The cover of the latest Time Magazine garnered my attention last night. The question on the cover was, "Does God Want You to be Rich?" My initial thought was if he did, I wouldn't have forgotten to log a $170 check in my checkbook last week. But since I was on break I decided to sit down and give it a read.
Not suprisingly the article focused on what the author referred to as "propsperity light" preachers. You may have seen these guys on tv if you can stomach it for more than a few minutes. People like Joel Osteen. This guy is an interesting character. Joel's church congregation meets in a former basketball arena. It's that large. How embarassing must it be if you hit snooze a few times and park your Caddy towards the back of the lot and need to sit in the nosebleeds for church? If politics and backbiting sometimes happen at smaller churches, I wonder if this church seems like an episode of Laguna Beach, only less attractive. I kid around, a bit, because that is not my kind of church at all. Then again, I would have never guessed my congeregation of 50-75 people would be the kind of church that I would be in or consider my home.
The cover is a bit misleading to the story within. The question itself is a loaded question. Does God want us to be rich? I don't think it's the case that God would not want us to be rich. There can be the arguments made that money is a false idol. That when money is around, in abundance one finds less reason to depend on God for whatever reason. These are valid and coherent arguments. They can be made more coherently by someone who isn't blowing 20 minutes on his lunch break like myself.
But, when I see the mention of God "wanting us to live life and live it more abundantly" I don't see monetary capital being the abundance he was talking about. It's Sunday school speak I am getting into right now just without the felt board and felt puppets, but to me it always seemed to be emotional and spirtual capital that Jesus was centering on. In the way he lived his life, in the people he travelled and ate with, and in those he chose as his disciples.
I do not consider myself a class warrior by any means. I wish I was rich. I don't hold wealth against people. Sometimes, maybe shamefully, I am more aggrivated by the panhandler than the guy in the limo. Were my job to be more lucrative I certainly wouldn't turn down the extra money for some pious reason.
More often than not I do think that God shares a desire with his people, whether it be love, prosperity, job advancement, or an Eagles Super Bowl victory. I do also think that there are times when we do not get what we want, that should not be attributed to God's will. I do think that he cries along with us in these times. Jesus did weep. God does not always get what he wants. I think it's naive and a bit fatalistic to assume because there are wars in the world this is God's will, or because there is extensive poverty, sometimes especially amongst Catholics, Christians in South America that this is God's will. I just don't see a loving God thinking "Yeah, that's okay because their dependance on me is now greater." Sometimes their is injustice. This is planet earth in 2006.
Whether or not God wants you to be rich, whether or not prosperity light teaching is heretical, whether or not mega churches or house churches really are sidetracks from the main question. How can we best show love to our neighbor?