By Panganai Nzira
Christians are living in times of great battles erupting in both the carnal and the spiritual world. This has led to proliferation of many ideals and a zeal for knowledge amongst the peoples of the world.The Christian community has not been an exception as many followers have adapted and at times adopted some cunning ways to circumvent the vices in order to fast track their way to prosperity and stardom. In their path to gain riches, some have devised filthy tactics to claim their inheritance in the process using rich superlatives and scriptural phrases to justify the get-rich-quick mentality and equate wealth to levels of faith.
Some have chosen to manipulate Biblical concepts and principles to support greed and selfish indulgence.
The prosperity gospel has also been labeled word faith, name-it-and-claim-it, health and wealth gospel and positive confession.Â As one writer and prominent preacher, Kenneth Hagin, said in his book The Midas Touch, financial prosperity is not a sign of Gods blessing. Hagin wrote: If wealth alone were a sign of spirituality, then drug traffickers and crime bosses would be spiritual giants.Â Material wealth can be connected to the blessings of God or it can be totally disconnected from the blessings of God.
It is of importance to note that Kenneth Hagin is considered the father of the so-called prosperity gospel and before he died in 2003, the revered father of the Word-Faith movement corrected his spiritual sons for going to extremes with their message of prosperity.
Supporters of the prosperity gospel frequently refer to Bible passages such as Malachi 3:10 which says, And prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And Mark 11:24: “Therefore I say unto you, what things so ever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them.”
John 14:14 which says, “If you ask anything in my name, I will do it,” is also very popular with believers of this gospel. But why is the church of today so much obsessed with financial and material prosperity? Suddenly, this modern church has become wiser than the early church which was led by such men of God like Paul, Peter, James and others? Suddenly, God is speaking better to our church leaders than the way he used to speak to Paul – maybe better than the on the way to Damascus experience? Hey, Shoko rekare, ndiudze iroro (Tell me the old-old story), goes the old hymn. This is indeed the age of the material church which thinks it is rich.
The Laodecean Church is the 7th church Jesus addresses in the Book of Revelation. Biblically, seven is the number of completeness. God created everything in six days and by the seventh day he finished and rested. So there are seven church ages and we are living in the last age – yes, we are in the last days! Worryingly, God has a message for this 7th church in Revelation 3:14-17 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: “These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of Gods creation. I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing. But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”
What some Christians are querying is the use of wealth as a benchmark for a Christians faith. Someone once asked, Were the early apostles blessed? If they were, who among them was rich? While it could have been easy to answer that question some decades ago, it has become complicated now because of the upsurge of the prosperity gospel. It is true people are given positions in their churches sometimes based on their material possessions, God forbid! Are we traveling the correct path? Is I Timothy 6:7-10 still relevant to us?
For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 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. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
What about Christ himself speaking in Matthew 6:19-21: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also?”
Or in Luke 18:22-25 when he said, “Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.Â How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For 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?”
Paul giving advice to a young pastor Timothy says in I Tim 6:9-10 “But those who crave to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.”
Goodness me, are these verses found in the Bible? If yes, why are many preachers shunning them now? The answer is simple. Todays is a materialistic church.
The Laodecian church. Any pastor who preaches against riches risks preaching to empty benches. But should we compromise the truth so as to hear what our itching ears want to hear? God forbid! The greatest tragedy which Christianity can ever face is choosing to follow the crowd and departing from the Way. That is the tragedy of Rome. John the Baptist was not a super-star, neither was Jesus, Paul or Peter and that is why all these people ended up being killed. Unfortunately, some of our so-called men of God today are film and television superstars, who want to please as many people as possible. God forbid!!
In as much as the prosperity gospel can be riddled with heresy or deceit it can also be driven by the divine and righteousness. As John 4:1 states: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” It must be stated that this gospel may appear very sincere. However sincerity is no safeguard against deception. Just because this gospel seems to be able to produce results, it does not mean it is righteous or leads to salvation because the ends do not justify the means.
One preacher once said a lot of people want to enjoy the benefits that come with being called a Christian, but a lot of them ironically do not want to follow the principles and values that make one to enjoy these benefits. Indeed you cant have your cake and eat it too.
For one to fully realise the benefits of being a citizen of the kingdom of God, they should seek first that kingdom and the righteousness of God and everything shall be added unto [them], as stated by Jesus Christ in Mathew 6:33.
While it is always assuring to look at the multitudes and say can all those people possibly be lost, it is frightening to realise that God does not follow numbers. Its possible that the whole church can be led into the abyss. However, I remain hopeful that a remnant will always be saved!
The opinions expressed in this article are the authorâ€™s and do not necessarily represent those of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.