…with his American Express Platinum card.
This week, a friend of mine was talking about something she saw on a couple of her friends’ statuses [on our favorite social network site]. The first was a person thanking God for her child who had suffered a significant health crisis and although she was not expected to live beyond a few weeks, the child had grown stronger, healthier and was now expected to continue to do so!
The second was a person who was praising God because she got her car fixed. Actually, what she said was that God was so good because “he bought me” the needed things.
My friend said that she totally got the first one but there was something about the second one that just didn’t feel right. Yup, I’d agree.
It isn’t the subject. Heaven knows we ought to be thanking God for everything even down to our shoelaces. I’d be hard pressed not to say that everything in all creation is a gift from God. And although I’m not of the inclination to post [on my social network status] a praise to the Almighty
because I received just the thing I needed at just the right moment, there is nothing at all wrong with this.
But there is that word in there that makes me uneasy: bought.
God bought these things for her? With what? His ATM card? Cash? Bricks of gold from the streets of heaven? With the precious blood of his Son?
No, it is we who are bought. Bought and paid for at the highest price imaginable. Ransomed, actually, if you want to get technical about it. But God does not need to ‘buy’ provisions for us.
The conversation with my friend caused me think about this kind of economic language in the realm of faith and it makes me wonder: Has the Prosperity Gospel become so far-reaching as to contaminate our thanksgiving vocabulary for everyday items? It would seem so.
As I understand it, the Prosperity Snake Oil Salesmen….I mean ‘Preachers’….draw upon several texts in scripture that appear to emphasize God’s material blessings on those who please him and, specifically, those who tithe to the church. Among them are Malachi 3:10, Deuteronomy 8:18 and John 10:10, none of which seem to be anything like strong enough to overturn Luke 20:6 (blessed are the poor—not just poor in spirit), the times Jesus emphasized the foolishness of holding on to and overvaluing material possessions, and the Magnificat’s distinct description of a God who cares for the poor and lowly. The widow Jesus lifted up as an example as she dropped her two tiny coins in the offering box did not show up in the next scene flush with riches. I do not recall the disciples, before or after Jesus’ death and resurrection, sporting excess funds. I will not even bother to recount the number of times that the wealthy are chastised in the OT Law and by Jesus for setting their hearts on the wrong things.
Rather, I believe that Jesus remarked that God sends both rain and sun on the just and unjust. (Matthew 5:45). He mentions nothing about those who tithe.
Ironically, all this Prosperity Gospel stuff reminds me of a New Age-ish thought like New Thought and Law of Attraction. Like that book The Secret. Yeah, the ‘secret’ was they were happy to take your money. Just like Prosperity Gospel.
I’m sure this woman, whoever she is, did not mean anything negative in what she said. I’m sure she was trying to be thankful to God for something she needed. One could say that at least she is thanking God, and I’ll give you that. At the same time, words do matter. They matter a lot. It is sad that our commerce-driven worldview has corrupted such simple thanksgivings.
We ask God for things all the time. We ask God for health, for happiness, for the safety of those we love and we ask that the cop behind us doesn’t notice that our tag is out of date. We ask God to protect our tiny children, our aging mothers, our friends who make foolish choices, for the raise we really want and to pass the test we didn’t study for. Scripture is very clear that we can ask God for anything. Anything. There is nothing that we cannot ask God for. That doesn’t mean, of course, that he will always say yes, but I fully believe that God is hearing every big and small request, every life-hanging-by-a-thread plea, every silly trivial desire and everything in between. And I also believe with all my heart that every single thing we have, every good and gracious thing, comes from God and God alone. Jesus taught us to pray for our daily needs; our daily bread. God does not mete out rations based on what we have earned from him and his storehouse of supplies and blessings never runs dry because there is no other source of good things. He owns it all because he made it all.
But God does not ‘buy’ daily bread. God gives daily bread.