My rambling for the day…
In my study this morning, I read a passage that I had not recollected reading before (isn’t it amazing how that happens?)
Job 22:21- 30
“Agree with God, and be at peace; thereby good will come to you. Receive instruction from his mouth, and lay up his words in your heart.
If you return to the Almighty you will be built up; if you remove injustice far from your tents, if you lay gold in the dust, and gold of Ophir among the stones of the torrent-bed, then the Almighty will be your gold and your precious silver.
For then you will delight yourself in the Almighty and lift up your face to God. You will make your prayer to him, and he will hear you, and you will pay your vows.
You will decide on a matter, and it will be established for you, and light will shine on your ways. For when they are humbled you say, ‘It is because of pride’; but he saves the lowly.
He delivers even the one who is not innocent, who will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands.”
These are the words of Eliphaz’, one of Job’s three “friends,” and a spreader of deceit and lies.
It seems that one of the themes of my personal spiritual walk these last few months has been the importance of solid, sound doctrine. I’m of the persuasion that some Christians could not identify sound doctrine if it tattooed itself on their heads, and as a result, that many Christians can and do fall for false doctrine.
We see this throughout Scripture. I was just reading in 1 Timothy 4:7 in Paul’s encouragement to Timothy:
Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness.
Often, false doctrine is lunacy. However, in many cases, false doctrine is persuasive because it so closely resembles the real thing. Just as people ignorantly sometimes possess and pass counterfeit bills, unable to tell the difference (unless they are an expert at doing so) between the counterfeit and the genuine article, so it is with doctrine.
And so, the words of Job’s “friend,” Eliphaz. We see throughout Job that his friends walk on the doctrinal fence, blending popular sayings and clichés with gospel-ized opinions and truisms. And as I was reading in chapter 22 this morning, I was asking myself – “Is this prosperity doctrine?”
The wiki definition of Prosperity Doctrine – Prosperity theology (sometimes referred to as the prosperity gospel or the health and wealth gospel) is a Christian religious doctrine that 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.
As a child, I still vividly remember doing a church visit with my father. We had learned of a lady in our town who needed groceries. We stopped to get her some groceries, then took them to her…shack. It was no house. She was ancient. It was a dilapidated house, needing to be condemned, unsafe to live in. It had no power, and thus no way to prepare food properly and safely.
After prying, my father discovered that she was sending all of her money to a preacher on the TV who was promising his believers many financial returns on their seed gifts. She was sending no money to the local church, nor was she attending one. She was grateful to receive the groceries, and I’m not sure what happened to her after that visit.
Just as that preacher was promising this lady riches that were not his to give, if only she would bestow him with her material possessions (and he was made very wealthy off of people like her), Eliphaz is promising with authority that is not his that Job will be prosperous if he only repents and seeks God.
“Agree with God, and be at peace; thereby good will come to you”
Mind you – Job had done nothing wrong to deserve what he had, and yet he was in great anguish. The link between physical and material riches, and spiritual “good behavior” is not existent in this case.
I don’t mean to use this post as an entire description and rebuttal of the “prosperity Gospel.” I do think it ironic that people can justify leading a life looking forward to material blessings, promotions, and riches, all while claiming to follow a Shepherd who despised those things and even preached against them. When Jesus encountered a rich man, what did He say to him?
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”
There’s a difference between a gospel that promises riches to our flesh and a Gospel that promises security to our souls.
And so we have Eliphaz counseling Job that if he would just get his act together, God would make everything rosy. Job would be restored and be taken care of. The problem is, Eliphaz has it all wrong, from the very beginning. Sometimes the test is being obedient in suffering, not living in an eternal spiritual state of earthly blessings.”
God can and often does bless, provisionally speaking. And I’ve been known to pray that needs would be answered, and I have seen them answered! But that is not to be our focus, our expected reward, or the climax of our spiritual journey.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
God promises much better things than the paltry wealth of this world. Live for those things, and they will make today’s wealth seem like what it is. And we will find the true meaning of wealth and prosperity!