One of the things that sends me right up the wall are people who preach the prospertiy gospel or any variant of the idea that if I live by the 'right' rules, pray the 'right' way, or give money to the 'right' person God will bless me and I will prosper. The converse being, of course, that if I don't do these things correctly the evidence will come in the form of failure, illness, poverty, and death.
Not only do I think that the magical thinking behind such beliefs is wrong, I belive it is the anti-thesis of what the Jesus experince is all about.
I was thinking about this in the context of all of the war, death, and tragedy that we have seen in the news this past week. Between terrorist attacks, earthquakes, and major storms many good people have suffered and died. Prosperity gospel would have us think that these people were somehow unworthy rather than just unluckly.
Jesus says to us that no one is unworthy. His words and actions, his stories and parables speak to the idea that those society are most likely to shun will come first in his Father's house.
No only do I belive that. I also belive that we have gotten the wrong end of who is supposed to be providing the prosperty. We know (or we should know by now) that poverty and distress are some of the major drivers of war and destruction. We know that when we join together to create jobs, communities, and a sense of stablity peace has a chance to grow and thrive. When we right injustice, remove oppressive forces, and provide opportunity we quiet the siren song of violence and make space for peaceful differences.
The psalm appointed for this Wednesday is number 122:
I was glad when they said to me, *
"Let us go to the house of the LORD."
Now our feet are standing *
within your gates, O Jerusalem.
Jerusalem is built as a city *
that is at unity with itself;
To which the tribes go up,
the tribes of the LORD, *
the assembly of Israel,
to praise the Name of the LORD.
For there are the thrones of judgment, *
the thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: *
"May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls *
and quietness within your towers.
For my brethren and companions' sake, *
I pray for your prosperity.
Because of the house of the LORD our God, *
I will seek to do you good."
To me this pslam, at its heart, speaks to the idea that prosperity is the good earth that lasting peace grows in and that without prosperity we are at risk of losing peace.
By prosperity I don't mean outrageous wealth. I mean a sense of shared resources, a feeling of hope for the future, and the idea that we are all riding on this fragile earth, our island home, together.
Every person is created in the image of god and none are unworthy of his love.
Rather than looking to God to provide individual prosperity based on arbitrary rules, we should look to ourselves to provide prosperity to others. We should be wary of people who link wealth with worthiness and poverity with worthlessness.
None of us get to choose where or when we were born, what we can do is try to share what we have, to lift others up, and to follow the example of Jesus in whose eyes no one was unworthy.
This essay was originally published at the Episcopal Cafe: Speaking to the Soul on 18 November 2015.