith is weak.
There are Christians around the world that go to church every Sunday, knowing that they may be attacked and killed. Yet their churches are full. Is the gospel of wealth and prosperity “working” for these people, or is their faith rooted in something deeper?
On the flip side, if a wealthy person were presented the idea that God would make them rich if they have faith in him, they would probably say, “I am already rich. I don’t need God to be wealthy.” Where’s the good news? It’s OK to be rich and love God, but God has much more to offer than fleeting wealth.
Peter explains the good news of the Bible – not wealth, but the love and of God in the hope of Jesus: “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls..” – 1 Peter 1:8-9
Pastor Jay Merritt