Increasingly, the 2020 election looks like it’s going to come down to Americans voting on what direction the economy should take. Are we going to elect Bernie Sanders to be our president, and pursue a public policy centered around wealth redistribution? Or, are we going to re-elect Donald Trump, and pursue an America that is a bit more capitalistic in nature?
Time will tell, and I am fascinated to see the outcome. But one thing that these issues has me thinking about, besides all the fun political ads we are likely to see in the coming months, is ultimately the issue of wealth and our love of it. Especially as it relates to American Christianity.
A Prosperity Gospel Saturated America
Recently America’s most famous preacher, TD Jakes, visited Elevation Church here in Charlotte, NC, where Steven Furtick pastors. At one point TD Jakes is reported to have said, “Can I get an AMEN from all the future millionaires in this place?”
This sort of thought doesn’t surprise me anymore. But it always causes part of me to die when I hear it. And I die because it’s become so common, as it reveals a mindset that goes virtually unchallenged by many within American Christianity.
American Christianity has become highly saturated in prosperity gospel gobbledygook. The seeds of this doctrine were planted early on in the founding of America by many well meaning and hardworking Puritan Christians. And it has now blossomed into a full blown garden, permeating just about all of American Christian thinking. We might not claim God wants us to own a Lexus, but we still fall prey to the idea God wants us to be wealthy. The idea permeates our way of thinking, and such is seldom challenged from the pulpit anymore.
Jesus Challenged Our Ideas About Wealth
Most of us believe that God wants you to be rich. Or, that if you are rich that your wealth is somehow a sign of God’s blessing on your life. And if you aren’t rich, well… something must be wrong with you, your faith, your work ethic, your giving habits, or some combination of all the above.
Yet in the gospels, we are confronted with some very different ideas by Jesus. Ideas that blatantly contradict our notions about wealth and its relationship to our spirituality.
Far from seeing the rich as somehow blessed, Jesus taught that God has blessed the poor (Luke 6:20). And lest you think that wealth was somehow a reward of your spirituality, Jesus said God causes it to rain on the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45). Elsewhere Jesus warned that it was easier for a camel to thread the eye of a needle than it was for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24). And at one point, Jesus warned the rich that their temporary wealth was the only comfort they would know before spending eternity in hell. “Woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full.” (Luke 6:24).
A Changed Relationship To Wealth
Now, how this should influence us to vote when it comes to determining America’s public policies is all a matter of debate. There are tensions that exist between Christianity, America, capitalism, and socialism as I talked about in a prior podcast. I don’t pretend to know what the right balance our nation should take in regard to those complex issues.
However, with that said, as Christians I do believe we need to have a change of heart when it comes to our relationship with wealth. The apostle Paul warned us about the dangers of trying chasing after money, as the love of money was the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:9-10). Money should not be our driving force in this life.
And instead of living lives of ease in extreme comfort and luxury, where all we do is build bigger and bigger barns to store our wealth in, Jesus taught that we should be rich towards God by sharing our wealth with others (Luke 12:16-21). He who has two coats should share one with him who has none (Luke 3:11), and whatever surplus we have we should look to share with those in need so that there may be equality between us (2 Corinthians 8:13-15).
Such ideals is something we have seldom practiced as Christians, especially in America. Instead we not only pursue wealth and store it up in barns, but we make false doctrines enshrining the very idea. Then we fiercely defend the idea that it’s a blessing from God to spend on our passing pleasures. Then we turn around and snap the heads off anyone who questions the wealthy preachers that feed us this garbage. We feel entitled to the wealth that God wants us to share with others who are in need.
God has not called us to be owners of anything, but stewards of all things.
Whatever we have been given, God wants us to use for the betterment of others. And we don’t need to wait for someone in the White House to set this agenda in 2020. We should practice it ourselves, even apart from government intervention.
Everything we possess is but something just temporarily passing between our fingertips. So instead of fighting and clamoring after something destined to escape our grasp and forever be blown away by God, we should wisely steward what God has given us for the benefit of others and His kingdom.
Let us earn whatever we need to take care of ourselves and our families. Let us enjoy some of the fruit of our labor with modest creature comforts. Then whatever we have beyond that, let us prayerfully look for those in need, and share what we have from the Lord with them.