Irenic Thoughts

Irenic. The word means peaceful. This web log (or blog) exists to create an ongoing, and hopefully peaceful, series of comments on the life of King of Peace Episcopal Church. This is not a closed community. You are highly encouraged to comment on any post or to send your own posts.


The Gospel of Getting Rich

Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him,
"One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."
—Mark 10:21

A recent New York Times article Believers Invest in the Gospel of Getting Rich caught up with prosperity gospel preachers and their followers at Southwest Believers’ Convention in Fort Worth, Texas. One story from the article is:
Stephen Biellier, a long-distance trucker from Mount Vernon, Mo., said he and his wife, Millie, came to the convention praying that this would be “the overcoming year.” They are $102,000 in debt, and the bank has cut off their credit line, Mrs. Biellier said.

They say the Copelands rescued them from financial failure 23 years ago, when they bought their first truck at 22 percent interest and had to rebuild the engine twice in a year.

Around that time, Mrs. Biellier first saw Mr. Copeland on television and began sending him 50 cents a week.

Others who bought trucks from the same dealer in Joplin that year went under, the Bielliers said, but they did not.

“We would have failed if Copeland hadn’t been praying for us every day,” Mrs. Biellier said.

The Bielliers are now among 386,000 people worldwide whom the Copelands call their “partners,” most of whom send regular contributions and merit special prayers from the Copelands.
I read the Gospels every day and find them full of sayings from Jesus like, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me" and "whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it" (Mark 8:34-35).

Now I am aware of passages like Malachi 3:10 which is a key tithe passage:
Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this," says the LORD of hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows."
And yet, I find the prosperity gospel to be so out of touch with the Good News of Jesus Christ that I am amazed that it finds followers who know their money is going to a luxury jet and yet feel inspired to give. The article ends,
But mostly the preachers were working mightily to remind the crowd that they are God’s elect. “While everybody else is having a famine,” said Mr. Savelle, a Texas televangelist, “his covenant people will be having the best of times.”

“Any time a worried thought about money pops up in your mind,” Mr. Savelle continued, “the next thing you do is sow”: drop money, like seeds, in “good ground” like the preachers’ ministries. “Stop worrying, start sowing,” he added, his voice rising. “That’s God’s stimulus package for you.”

At that, hundreds streamed down the aisles to the stage, laying envelopes, cash and coins on the carpeted steps.
As a pastor of a church, my salary is paid for by offerings and so perhaps I should have no cause to feel the sadness I feel in reading the Times article. And yet I find Jesus' own life better lived out by the poor man of Assisi, Francis, than by the prosperity gospel preachers and so I find their gospel rings untrue to me. I do believe that God blesses us, but not with jets and yachts. Daily reading of the Gospels just doesn't support that belief as far as I can see. What do you think?

The Rev, Frank Logue, Pastor



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