Our Life on Christ

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What Does the Bible Say: Is it a Sin to be POOR?

Many people believe in what has been come to be known as the “Prosperity Gospel” (or “Prosperity Theology”). This school of thought claims the Bible teaches that financial blessing is the will of God for Christians. Most teachers of prosperity theology maintain that a “combination of faith, positive speech, and donations to Christian ministries will always cause an increase in material wealth for those who practice these actions,” according to my good ole Wikipedia. Sorry but, I think is bologna—or pastrami or Spam (pick an unhealthy sandwich meat); I do not agree.

I saw an article yesterday titled, “It’s a Sin to be Poor.” I had to read it. While the author, Reverend Dr. Vici Derrick makes a few good points in the essay regarding positive thinking and having faith in God, the points are made to support the “health/wealth” argument. Here are a few excerpts:

Now when I use the word “sin,” I’m not talking about sin the way you may have been taught to think of sin. I’m not sending you to hell because I don’t have to. If you are living a life of poverty, you are already in hell. No, that’s not what I mean when I use the word “sin.”

When I use the word, I am talking about the word in its original meaning, which is to miss the mark. It was a term used by Greek archers. You missed the target. What is the target? Abundance. Plenty. Wanting not. Why? Because you miss the mark if are not living an abundant life. The mark that I am talking about is the mark of success put within each and every one of us. It is the fingerprint of God and it identifies us as His own. The mark of success is upon you and when you are poor, you miss the mark. Poverty is a sin. Everything in Scripture indicates that the kingdom of heaven is open to us. “Abundance is thine,” is how God puts it. “I have meat to eat that you know not of.” It’s there and as one of the teachings of truth we say that the world, the Universe, the Mind of God that we are using individually is not open to limitation but to abundance of all good things. It is open to an abundance of love, an abundance of beauty and health. It is open to the abundance of happiness and joy. Abundance covers it all. We are just as poor if we are poor in health and have worldly goods as we are if we don’t have any worldly goods.

Abundance is thine. If I were to define it, I would say that it is the ability to love, to be loved, to be happy. Abundance is being able to do the things that we want to do at the time we want to them--the ability to have a wealth of creative ideas and creative thought, the ability to have a wealth of friends and people you love and that love you. Abundance is a part of living and should be for every person in this teaching.

“It shall be done unto you according to your belief.” When the Master said this he was teaching that it is knowing that stands in front of the appearances and projects an unformed idea into the world and thus multiplies it abundantly.

We spend time praying for what we haven’t got and don’t realize that we are giving power to what we haven’t got. Think of how many times you have prayed to get something. The minute you do this you are saying that you don’t have it. And you can’t write a check on the bank of God and expect God to cover it at Key bank. It doesn’t work that way.

With an abundant consciousness, wherever you go there is an abundance of everything.
You’ve got money in the bank. There is an abundance of flowers in your garden. There is an abundance of peace and happiness. Never underestimate the power of peace to bring abundance into your experience.

Remember that as you give, you receive. With an abundance of giving we know that there is no need that will not be filled.

A few points of mine before I offer scriptures

Before I get into breaking down her argument with scriptural evidence I just have to say: Wow! A person is already in “hell if they are in poverty”?! Technically, after looking at the Census thresholds, our family was under the poverty line last year. And I guess if you consider life from a consumerist, American perspective, not financially being able to buy all the stuff you want when you want it and having to cut back on other common comforts (luxuries that many people view as necessities), poverty could be considered hell. I would not say that poverty in America is true poverty, though. I was not outside begging for food or money, we never missed a meal, my children never missed a doctor’s appointment, and my husband had enough gas to go to and from work everyday.

The author from the above excerpt talks about “success.” What is success? We have had it drilled into us from before the time we were even able to count it that money is the determinant of success. Is it, though?

