Friday, August 13, 2010

The Money God

Part 1: The ATM God

By Pastor Anton Bosch

“God wants you to be rich, healthy and happy. If you have financial problems just become a Christian and all your problems will go away. Believers can get anything they wish from God by planting seeds in the form of cash. Every dollar you give God, He repays ten or a hundred fold.”

As a result of this message, millions of people have converted to Christianity and swelled the coffers of the TV stations, preachers and churches that preach this. But we must ask a few questions: Are they following the God of the Bible, and are those who teach and believe this message really Christians? How dare we ask such questions? Well, how dare we not!

It all hinges on one question: Is the god of the prosperity message the God of the Bible? That should not be hard to answer. All we need to do is compare the god of the prosperity gospel with the God of the Bible and it becomes clear that they are not the same. The god of the health and wealth message can best be described as the “money god” or the “ATM god.”

One day a rich young man wanted to follow Jesus. The money preacher would have told this young man to give his money to God (meaning the preacher) so that God will give back to him multiplied many more times. But what did Jesus say? “Go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matthew 19:21). Jesus did not promise the young man more money, but spiritual riches in heaven. Neither did Jesus tell him to give the money to God, or the Temple, but to just get rid of it because money had become his god. This Jesus of the Bible is different than the one preached today.

After this, turning to His disciples, Jesus said: “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” To which the disciples responded, “Who then can be saved?” (Matthew 19:23-25). If it is hard, in fact impossible, for a rich man to enter the Kingdom, then surely God would be contradicting Himself by making people rich. This is because God also said He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2Peter 3:9). So, if the Lord wants people to be saved, and riches are going to keep them from getting saved, why then will He make them rich?

Jesus also said “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). Mammon means money. Clearly serving God and money, greed and materialism, are mutually exclusive: You cannot serve money and God at the same time. Therefore the money god and the God of the Bible are two different gods. Jesus Himself places the two at opposites.

Paul confirms this: “But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition” (1Timothy 6:9). At the risk of oversimplification: “Everybody who wants to be rich will go to hell!” Is that too strong? No, it is exactly what it says. What else does it mean to drown in destruction and perdition? Clearly, the greed for money sends people to Hell. Who do you think is the master of the preachers who incite people to greed? God does not want any to go to hell, but the Devil does.

Paul continues: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness” (1Timothy 6:10). Yes, I know. it is the love of money and not the money. But what exactly is it that the money preachers are appealing to when they promise people that God will make them rich? It is the love of money. It is not the love of God. If that were the basis of their appeal they would encourage people to just give their money to God and not expect anything back. But they are expressly appealing to, and encouraging, the love of money. So who promotes the love of money? God or the Devil? God’s messengers, or the messengers of Satan?

Just think about it a moment before you reach for the mouse to delete this message. Wait before you sit at the keyboard to fire off a message telling me I am a heretic. Yes, I agree that God blesses His children, meets their needs and teaches them to look to Him for their daily bread. But there is a huge difference between loving God and loving money.

Millions of people have become “Christians” because of the promises of health, wealth and happiness. But I wonder if they would have become Christians if God rather promised persecution, hardship and problems. But wait! What does the Bible promise?: “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2Timothy 3:12). “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33 NIV). And “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

Not only do we have promises of hardship as Christians, but the record of Scripture confirms that to be the case. Jesus was never rich and had to be buried in a borrowed tomb. Paul had a few seasons of abundance but mostly his life was pretty miserable: “From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness” (2Corinthians 11:24-27). Does that sound like the kind of life preachers are offering today?

Look at the wonderful “prosperous” life the heroes of faith lived: “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented-- of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:35-38).

There are glaring differences between the promises of the Bible and those of the prosperity preachers. In fact, they are direct opposites.

It is very obvious that the god of the prosperity message is not the God of the Bible, and that those who preach that message are not messengers of God but of Satan. We must then ask whether their followers are really Christians.

If you have been following Jesus for what He can give you, then you need to repent and turn to the real Lord Jesus Christ who died for you on the cross. Ask Him right now to forgive you for following Him for things, when He already gave Himself as a sacrifice for your sins. God loved you so much that He gave His only begotten Son; but you want stuff?

Pastor Anton Bosch is the author of Contentiously Contending, a booklet about how to contend for the faith. He is also the author of Building Blocks of the Church: Re-examining the Basics. Both books are available HERE.