Thursday, May 27, 2010

Relative Prosperity

You may be familiar with a teaching prevalent in charismatic churches known as the “prosperity message”. I have referred to it in previous writings as the Name it and Claim It, the Blab It and Grab It, and my all time favorite, the Call It and Haul It message. The prosperity message basically teaches that God’s will is for you to be prosperous and not poverty stricken. Purveyors of this doctrine find ample scriptural basis to support their contention that we have been redeemed from the “curse” of poverty, and God wants the best for his children.

The image of “prosperity” looks vastly different from one continent to another… sometimes even from one part of town to another...

Sounds cool, huh! And yet this casts an awkward shadow for those who serve God by a vow of poverty. Far be it from me to even speculate, much less opinionate on the discrepancies of these two mindsets. And yet, even a smidgen of pondering brings the realization that the image of “prosperity” looks vastly different from one continent to another… sometimes even from one part of town to another.

A pair of hand-me-down shoes acquired by the average citizen of a village in the African interior might catapult him into the realm of the elite, looking down his nose at the bare-of-foot. But on the other side of the world, driving last year’s sports car may diminish a man’s social status in the eyes of his upper middle class buddies.

Now, while I do recognize a certain responsibility to reach out with help to those less fortunate, I also remember that it was by hard work, sacrifice and perseverance that this experiment in democracy known as the Unites States of America became the nation to which the whole world stretches out an open hand for aid. And I feel no shame for the relative prosperity with which my nation, and indeed I have been blessed.

In light of this conversation I pray, “God, forgive me for my grumblings that I have to mow my own lawn in this time of “financial hardship”, and thank you for the riding mower you have provided… oh yeah, and the house that came with this scraggly yard!” Amen

This “prosperity message” mindset soon spilled over into other, more non-financial areas of life. When we were expecting my firstborn I determined it would be a boy. I thought I wanted a boy, so I foolishly prayed and asked God for a boy. Then I started “claiming” it. I came up with a name; Samuel Levi Kepler. (You would think I would be smarter than to give a kid the initials SLK, but then I gave my second born the initials JRK… sorry John!) And I told everybody we were having a son. I even enrolled Samuel in an NFL fan club and he got some really cool stickers in the mail. He never got the chance to play with them because he never existed, so I played with them for him.

So finally that day came - I remember it like it was yesterday. When Rebekah was born the doctor said, “Congratulations, it’s a girl!” I was so caught off guard that I had to look for myself to confirm it. Yep, that’s a girl alright. Confused, I decided to keep her anyway. And I soon learned that God knew best – this Rebekah kid was the most awesome kid a man could ever want! I’m sure Samuel could not have compared to Rebekah in cool-factor!

So, the doctrine of Blab It and Grab It notwithstanding, I have learned that it’s always best to seek out and go with God’s plan rather than dreaming up my own. See, I did get that son after all – the second time around. And John actually tied Rebekah on that cool-factor scale I mentioned earlier. Now that’s what I call Relative Prosperity (your kids are your relatives aren’t they?)!

And by the way Rebekah, I owe you some football stickers!

Photo: Sneakers used by permission

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