You may think am I writing this as a person who has never had money; someone who is poor and who is trying to find justification for my despair. Let me give you a little back story. My husband, Wil, and I bought a house when we were 21-years-old. The following year we had $15,000 in the savings account, were debt-free, and never wanted for anything. Wil, who is a professional model and actor made $70,000 by himself and my income from the Federal Reserve Bank was just a bonus. At our age, one we would say we were very successful. Yeah, maybe on paper. Ask me if we were happy. Ask if we enjoyed going home at night. Ask me if we agreed on anything. No, no, and no.

Here is our income figure from last year (drumroll....): $17,000. Yes, $17,00. Total! Last year was the poorest I have ever been money-wise but, honestly, it is the happiest I have ever been in my marriage, I made great friends last year, and, more important than anything else, I built a stronger relationship with God and was still able to help people. So while I could not save as much money as I had planned and I did not buy a house like I had wanted, I would consider last year a great success!

12+ Scriptures Proving that Being Poor is NOT a Sin

Okay, now to get into what the Bible says regarding her theory and to directly address her points.

1. “Abundance is thine” is not in the Bible. The writer misquotes God. I heard of a preacher who made a similar mistake when he said, “Like the Bible says, ‘A house is not a home,’” which is actually a Luther Vandross lyric! Or the popular saying, “God helps those who help themselves.” Again, not in the Bible! The closest thing I could find is “Abundance OF thine,” in Isaiah 47:9. This is referring to Babylon being abundantly idolatrous, something I find kind of ironic.

2. I have meat to eat that you know not of. This is John 4:32. I honestly do not see how this applies, but it is taken out of context, anyway. Verses 34 and 35 go on to say, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work…I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” Jesus is talking about “harvesting” people. In John 15, Jesus discusses bearing fruit. I have heard several people portray this “fruit” to mean money and possessions. This is a gross misrepresentation. John 6:27, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life.” In 1 John 2:15 we are instructed to not love the world or anything in the world. It says, “For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” Going back to the fruit we are to bear, John 15:16 says, “…I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.” Clearly, God is not talking about us gaining earthly wealth; He is talking about saving souls.

3. “We are just as poor if we are poor in health and have worldly goods as we are if we don’t have any worldly goods.” What?! God uses sick people to show his glory. John 9:3 is a great example. A man was blind from birth and the disciples asked Jesus if the man’s blindness was caused by the sins of his parents or his own sin. Jesus responded, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned. This happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

4. “ ‘It shall be done unto you according to your belief.’ When the Master said this he was teaching that it is knowing that stands in front of the appearances and projects an unformed idea into the world and thus multiplies it abundantly.” The author is referring to Matthew 9:29 which is about two blind men who had their vision restored because they believed that Jesus was able. I agree that God will do amazing things in your life if you have faith but, who are we to say how he will or should work in our lives? Does he have to move in our finances? We act as if God is just a little genie; we tell Him what we want, believe real hard, and he grants our wishes. In Psalm 37:4, David says, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” I take this to mean that when you fix your eyes on God and are seeking to live for Him, your heart’s desires will be from Him, not that He will fulfill all of the desires that are in your heart. What do you think?

Look, too, at 1 Thessalonians 5:18. It says, "...give thanks in all circumstances for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." God's will might just be for you to be financially poor right now; God uses life's situations to shape us into His will. He may be using your thin pockets to humble you or He may want to bring someone into your life that would not have made sense if you were rolling in the dough. Also, when we come out of a "bad" season (I do not really believe that anything is bad), we have experiences that allow us to minister to other people. How would we have that ability if we would never have gone through that trying time?

God himself takes actions that, at first, may seem to be working against what His will for us is. There are several examples in the Bible. Acts 16:6 is just one. Paul and his companions were making their way to Asia minor to preach, something that one would think would be something within God's will. The verse says that the "Holy Spirit kept them from preaching" in Asia. This was probably very discouraging. The disciples could have just quit or tried to figure out who in their group was sinning and therefore causing things not to work to their plan. But, no. They moved forward and sought out God's plan. We must do the same.

