Guest Post – Idol Worship: The God Of Prosperity

by Helena

 

I used to think I understood the gospel of Jesus Christ. But as I’ve been teaching my children about Him, and really focusing on the simple truths, I’ve discovered that I had it wrong all along.

When people stand up in class, or at the pulpit, and say “I know God loves me, and I have been blessed with children.” I look over at my sister in law, who has PCOS and has struggled for years with infertility. She is so kind, always serving others, just such a good person doing her very best, and who loves the church.

What does this tell her?

Does God not love her? Is she not righteous enough?

What did her uncle do to earn the blessings of children when he and his girlfriend had their first baby in high school?

And when people say “I am so blessed with good health” what message does that send to a person who is struggling with their health? Or when someone dies of cancer?

Were they not righteous enough? Did God not love them?

And when someone shares how God protected them from getting into an accident on their way to work, as evidence of His love, of His hand in their life.

…What does that say to the mother who lost their child in a car crash?

Did their child not matter? Had he or she not earned enough love to be saved from harm?

This never set right with me. And as I’ve been teaching my children about Jesus, I’ve come to know Him a little better. And I realized I’ve been worshiping an Idol:

I was worshiping the idol of The God Of Prosperity.

This worship felt so safe. I would trade obedience like currency in exchange for blessings, and you can see who he loves by how much they have.

It was so simple, almost like a vending machine. If you don’t have the blessing you want, try adding more obedience in, and see which blessings fall out. Throw in enough, and someday you’ll get them all.

I had it all wrong.

When people come to church who are struggling, and they hear people say “I was blessed with children, and health, and money, and all of my grown kids are still in the Church, look how much God loves me. I earned this all by my obedience.”

…The rest of us leave feeling beaten down.

We aren’t good enough. God doesn’t love us enough. Somehow we did something, and are being cursed or punished.

THIS IS AN UNRIGHTEOUS TRADITION.

It is an unrighteous tradition brought in from other religions, other cultures, maybe from our fears but it is NOT of Christ.

When people come to church and hear THIS message, who wins? Who wants us to feel this way?

Satan. If he can make us think and feel these things then it’s a victory for him.

This life is HARD. And good things happen, and bad thing happen, and our bodies fail us, and our loved ones fail us, and we fail them. It sucks, but it’s part of life. These things aren’t punishments. They are part of the package, and we agreed to them before coming to this earth. They do not mean anything about Gods love, and when someone has more than you it’s NOT because he loves them more.

That is Prosperity Gospel, and I reject it. I do not worship the God of Prosperity anymore.

I only have interest in Jesus Christ.

So when I think about things I used to know about the Gospel, I like to stop and examine them. Even things I never thought to question. I ask myself: What did Jesus teach? How does this fit with His teachings? Then I ask: What does Satan teach? How does this fit with him?

Because you know he is working tirelessly to take the plain and simple teachings of Christ, and add in elements of fear, and coercion, and bribery, and shame.

And with this thought work, I’ve come to see things differently than ever before, and for me the best way is always through Christ.

Maybe what God blesses us with isn’t things like health or children or money. That falls apart when you realize even horrible people have these things.

Maybe His blessings are a kind heart, more ability to see and minister to those around us, a genuine interest in others, and the ability to look at them with love and not ever with judgement. Maybe that’s what we should be praying for.

Maybe when we look beyond our hearts, we are looking beyond the mark. And when we focus so much on the mote in someone else’s eye, we stop seeing them as our Savior does- as beautiful, broken, resilient souls.

When we look at others, maybe it should only be to love them, not to try and change them. We can’t do that. Only God can. And thinking we are mighty enough to change them, and that it’s our place to try- that’s Pride.

And when we look at the ways we are fortunate in our lives, and think of it as evidence of Gods favor? That might be Pride, too.

And thinking that we can bribe or bargain or purchase physical favors from our Lord- maybe that’s Pride as well.

My understanding isn’t perfect. And I hope that as I continue to grow and learn, I’ll look back in another ten years and say “I thought I knew.” But right now, when I pray, this feels good and true.

When I look to the Savior for guidance in how to help support the people around me, his words and parables are so clear. Love them.

That’s it. Only love.

And with that love, miracles truly can happen. When our hears are blessed and filled with compassion and love, we can be there to support each other in the hardest parts of life. The messiest, most heartbreaking aspects.

Maybe that’s what true miracles are.

Maybe that’s what Jesus was saying all along.

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8 Responses

  1. Lorraine Jeffery says:

    Well said.

  2. Trudy says:

    Wonderful post. Thank you for sharing.

    People have made really unkind remarks to me along these lines when they speculate about what unseen sin or defect must be preventing God from blessing me with a spouse. They view a spouse as a sign of God’s favor, so they view my singleness as a sign of God’s lack of favor, so they try to figure out what I did to cause it. Vending machine God meets theodicy, with predictably bad results.

  3. Richard_K says:

    I want what you have said here to be true, and personally I accept it to be true, but it is not what Mormons believe. The Book of Mormon is rife with the theme of: “If the keep the commandments then he shall prosper in the land.” The D&C clearly states that every blessing is obtained on the principle of obedience to the law upon which that blessing is predicated. I hate this, but it is more than merely our culture — it is our doctrine. As much as I hope that God is not so capricious and petty as our scriptures seem to bear witness of, I’m afraid that rejecting the Gospel of Prosperity will never gain traction with the devout: Those that get called as leaders.

    • jettie says:

      Yeah this is one principle where the Book of Mormon’s doctrine does not pass muster, because every person who walks the earth can name at least several uber-righteous Mother Theresa-types who have never received temporal/worldly prosperity while at the same time the land is full of uber blessed/prosperous people (indeed, the California and Utah canyons are dotted with their homes) whose actuons/lives are polar opposite of what the Book of Mormon defines as righteous.

  4. Susan Hinckley says:

    Beautiful thoughts. I think this is something that we fundamentally misunderstand, and therefore often misuse the word “blessing.” I believe true blessings must be things of the spirit, not of possessions or earthly circumstance. It’s the only way I can make sense of this element of our culture or, as is argued in the comments above, our doctrine. We have failed to understand the true nature of blessings. Thanks for sharing your insights.

    • Wondering Why says:

      Fundamentally I would agree. However, just as we know that the physical and emotional self-reliance add to and aid Spiritual self-reliance, so too must physical blessings like, health and the ability to feed and clothe ourselves be seen as Spiritual blessings.

      And prosperity may too be a Spiritual blessing if we use that wealth to free up our time for service, help the poor, etc.

  5. Rebecca says:

    This is excellent! I could not resonate with this more.
    IMHO, blessings should not be viewed as physical, only spiritual. It’s the only way to make sense of blessings being rewards for obedience.
    After all, isn’t this life the time for us to develop our spirituality? Align our will with God’s, become more like Christ? We don’t do any of that physically, only spiritually.
    Thank you for such a beautiful post. I’ll be sharing, no, preaching this!

  6. Pammy says:

    I Love this so much!!!!

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