First of two parts.
It was a cold morning in Las Vegas, Nev., (yes, those exist). I was out with a group of Christians trying to meet people from the neighborhood surrounding our building to teach them the good news of Jesus Christ.
If you have had experience cold-knocking on doors of people’s homes for any reason, you probably would agree that the experience has the propensity to be quite an adventure. There are vicious pets, slamming doors, skeptical looks and disparaging words in abundance.
Sometimes you will come across an isolated person who will not mind talking to you about what is on their mind for as long as you will listen. Sometimes you will wonder if you should have called the police about a shady-looking residence. Sometimes you will wonder if someone will call the police on you for disturbing people’s sensibilities.
This is all “par for the course” because, for the Christian, the mission is to scatter the seed of the gospel and look for the “good and honest heart” into which the seed of God’s word can be planted to bring forth fruit (Luke 8:5-15). One home unto which I came that morning was of a low-income Hispanic family.
A young man came to the door sheepishly. He could speak very little English, so communication was strained. When I offered to get him connected with our Hispanic ministry and give him some tracts with our information, he recoiled. It was not because he did not show interest; we had both been helping each other fight our way through a communication obstacle course for some time.
Do you want to know why he backed off? Simply put, it was because he thought I wanted his money. He thought I was nothing more than a door-to-door panhandler in a “religious” disguise.
In his mind, there was a connection between Christianity and greed. I reassured him I was not interested in his money, but in simply teaching him God’s word. He took our material and we ended our conversation.
I do not know what happened to this young man, but I fear that this story reveals something very hideous that lies beneath the surface of much of what passes as “Christianity” today.
There has been a significant “religious” movement in our country that teaches what can be labeled “The Prosperity Gospel” (TPG). TPG “is a … doctrine that [teaches] financial blessing is the will of God for Christians, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to Christian ministries will always increase one’s material wealth” (Wikipedia).
TPG treats God like a cosmic vending machine: put your faith — and your money — in, and out will magically come a large house, a luxury car, a beautiful spouse, plush vacations and whatsoever your carnal heart desires. Is it not odd, though, that usually it is only the TPG “preachers” that receive these physical treasures through the money of their parishioners? Is it not disturbing that these preachers have no shame living in oceanfront mansions, flying in private jets, wearing the best suits and driving the nicest cars on the backs of thousands of unsuspecting followers?
TPG infuriates me as a human on many levels. The degree of hypocrisy, greed and deceit displayed in its leaders is heinous. The injustice that takes place when these deceivers take advantage of the marginalized and the ignorant is contemptible.
However, as a Christian, my biggest problem is that this doctrine is completely without any biblical support, and yet it passes as “Christianity.” Who do the major news outlets have on their prime-time shows to represent the “Christian” perspective?
Frequently, it seems that they select individuals that promote the teaching I have described. This has a devastating effect on the public perception of preachers, Christians, the gospel and God Himself. It causes people like the young man that I encountered on that Las Vegas morning to be repelled by any mention of Christ.
TPG is a scandalous perversion of the truth. Because of the pervasiveness and destructiveness of this false teaching, I am dedicating two articles to this subject. This week, my goal was to identify the problem. Next week, I will attempt to give biblical answers.
Torrey Clark is the preacher for the church of Christ Northside (www.churchatlagrange.org) and host of the weekly Christian worldview talk show, Culture Shock (www.thelightnetwork.tv/shows). Clark may be reached at email@example.com or 706-812-9950.