It is hard if not difficult to find good public articles that are unbiased and attempt to give facts and not opinions. The recent edition of The Atlantic wrote, "Did Christianity Cause the Crash?" As the writer suggests, "America's mainstream religious denominations used to teach the faithful that they would be rewarded in the afterlife. But over the past generation, a different strain of Christian faith has proliferated - one that promises to make believers rich in the here and now. Known as the prosperity gospel...."
A Billy Gonzales is quoted as saying, "Back in Mexico, my pastor talked about Jesus and heaven and being good. My American pastor talks about jobs and houses and making good money. Jesus loved money, too!"
Those of us who grew up in the post-war years remember how our families went from food coupons and gas rationing to owning cars and even moving to better apartments and America was quickly recognized as the world power. A church could be built on nearly every corner and quickly grew into a well established congregation almost overnight.
Much has happened since the early days of Pentecostal preacher Oral Roberts, who just may be the creator of the "seed faith" direction, the rise and fall of Jim and Tammy Bakker and the now several dozen celebrity church leaders.
Whether or not we watch or follow these particularly gifted individuals is not my problem. With my background, I listen with a somewhat critical ear. That does not mean I am just waiting for a word or phrase to pounce on, but it does mean that when something just doesn't set right with what I comfortably identify as mainstream, old stream or scholarly theological understanding, I check it out. I have never believed or assumed that God calls us to stand in the pulpit and take scripture out of context, use the lectern as a sociological platform or an economic venture.
Let me digress for a tad. I am a positive thinking person who sees the good in people - as well as the bad - and believes that God will provide. I do not want to be mediocre and just can't think of giving up or being satisfied with average. Professor of religious studies Dr. Jonathan Walton spent time listening to "financial empowerment" seminars and there is more than a strong inference that this position was supported by less than concerned lending institutions.
I will support my thesis by quoting an extremely sound and theologically centered evangelical pastor Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose Driven Life." He emphatically states, "This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy? There is a word for that: baloney. It's creating a false idol." Way to go, Rick!
Julie and I have worked hard for what we have and we know we have been blessed by God beyond our wildest dreams. We also understand that it is what we do with what God has given us is far more important than hanging on to what we have. We do not tithe as a seed nor do we give to receive. We try our best to fulfill Matthew 25, not tally our successes and leave the rest to God.
Maybe our understanding of the Good News is go to bed with the thought that God gave us today and we did the best we could. What we missed, we'll work on that tomorrow and in the end, we'll die happy.
What about the rest of the story?
God will provide. He surely will.