Christian rapper Shai Linne has released a new song about the ‘prosperity’ gospel taught by several very popular teachers that has gotten some attention both positive and negative.
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Linne is trying to be thoughtful in his new album entitled Lyrical Theology: Part 1. Personally, I find his effort toward meaningful theological dialogue to be refreshing in a Christian music scene that often lacks such grounding. I also appreciated the following Youtube video where he sought to explain his heart in this matter.
In general, I agree with his criticism of the prosperity gospel. Any teaching that treats our worldly success as a measure of our faith has problems. What my wife and I have really noticed over the last couple of years though is that while many evangelicals would denounce the prosperity gospel as taught by the teachers who Linne mentions many, maybe even most, evangelicals embrace a more subtle version of a prosperity gospel. Now, before we get too hard on evangelicals, Job’s friends and even the apostles embraced such a gospel at times. Job’s friends were certain that his troubles were a result of his sin and even the Apostles in John 9 thought that the blind man was born blind because of sin. They were not certain if it was the man’s own sin or the parent’s but they had no doubt about why he was blind. However, neither Job’s trials nor the man’s blindness were a result of sin. In both cases, the individuals were allowed to go through trials so that God could show his mercy and power. Job went through great pain but demonstrated his faithfulness thereby debunking Satan’s theory that Job only loved God because of what God had given him. The blind man, likewise, was blind so that Jesus in that moment could heal him thus demonstrating his Messiahship.
In evangelical circles, we tend to assume the position of those that teach a prosperity gospel by assuming that being without and being with (in a materialistic sense) are somehow indicators of a persons personal spiritual climate. I simply do not see biblical evidence for this position, yet it affects how we think at a very base level. It influences our politics and our relationships. We often take it further than financial- we apply it to relationships and other trials in life.
I am not saying that there is anything wrong with wealth, or that having a peaceful personal life is wrong. But, I do wonder at times if some who embrace these theologies are not chastened because they are not His (Hebrews 12:6). Jesus promised us trials if we follow him. A look at the life of the prophets shows that some of the greatest spiritual giants were destitute financially and struggled personally.
On the other side of this issue, are those who say that wealth is wrong and who justify all hate and anger that people have toward them as the cost of following Christ. Abraham is just one example of a figure in the Bible who was clearly financially blessed by God. And, while it is true that we at times will be reviled because we take a stand for Christ we need to walk humbly in our assumptions. Sometimes people are angry at us simply because we have acted like jerks.
Really, I am just encouraging us to seek balance and be reflective. Are the troubles in our life because we choose to follow God or because we have made poor choices? Are the troubles that others face really because God has turned his favor away from them? Sometimes, at our most reflective,we assume that our troubles come because God promised troubles to those who follow him and other people’s troubles (especially those we don’t like or agree with) are because of their own sin. We then assume that the good things that come to us are because we are favored by God, yet the good that comes to those we deem worldly is because the world loves sin. Maybe yes maybe no. I think we may need a little more humility and biblical grounding and accept that things aren’t always so simple.