Here are other examples spoken by Jesus (remember him, the one who we are trying to imitate?) or by his disciples that give me reason to say that her argument is malarkey.

5. Mark 9:35: “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last and the servant of all.”

6. Mark 4:14 – 20: "The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed on rocky places, hear the word and at once received it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke out the word making it unfruitful. Others like seed sown in good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop – 30, 60, or even 100 times what was sown.”

7. Luke 6:20 – 26: “Blessed are you who are poor for yours is the kingdom of God, blessed are you who hunger now for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets. But woe to you who are rich for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.”

8. 1 Timothy 6:6 – 10: “Godliness with contentment is great gain. We brought nothing into this world and we can take nothing out of it. If we have food and clothing we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

9. 1 Timothy 6:17 – 18: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”

10. Matthew 19:23 – 24: “It tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell 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.”

11. Luke 8:3: “These women were helping to support [Jesus and the disciples] out of their own means.” I have heard proponents of the “Health/Wealth” doctrine say that Jesus was rich. That’s funny. Give me an example of a rich man who let women support his lifestyle. If Jesus was rich, why would the many women from this verse be supporting Him with their own money?

12. In Phillipians 4:11 – 13, Paul says, “…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” We give money too much power. Money itself is just a tool! GOD meets our needs. Sometimes he uses money, sometimes he uses people, sometimes he works old fashioned miracle…but it is always GOD alone!

For example, I wanted to buy my daughter a new bed frame—the twin Tromsö white loft bed frame with the matching eight inch mattress from Ikea, to be exact. I, of course, wanted money to be able to buy it. Logical enough. Before I saved up enough money, someone, who did not even know I wanted this bed frame was moving out of state and GAVE me the loft frame and mattress! So I ask you, is it the money you want or is money just one tool that God uses to provide for you?

The scriptures I provided above are just from my own personal Bible study; I did not do any research online. I simply pulled out my “Spiritual Journal” that I write in everyday when I read the Bible. There are probably many more scriptures to show that being poor is not a sin.

So do I want to be in poverty forever? No. Will I be? I don't believe so but I don't know. Honestly, I do not really care. I thank God everyday for food, a roof, health, family, friends and that is what matters to me. If God is using me through these lean times then so be it. In life, this is my rule of thumb with regard to everything including money: how did Jesus live and what did he instruct us to do? I think if you strive to live like Him and follow His instructions, you will be alright. Remember, we were created to be worshipers; we are either going to worship God or everything else. I am choosing God.

*Update (1/23/12)
As I continued reading my Bible, I came across four more scriptures (I found them on December 5, 2011 but have been slow with updating this post!) showing that financial abundance should not be our focus. Here they are:

13. Luke 12:15 says, "Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

14. Luke 12:20-21 says, "'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."

15. Luke 12:29-31 says, "Do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your father knows you need them. But seek His kingdom and these things will be given to you as well."

16. Luke 12:32-34 says, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."

What do you think? Do you agree with the Prosperity Gospel? If so, have the scriptures I listed made you think differently at all?

1 comment:

  1. The prosperity gospel has taken sound Biblical teaching and twisted them.  I heard one televangelist actually say that Jesus and the disciples wore designer suits? Is this the same Jesus who said Foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests but the son of man has nowehere to lay his head? I do missionary work in Kenya, the churches we work with are really poor.  In the UK the poverty here can't be compared, these are men and women who love God, they work and everything they earn they use for the work of God yet they remain poor.. if you follow the teaching of the prosperity teachers they must be sinning.  Poverty is not comfortable but neither is persectution.  Jesus and the disciples were all persecuted and in many nations christians face similar persecution... do they go through it because they sin? poverty can be a result of sin and persecution can be a result of sin but to make a statement that poverty is a sin is not biblically sound and demonstrates that the people who believe this do not know their word or their God