In the middle of his instruction about giving to the Jerusalem church, Paul drops this theological gem:
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).
In context, Paul is encouraging the Corinthians to fulfill (“finish doing” and “completing,” 8:11) what they started. Apparently, a year before Paul penned 2 Corinthians, the church in that city promised to give generously to the poor in Jerusalem (8:10; cf. Romans 15:25–26). In chapters 8–9, Paul recalls their promise and prepares them for the forthcoming delegation to collect the offering (see 9:3–5). His words are not threatening but motivating, as he speaks repeatedly of their “readiness” (8:11, 12; 9:2), “zeal” (9:2), and genuine, generous love (8:7, 8, 24).
In fact, it is because of his confidence in their generosity that Paul encourages them in their giving. And one of the principle means of motivation is Jesus’ substitionary death. In leaving heaven to suffer and die on earth, Paul likens Jesus’ experience to that of losing his riches and becoming poor. And by speaking of Christ’s death in terms of “rich” and “poor,” Paul teaches the Corinthians and us how to give. To understand how Jesus humiliation motivates our giving, consider four points.
- Jesus’ Poverty Was Self-Appointed
- Jesus’ Poverty Was For the Sake of Others
- Jesus’ Giving Motivates Our Giving
- Our Giving Manifests and Amplifies Jesus’ Grace
A few months ago Nine Marks ministries released an e-journal on the subject of the “prosperity gospel.” In that journal, I wrote about something that I have seen in ministry, what Kate Bowler has labeled the “soft prosperity gospel.” In my article, I listed five ways of detecting this form of the prosperity gospel. They are
- Soft prosperity elevates “blessings” over the blessed God.
- Soft prosperity detaches verses from the redemptive framework of the Bible.
- Soft prosperity diminishes the curse that Christ bore and the blessing of the Holy Spirit.
- Soft prosperity relies on pastor-prescribed therapeutic techniques.
- Soft prosperity largely addresses first-world, middle-class problems.
Today, on his daily Q & A program, Ask Pastor John, John Piper lists six more ways to detect the softer prosperity gospel. In order they are, in question form:
- Does the preacher deal honestly with the biblical doctrine of suffering?
- Does the preacher speak about the need for self-denial?
- Does the preacher preach expository sermons, where the shape and content of the Bible forms the shape and content of the sermon?
- Does the preacher wrestle with tensions in the biblical text?
- Does the preacher live a lavish lifestyle that elevates him over most of the people in his church?
- Does the preacher elevate self and minimize the greatness of the glory of God?
If the answer to any or many of these questions is “yes,” then there is or is beginning to emerge in that church a message of prosperity preaching.
Sadly, the softer form of the prosperity gospel is rife within evangelical churches. We need to be aware of it, repent of it, and pray that God would give us grace to combat it in our churches and in the corridors of our own hearts. Knowing the signs of the soft prosperity gospel is a beginning place to address the problem.
To hear John Piper’s answer in full, check out his podcast “Six Keys to Detecting the ‘Prosperity Gospel.'” You can also read his thoughts about developing a philosophy of ministry that does not move towards the prosperity gospel: “Prosperity Gospel: Deceitful and Deadly.” For the whole 9Marks journal, visit here.
Soli Deo Gloria, dss
The new 9Marks Journal released today covering the subject of the “Prosperity Gospel.” In its thorough coverage of the subject, it helps readers discover, analyze, and respond to the many forms of this false gospel, which floods America and pours forth into the world. In it you can find articles from David W. Jones (whose written a book on the subject: Health, Wealth, and Happiness: Has the Prosperity Gospel Overshadowed the Gospel of Jesus Christ?), John Piper, D. A. Horton, and many others. They even included my article, “A Softer Prosperity Gospel: More Common Than You Think.”
Let me encourage you to take some time to read the articles, beginning with Jonathan Leeman’s editorial. Leeman rightly assesses the stock market value of the prosperity gospel and warns us not to buy its goods. Let’s pray that God would open our eyes to see the prosperity gospel pervading our land and enticing our heart, so that we can turn from its idolatrous offerings and find true blessing in Jesus Christ alone.
If you need further reason to read this journal, consider Leeman’s insightful editorial: Continue reading
Blessing. It’s what every wants, but few know how to get.
In America, we have a certain brand of blessing that has come to be known as the prosperity gospel. You can find its explicit version on TBN and its more subtle form in a Christian bookstore near you. This subtler prosperity gospel comes with invitations to ask God for the impossible and promises to help you break through to the blessed life. In its softer form, the blood of Christ may not be denied; it’s just hidden behind the luggage of the Lord’s blessings.
In other words, instead of centering on the “blessed and only Sovereign” (1 Tim 6:15), this soft prosperity preaching, as Kate Bowler calls it, centers on man and his earthly desires. Lost is a sense of eternal gravitas and the biblical conviction that God created the universe for his glory. What it lacks is a sense of what blessing is and isn’t. We need to let Scripture inform our understanding of blessing, and we need to see that true blessing is radically God-centered. Continue reading