A few weeks back my Facebook page was flooded with memes of gratitude – it seemed like everyone, and everyone’s cousin was posting what they were thankful for. At the same time, our book group was reading Pollyanna (yes, that Pollyanna – the one you never actually read, but you remember the Haley Mills version that Disney put out) and the world seemed ready to burst with words like “glad”, “fortunate” and “blessed”.
It was interesting to see how many times those words were used in the same sentence as “God”.
Apparently, the folks I friend on FB have no problem giving God the Glory (which is a wonderful and appropriate thing) but while I was reading all of these stories of gratefulness and God intertwined every rare once in a while I’d read something that suggested that there was a contractual arrangement in all of this.
Basically, it looks like this: If I have faith in God, God will deliver prosperity and security.
There’s a few wee problems with this theology (sometimes called Prosperity Theology or Prosperity Gospel).
First of all – God delivering prosperity (I have a sudden image of the Creator of the Universe standing at my door with a pizza box) because *I* have faith kind of discounts the whole Grace thing. There’s really nothing I can do to help along my salvation. Grace alone does that. It’s a free gift. There’s no quid-pro-quot.
Second? It discounts the sufferings of a good many people of faith who are never on the receiving end of prosperity OR security. I don’t need to take this to the extreme and list martyrs – just look at the pictures of folks in non-first world countries praying for enough food/clean water.
Third – look to scripture. The sun shines on the just and the unjust in Job, and in the Gospels we have folks with oodles of camels finding the humble dromedary has a better shot of going through the eye of a needle than they have of finding the Kingdom of Heaven.
Yeah, I hate to break it to you, but giving so that you can receive (as opposed to giving out of response for the love that you’ve been shown) isn’t going to work. That’s not to say that when you give of yourself wonderful things won’t happen. Or that there isn’t some value in the idea that by putting good out there in the world, the world becomes a better place (and hey, you MIGHT be a beneficiary of that!)… just don’t think for a minute that it’s possible to read the whole of scripture and think that you can “name it and claim it” because you’ve paid your dues.
Can I offer an alternative?
Accept what you’ve been given as a gift from God and give thanks for those gifts. Then use those gifts as a means of responding to all that you’ve been given. Use your time, talent and treasure to live out the Gospel in ways that point back to the One who gave you those gifts. And be grateful for the opportunity to do so.