Pray & Grow Rich

'THE GOSPEL OF PROSPERITY has been around for decades. It has flourished in good times and — oddly enough — in bad. It was first expounded in the 1950s by Oral Roberts in books like God’s Formula for Success and Prosperity, but it wasn’t until the charismatic Oral Roberts University-educated Osteen took up the cause that the gospel really started to pay off.

Proponents cite chapter and verse to bolster the legitimacy of their message. The Parable of the Talents. Much of Deuteronomy. Opponents likewise evoke the Sermon on the Plain (“Blessed are the poor for yours is the kingdom of God”), St. Paul (“I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties”), and the Book of Job in which the righteous man loses everything. Between these two gospels, the gospel of prosperity and the gospel of the cross, there is a great gulf. Perhaps Beliefnet’s Scot McKnight said it best: “The problem with the prosperity gospel is it focuses on ‘getting our wants.’ The cross gospel focuses on ‘giving ourselves.’”

Living a Christian life would seem to be self-evidently beneficial to success. That is if success means more than wealth and power. A Christian life theoretically means you are living a pious, selfless existence, while committing few of the vices that would seem to militate against wealth and success, like sloth, greed, lust, wrath, and envy. In other words, a man living a virtuous life is guaranteed a better chance at success than the lazy drunkard who cheats on his wife and gambles away her paycheck.

Jesus certainly promised riches to those who followed his way. But they were riches of a permanent kind. They were riches you can take with you. Perhaps, eventually, the converts will realize that the prosperity they were promised has failed to materialize and they may as well return to their original homes where the emphasis is not on material riches, nor on romanticizing poverty, but on advocating for the dignity for the poor.'

- Christopher Orlet, 'Pray and grow rich.'


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