Thursday, February 02, 2006

Was Jesus the Bill Gates of his time?

Disclaimer: I’m not against capitalism or wealth, just those who use God as a tool for developing wealth, but either pretends that they don’t, or justify that the Bible dictates their doing so.

Living in the heart of Texas we are right smack-dab in the center of the mega-church universe. The Dallas area has numerous houses of worship (from various denominations), whose weekly attendance exceeds 10,000. In addition to that, many of the largest are on the cutting edge of media technology and broadcast their messages, (as well as sell their proprietary spiritual products), all over the USA and in some cases around the globe on radio, TV and the internet.

I bring this up, because I sometimes become troubled thinking about the huge business operations that evolve around these incredible large ministries, which sometimes leads to untold wealth for the leaders and pastors, (it’s an issue that helped to keep me away from God for many years). This in turn plants a seed of doubt in me where their motivations really lie. Is it still to do God’s work and bring more people closer to him, or is it all about covering rising overhead, having the most spiritual bestsellers and accumulating wealth? I personally have been a part of a church like this, where the pastor is all about the packaging of his message to the TV masses and totally cuts himself off from personal contact with the run of the mill member of the church …in fact, even when his family walks through the church they are flanked by security...nothing says come up and chat, like CIA operatives behind you!

A couple weeks back the Dallas Morning News ran a feature piece about a new biography on T.D Jakes, (Bishop at the Potters House Ministry, in Dallas). Bishop Jakes has done some wonderful things for people in Dallas and around the USA, but within the article it also talked about the multi-million dollar homes he has and that he drives a Bentley, (which I would dare to say costs more than many of his members homes)! The article went on to say, (I’m paraphrasing here), to answer the critics that say his ministry might be just as much about the accumulation of money, as it is to honoring God, Jakes had stated that Jesus was rich, so it’s okay that men of God are also!

Well, as sometimes happens for me, upon pondering a question such as this I was lead to an answer in scripture, during my morning quiet time, (which usually occurring between 6-7am). In 2 Corinthians 8:9, Paul tells us: “For you know the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you, through his poverty might become rich.”

This begs the question…does this mean that Jesus was rich in a material way, or a spiritual one, (you know since he was the Son of God)? And even if you say material wealth, it is then quite clear that whatever riches he had he shared or gave away and became poor, so that through his poverty we might become rich, (by emulating Jesus, so we may receive our riches through the Holy Spirit). So if he ever was materially rich, he gave it all away once he started his ministry.

But I feel the riches Paul is speaking of here, is God’s riches, which are received through our obtaining eternal life, which is not based on what we have, but what we have given to others, (so that others can obtain God's riches through our poverty). So this pretty much shoots down the foundation of the prosperity Gospel, that God wants us to be rich, (worldly through possessions), rather than spiritually rich because of whom we have helped through what we have earned. It’s one thing to grow a thriving-vibrant congregation which provides for you, your staff and your families, but when we start talking about multi-million dollar homes, yacht, cars with a sticker price closer to a house, it might be just me, but I start wondering how much might be too much for a men who’s job description is suppose to be about giving more than they are taking?

(Copyright 2006 Robert James Luedke, no re-publication without express written permission).

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