Many in this world– dare I include Christians– believe that one is more blessed when they have more influence, material goods, money, and power. If this is true, then those currently suffering a lack of their basic necessities must lack Christ, right?
Wrong. While sin can end in bad circumstances, as I look at “prosperity doctrine” churches, especially ones in which health and wealth are equated with “more faith,” my heart is broken. Why? Because those who believe in and follow these doctrines are not grasping the fact that Jesus had no health, wealth and prosperity on this Earth. In fact, Jesus is described in Isaiah 53 in this way:
“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. …He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. …He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.”
(Isaiah 53:3,7,9, NIV)
Yes, it is true that “by His wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5); and yes, Jesus took on the wrath of God for our sin, so that we would not have to. And don’t get me wrong; to be prosperous and happy in this life is not necessarily bad, in and of itself (1 Timothy 6:17).
But why does the fact that Jesus healed us of our sin problem, bearing our sin and shame, automatically turn into a feeling of entitlement over material possessions and earthly prosperity? At the heart of it all, Jesus gave the standard for those who would be apart of His Kingdom, in the Sermon on the Mount.
Just like us, the disciples had their own idea of what it would be like to follow Jesus: Jesus would set up his physical, earthly reign on the earth, and bring justice to all Israel. They thought Jesus would appoint men– themselves, the 12 disciples– to rule in high positions, in this earthly kingdom. This can be seen in Matthew 20, when the mother of James and John asked Jesus to put her sons in the highest ranking positions in the land, right next to Him. The disciples expected fame, money, and power for following Jesus, up until the point of the Sermon on the Mount.
Expecting this kind of prosperity, the 12 disciples must have been completely shocked when they heard what Jesus said during the Beatitudes.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.”
(Matthew 5:3-10, NIV)
The end of the Sermon on the Mount says, “the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as the teachers of the law” (Matthew 7:28-29, NIV). I can only imagine the shock and amazement of the disciples and the people listening.
Instead of cursing others as the Pentateuch and Talmud described, Jesus was blessing (“Sermon on the Mount,” Jen Wilkin). Instead of praising the religious leaders and their lifestyle, Jesus blessed those who knew they had no righteousness in and of themselves, and needed a Savior: those “poor in spirit.” Instead of creating an earthly reign in His first coming, where His disciples would be given earthly power and blessing, Jesus revealed that those who are without self-righteousness, grieved over their sin, seeking out God, and wanting His Will– not their own– would have the Kingdom of Heaven. Not to mention being persecuted for righteousness’ (Jesus’) sake!
This idea of prosperity on Earth reminds me of a lot of the church doctrine in southern Nigeria, today. (To be fair, I have never been to Nigeria; I only know what I observe from news articles and church advertisements seen online.) In fact, it reminds me of the whole world, and the way it works: the better you look, the more fame and power you have= the better you must be blessed by God. I have even heard someone say that “God has left Africa,” because of how corrupt the state of affairs are, there.
But here, Jesus is saying something precious to His disciples. Blessed are those who know they need me. Blessed are those who submit themselves to My Will for their lives, though it may very well cause pain. Blessed are those persecuted because they love and follow me, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus blesses all people (Matthew 5:45). But what Jesus is saying here, is that in reality, those who are truly blessed are the cast out, the ugly, the needy, and the broken.
Blessed are the underdogs. (Luke 18:35-43)
Blessed are those who are saddened by their sin. (Luke 18:12-14)
Blessed are those who are desperate for Jesus to intervene. (Matthew 5:9-10)
Why? Because these are the people who run to Jesus, and are blessed by the Salvation, Fellowship, Comfort, Joy, Purpose, and Transformation that only He can give.
In reality, Jesus has given us far more than anything this world can give: Eternal Life.
Friends, Jesus has NOT left Africa.
As millions of children have been orphaned,
As countless men, women and children have been left homeless,
and as numerous soldiers, militia men, and vigilantes fight a weary, seemingly never-ending battle against Boko Haram,
Jesus has NOT abandoned those who have called upon His Name.
And friend, even if you are in a horrific situation, He has not left or abandoned you, either.
As we watch the world continually get worse and worse, let us remember this truth: that Jesus’ blessing doesn’t just come from the fair-weather, prosperous times in life.
Perhaps, the greatest blessing of all comes when we are down on our knees, seeking Him desperately. May we find Him in both places.
Do you know Jesus?
“He was despised and rejected—
a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.
We turned our backs on him and looked the other way.
He was despised, and we did not care.”
(Isaiah 53:3, New Living Translation)
It is true: many people have become Christians because they believed their lives would grow extremely prosperous, in an earthly kind of way.
Perhaps you are a person who doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ. Looking at the western church today, it would be hard to look at the words of Isaiah 53:3 and believe that this is what Jesus Christ is truly described as. The church today is chalk full of hypocrites, and I will be the first to admit that at many times, I have not been a person who rightly represents Jesus Christ.
But, if you do not believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I challenge you: Look past the church at large; look past the hypocrites. Go straight to the source of Real Truth– The Bible. I suggest starting in the book of John.
If you have never known Jesus, or heard about why He is so important, read more, here.
Please pray with me…
“Dear Lord Jesus,
Thank You for continuing to Love us, despite the fact that we so often miss the mark. Forgive us for trying to seek pleasure and money as the fulfillment that only You can provide. Forgive us for so often feeling entitled to having things go our way, when in reality, You have blessed us with far more than anything we could want on Earth.
Please help us to be grateful for every good and beautiful thing You bring our way.
Please bless those who are seeking You with more of You; change our desires to Yours, dear Jesus.
Please help us to thoroughly enjoy everything You have put in our lives, but don’t let them become idols.
Dear Lord Jesus,
We pray for those in Northern Nigeria who are struggling greatly. Please, bring these people to know You. Please do not let them believe these lies, and remind & strengthen them with the Fact that You are WITH those who call upon You, always.
Let us draw near to You, dear Jesus.
In Jesus’ Name we pray,
Thank you for your prayers. ❤