Monday, September 10, 2012

Our Prosperity Gospel

When a man once asked Jesus if he could tag along with him and his Crew, Jesus' response was, "The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." Jesus knew the man couldn't give up his comfortable life in order to follow him.

I think that "following Jesus" and our modern understanding of being a "Christian" can often mean two very different things. For many people, to be a Christian means that you will go to heaven once you are dead due to believing the right things about Jesus, and thats pretty much it. Sure there are those things one must abstain from, and issues that must be boycotted or protested, but for the most part, being a Christian means security for oneself in the afterlife.

It would appear that following Jesus use to be a lot harder though... It wasn't comfortable. Wealth, security, and prosperity were never promised as part of the deal. In fact, Jesus pretty much warned his disciples they would die if they followed his teachings.

It seems much of American, modern Christianity has become, in one way or another, a prosperity gospel. We follow (believe in) Jesus, not because we really believe that what he taught was the best possible way to live as a human being, but rather, because we want to reserve or spot in heaven after we die. We follow Jesus in hopes of getting something in return.

"What is the point in following Jesus if hell doesn't exist?" is one of the number one questions I get from Christians when I write or talk about re-thinking heaven and hell. To me, this exposes the real reason many believe in Jesus.

Ask yourself if you would still follow Jesus if you found out for sure that heaven and hell didn't exist. Would you still follow Jesus even if it had nothing to offer you once you breathed your last... If the "here and now" is all we have?

Believing in Jesus merely because one wants to go to heaven is a form of a prosperity gospel, and it pretty much contradicts what Jesus actually taught when he spoke about dying to oneself and living to serve the world (more on that later). With this particular version of the prosperity gospel, the world becomes something to be escaped ("this is not my home, I am just passing through"), not served, and we put ourselves at the center, not others.

Believing that gaining heaven and escaping hell is the point of the gospel allows us to ignore Jesus' teachings (Or it at least allows us to insert our own asterisks) such as non-violence, loving (rather than killing) our enemies, giving to the poor, and even the first command given in the Bible, to take care of the earth, becomes a joke.

What Jesus did between the time he was born and the time he died becomes little more than filler when the gospel is nothing more than a ticket out of here.


GailNHB said...

Yet another fantastic piece on following Jesus.

I love that question about whether or not I would follow Jesus if there is no heaven and hell. I think I would. Perhaps it would make my faith life easier... it would take away some of that old-school angst about getting other folks into heaven and helping them avoid hell.

I'm Jkub said...

Thanks GailNHB, it definitely (in some ways) made my faith life easier.

Hope you and yours are doing well.

Mindy M. said...

Yeah, the hypocrisy of so much of "christianity" in the US takes my breath away.

Your voice, your writing has always been refreshing. And now it is getting stronger. :)

I'm Jkub said...

Thanks mindy. I really do hope to get together soon. I am going to make this happen. I hope you ladies are doing well.