Prosperity or salvation?

If you go to Joel Osteen’s website, you will find a list of beliefs that would not be foreign to most evangelical churches. Until you come to this little item:

WE BELIEVE…as children of God, we are overcomers and more than conquerors and God intends for each of us to experience the abundant life He has in store for us.

Be all that you can be. No, wait, that’s an old Army slogan. For Osteen and those who share his gospel of prosperity, not only is it not a bad thing for a Christian to be wealthy, it has become a positive good, blessed by God.

Perhaps this is unfair, but then, I’ve little sympathy for any “church” that places prosperity on the same plane as sola scriptura. In addition to the simple statement that Osteen wants us all to “experience the abundant life,” one may hear him preach on the subject. He’s almost as embarrassing as Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker, but, so far, without the other human frailties to which those two succumbed.

In our culture, it’s not acceptable to be wealthy and to commit the sins that Bakker and Swaggart did. It is, apparently, more than acceptable to simply preach that which is denied by Jesus’ own preaching. To wit, Mark 10

23And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

Jesus did not say it was a sin to be wealthy. Just that it was an impediment to salvation. To claim that wealth is a benefit for salvation is just plain wrong, and denies the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Jesus went a little further than simply telling us that it would be difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. As for how to best prepare to join Jesus in the kingdom, there’s Matthew 19:21:

“If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Again, wealth in this world is, by itself, not necessarily a bad thing. Hey, I like the things that money can buy as much as the next man. But I learned, a long time ago, that things of this world are not going to stay with you. Jesus will, if you shed yourself of everything that prevents you from seeing Him.

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