Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Health and Wealth?!?

[note: all names of people, except me, have been changed to arbitrary letters of the alphabet.]

one of my friends took this test on facebook: "which church in iwon'ttellyouwhichcountry are you best suited in?" and her result was "This Church". i made a comment on that test result, and the following conversation ensued:

Sieh Jin Kiew at 6:27pm July 7
hmm... some people say that "This Church" preaches health and wealth gospel, a feel-good version of the Truth...

i'm not saying they are wrong or anything, just saying be careful and always exercise discernment, ok. =)

Mr. A at 7:39pm July 7
Jesus heals the sicks... that is health. Jesus multiplies 2 fishes and 5 loaves... that is wealth! He is the same yesterday, today and forever... hmm good discernment!!!! Amen!

Ms. B at 7:42pm July 7

Sieh Jin Kiew at 11:24am July 8
Yes, Jesus heals the sick. when He was on earth, He healed every sick person who came to Him - there is no record of Him ever refusing to heal someone.

yet, after He ascended to Heaven, although His disciples continued to heal (and yes, i do believe that the gift of healing is still active in the church today), the incidence of healing was no longer 100%. see how Paul told timothy to take a little wine for his stomach and his frequent illnesses in Timothy 5:23. or see how Epaphroditus was sick and almost died, in Philippians 2:25. why not just heal them, if we were able to heal at all times and in all cases?

so the fact is that, in spite of the purest faith and the most fervent prayers, God does not always heal instantly. we may not understand why one is healed and another is not, but it is something we have to deal with. yet this is a fact that one almost never hears from the lips of those who preach the health and wealth gospel.

Sieh Jin Kiew at 11:34am July 8
and yes, God can prosper us if He chooses. Promotion comes from the Lord (Psalm 75:6-7). yet reading Jesus' words, "you cannot serve both God and money" (Matthew 6:24), and His reply to the rich young ruler, "go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven" (Matthew 19:21) and paul's words in 1 Timothy 6:10, "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil"...

all these verses show us that there is something wrong with the kind of gospel that can blithely proclaim that all God wants to do is to bless and prosper you.

God does not want to make us happy - He wants to make us holy. and that means struggle, sacrifice, disappointments, dying to self, and etc... not the hollow promises of health and wealth that some churches peddle.

once again, a disclaimer - i do not say that "This Church" is one of these. just that this kind of teaching is becoming prevalent among some churches, and we would do well to be careful and practice discernment. =)

Mr. A at 12:20pm July 8
2 Corinthians 1:20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God.

Father, whatever promises that he doesn't want, please give to me and I say, " Amen!" to Your glory...

Ms. B at 12:36pm July 8
I want also.. Amen!

Sieh Jin Kiew at 12:43pm July 8
lol... i do not deny, and neither do i reject, the promises of God. so, Mr. A and Ms. B, if you're hoping God will give you my "rejected blessings", too bad, they're all mine! =D

but... here's a promise (or is it a warning?) that ties in with what i was trying to say earlier... "For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths."
- 2 Timothy 4:3-4

one thing that makes the health and wealth gospel so dangerous, is that it's exactly what we want to hear. we must not 'censor out' the difficult, hard, challenging parts of the gospel. ok? =)


there's more, but i think that's sufficient to convey the concern or caution that i was trying to communicate to them.

i'd be glad to interact further with you on this matter if you have questions or objections; just drop a comment here. i do not deny that some pastors can be very charismatic and persuasive, and there may be no discernible error in their sermons - but i am afraid that they may be preaching only half the truth without error: the nice, encouraging, happy, blessings-and-prosperity half.

what do you think?

[p.s. the East Coast Regional Trip went well, in spite of some screw-ups on my end. thanks for supporting us in prayer. =)]


akmj said...

hey sieh jin!
this prosperity gospel thing has been at the BACK of my mind for some time... but still very blur... since I came from one church background and now attending another one kan...

joshuatj said...

I wonder what are the "pointers" to determine whether one church is actually preaching prosperity gospel.

iTOT said...

Hi sieh jin. I'm akmj's sister. I agree with you that we need to hear the hard to hear bits. I guess I am not expert at identifying churches that preach the prosperity gospel. I did attend a church that had sermons that made me feel good every week. I always felt uplifted after the sermon. It was always about God is powerful, God is big, He wants to bless you, etc. I agree. It's all true. But it's also true that suffering and persecution are real. It's also true that this is a broken world. But being in a broken world, going through suffering does not mean that God is not blessing me. It does not mean that God does not love me. Christians need to be prepared to endure persecution as well, and prosperity gospel seems to neglect that aspect. It seems to leave out the 'carry your cross' bit, although I myself am still learning to understand what it means to carry our cross.

siehjin said...

@angela: haha, you've been thinking about it, good! hope what i've written helps to clarify those thoughts at the back of your mind. =)

@joshua: it can be hard to judge. for example, just because i hear one sermon that sounds like prosperity gospel, i can't conclude that the church is serong already. it's possible that the pastor balances it out in other sermons, and i just happened to visit on a week where he was preaching something encouraging for his congregation. but if the message is the same or similar every week - "God wants to bless you, prosper you, heal you" - with never a mention of forsaking all things for His sake, denying self and taking up your cross, and etc... then something is wrong. that's why discernment is needed... sometimes it's not so obvious or clear-cut. =)

@iTOT: thanks for the feedback. i agree wholeheartedly with what you've written. =)

Anonymous said...

for me, whichever sermons tat mention about Jesus & His finished work on the cross please the Father most. dont you think so?

one of the thing tat has been redeemed by Christ is prosperity cos for our sake He become poor. the soldiers tore Jesus cloth & left nothing for Him on the cross. divine exchange took place - He had nothing, so that we cud hv EVERYTHING, amen? IT'S ALL ABOUT JESUS anyway!

so in order to identify whether a church is preaching the RIGHT thing or not, just take note whether Jesus & His finished work on the cross is being mention or not.


siehjin said...

@anonymous: yes, Jesus and His finished work on the cross are central to our Christian faith.

i'm not so sure about prosperity being redeemed by Christ. it is true that a divine exchange took place at the cross, but that's in term of Christ who had no sin becoming sin for our sake (2 Corinthians 5:21).

and indeed,through Christ we are blessed with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3). but note that the blessings are *spiritual*, not material.

do you have any specific verses that tell us that Christ redeemed prosperity on the cross?

i tend to think that prosperity is a neutral thing - it can be used for good or for evil, and it can affect a person for good or for evil, depending on the person's attitude to it. i also tend to think that God's idea of blessing is very different from ours and may or may not include prosperity, depending on the individual. what is your opinion on these thoughts?

unfortunately it is not enough just to take note whether Jesus and His finished work on the cross is being mentioned - one also has to look at the interpretation of it. as we can see from some of what i've discussed above. =)

Darren said...

To me church has been a roller coaster ride. There were times i felt good and fired up, and there were times i felt literally like a filthy old rag and didnt deserve salvation. And sometimes in between. I guess the ultimate journey of faith is not in wealth and health in itself, but in Christ and the Church as a whole Body functioning as one. I think that is what God wanted more FOR us than just enjoying. Enjoying yes is important but it is more like a "reward" or "result" of us being faithful and doing the Lords work. Our focus should be constantly always on Him, not anything else.

I hope I made some sense. XD

siehjin said...

@darren: yes, you made sense!=)

the point that God wants MORE for us than just enjoying, is a good and relevant one. =)