17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. 18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) 20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20)
In December last year, God granted me the inexpressible honor of having two of my Canadian friends, David and Margaret Maxwell, visit with me and the church here in Tanzania. They stayed with my family and with the church for three weeks, and they were an incredible blessing to us.
David and Margaret are white.
I can’t help it but I have to say that this couple were some of the most amazing people I had ever stayed with, black or white. They were free, humble and sincere. We had the most memorable moments together and at the end of our three weeks together, it was all we could do to let go of each other.
A few days into their stay here, though, I was surprised to find a message on my phone from one of my pastor friends congratulating me for having ‘Wazungu’ (white men) as my guests. The man innocuously added, “Don’t forget me!” I immediately caught on to what he was trying to communicate to me. The man supposed that my white friends had brought me money, and he was telling me that I should not forget him in sharing the ‘loot’. ‘Loot’ is the right word here because the prosperity gospel (upon which these assumptions are rooted) is a spiritually bankrupt gospel which views money as a means for one to enrich themselves materially.
God does promise to meet our physical and material needs. But when it comes to the subject of our earthly needs, the Bible is very sparing in its words. Why? The reason lies in what is important with God, and what is not. God deliberately downplays this earthly life and everything to do with it. It is not only God’s way of helping us crucify the flesh and its desires, but God wants us to know that our agenda is spiritual, and heavenly.
Nowhere, though, does the Bible promise to make believers rich. This is a mad fallacy that has been brought about by money-hungry preachers. The “hundredfold” return that many wrongly interpret in Matthew 19:9 does not refer to us becoming rich. The true meaning of this scripture is that everything that my brethren in Christ own is mine also. Under the perfect scenario (where everyone is following Christ in crucifying their lives), all that my fellow brethren have from one end of the world to the other is mine also. That is the meaning of the “hundredfold”.
The charismatic prosperity gospel has discarded God’s heavenly agenda and it has embraced a love for money and material gain. Among its teachings are: sowing seeds, the fourth dimension by Paul Yonggi Cho (which is of the occult, really), holy oil, holy water, so-called ‘destiny’ teachings… All these beliefs are materialistic and have no heavenly agenda. They are therefore of the devil, not of God.
Notice what the Bible says about the people who trade in these teachings.
“… who mind earthly things.”
The prosperity gospel is born of a demonic spirit that minds earthly things.
But the Bible has very little regard for earthly things. Materialism has got nothing to do with the salvation of a man’s soul, nor does money have anything to do with God’s heavenly Kingdom.
One of the most horrid consequences of the charismatic prosperity gospel for the church is that it has brought a skewed and unhealthy relationship between the rich man and the poor, in the spirit. In Africa, it has deeply affected the relationship between the white man and the black man. Since the prosperity gospel places a stigma on the poor (I wonder what it has to say about the Macedonians that we read of in 2 Corinthians chapter 8!), the poor man feels inferior to the rich man. And in Africa the norm is for the African to grovel in the presence of the white man. The ‘benefactor’ syndrome has brought all this about. And this syndrome is a product of the charismatic gospel which the church has been fed for years.
But all this is contrary to the true gospel of Jesus Christ, where God wants every child of His, black, white or brown, to be free in their spirit. This is true power; and this was what the Apostle Paul and the early Church were made of. We can expect to effectively preach the gospel of Jesus Christ like the early Church did only when we have crucified the flesh and its lusts. Here, everyone is free to please God, and not men.
Let us conclude with the words of the Apostle Paul to the Philippians. He calls those who mind earthly things – the purveyors of the prosperity gospel – he calls them,
“enemies of the cross of Christ” (v. 18).
Could we talk too much on this subject?
By no means no. The Apostle Paul tells the Philippians that he has warned them about such people,
” often… even weeping”.
[True freedom – true brotherhood – and true power – in the Spirit]
All true. What an honour to have lived with you and the other pastors and families and followers of Jesus. We were enriched in our spirits by the spirit of Christ we found in all of you. Now we encourage others here in Canada with the stories of companionship and worship that we experienced in the Africa that tourists do not know. We did not have money riches to hand out, but what an indescribable delight to hand out Bibles provided by our family and friends here in Canada!
Thank you David. I speak for the entire church here when I say that you lived up to the words of the Apostle Paul who wrote the Thessalonians, “So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us.” (1 The.2:8)