The Grace of Giving or the Grace of Prosperity?

Today, my pastor focused on the 2 Corithians 9:8,9 at length, switching between the NKJV version and the Amplified paraphrase, to prop up the argument that prosperity is within God’s ambit of blessings :-­

And God is able to make all grace (every favor and earthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and ­­whatever the need be self-sufficient [possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation]. (Amplified paraphrase)

I just wonder why this theme of prosperity is stretched to such an extent, over four Sundays?

Could it be that in labouring on with this point, there is 1) the conviction that this topic is extremely important and relevant to members, or 2) to defend this teaching against detractors with real or perceived scriptural  passages for support.

My misgivings are

  • {Added on 23rd June} In the context of 2 Cor 8&9, the key thought / intent of the author is to
    • Highlight that though the Macedonian believers were poor, having experienced God’s Grace, they excelled in sharing this unmerited grace in giving and generosity (8:1-7)
    • Corinthians are reminded of the unmerited grace and favor of Christ ALL received, though not in a circumstantially and earthly equal material manner; and reminded of their previous commitment to share.
    • It happens that the Corinthians have RELATIVE abundance, compared to others who lack. In the event that the Corinthians feel that they would be divested and dispossessed by their giving and sowing, God will enlarge the harvest of their righteousness as God is able to continue to bless the Corinthians by grace in abundance (9:12), just as He did to the poor Macedonians with a spirit of rich generosity (8:2) – “see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”
    • The text in 9:18 IS NOT a promise and teaching about material prosperity for all believers. It is about the abundant grace of God which all experienced in diverse ways always.  For those who experienced more material blessings, this unmerited grace of abundant material blessings is to be shared in the grace of giving and generosity!
  • The key intent, content and context of the passages in 2 Cor 8 & 9 is to seek the generosity of the Corinthians, and not a proposition that God wills believers to be prosperous – as taught by WOF followers
  • The Amplified Bible, which is also one of my favourites for reading and meditation, is not a transliteration or a translation. It is actually a paraphrase, amplification of the text with synonyms upon synonyms and implied meanings as against explicit intent of the contextual content (see point 1 above).
  • One should form convictions and conclusions on clear direct intent and teachings of the scripture. We should not clutch at every unintended proof text to support our preferences. Scriptures are definitely not bankrupt of clear and sound explicit teaching for major and important issues.  Rather, the use of proof texts often reveals the bankruptcy and sustainability of this belief.
  • The Apostle Paul never bemoan the poverty and privation of the saints (2 Cor 8:2,14; 9:12); only the absence of generosity of the Corinthians who benefited from the grace and provision of God had not kept faith with their commitment to share (see point 1).

There may be those who espouse that the blessings of God is evidenced in prosperity of the Old Testament Jewish characters (Abraham, David, Solomon), implying that it is not the lot of believers to be poor. Yet I find the wisdom of James, supposedly a minister to Jewish believers rather eloquent and coherent.  The spiritual legacy and asset of the poor are upheld while the rich are derided and disparaged.

Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. (James 1:9-11)

Came across Julian Lukins write-up on Gordon Fee, and on how Fee believes that the theology of prosperity fits more into the American dream rather than to scriptural doctrinal teaching. Gordon, as a pentecostal is well aware that biblical theology is relegated to experiential theology amongst many Pentecostals and WOF followers.

Excerpted below are Lukins write-up:

http://www.charismamag.com/spirit/bible-study/11740-a-professor-with-spirit

Another area of contention for Fee is the prosperity gospel, or what he calls “health and wealth” teachings. His book The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospels is a blistering rebuke of prosperity and perfect health teachings, which he claims have no basis in Scripture. What he describes as the “false gospel” of health and wealth has caused “immense damage” to the charismatic movement, he says.

“Fight over tongues and prophecy if you have to, but don’t fight over something as unbiblical as [health and wealth theology],” he observes. Fee notes in the book that the theology of this gospel seems far more to fit the American dream than the teaching of Him who had “nowhere to lay His head.”

“We shouldn’t reconstruct the Christian faith into an advancement of the American way of life, which I feel is the great sin of the American church today,” he says.

The problem with health and wealth teaching, Fee says, is one of hermeneutics, or “interpretation of Scripture.” He believes much of the prosperity teaching is dressed “in biblical garb” but “flies full in the face of the whole New Testament.”

Twisting certain scriptural passages to fit their theology, proponents of health and wealth are “guilty of selectivity,” Fee says, and then they “avoid … texts that stand squarely in opposition to their teaching.”

He highlights 3 John 2 as a key example: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (KJV). Fee says prosperity teachers interpret this verse as saying, in effect: “We should prosper and be in good health.”

He contends, however, that the Greek word translated as “prosper” in the King James Version means “to go well with someone.” The equivalent of it today would be if someone wrote: “I pray this letter finds you all well.”

He concludes: “The combination of wishing for ‘things to go well’ and for the recipient’s ‘good health’ was the standard form of greeting in a personal letter. To extend [John’s greeting] to refer to financial and material prosperity for all Christians of all times is totally foreign to the text.”

Fee also questions the prosperity movement’s interpretation of the term “abundant life” in John 10:10. The meaning has nothing to do with material abundance, he says, adding that “life” literally means the “life of the Age to come.” The Greek word perrison, translated “more abundantly” in the KJV, means “simply that believers are to enjoy this gift of life to the full,” he says. “Material abundance is not implied either in the word ‘life’ or ‘to the full.’”

The teaching of perfect health is a distortion of the Bible’s teaching on healing, he claims: “Gifts of healing belong in the church, but [perfect health theology] has created … neurotic believers, because they don’t seem to be able to muster up ‘enough faith’ [to be healed].” Again, proponents of perfect health theology “simply fail to do adequate exegesis, which has to do with determining the meaning of a text in its original context,” he says.

He cites Galatians 3:13, a favorite verse of perfect health advocates, in which Paul states that “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law” (NIV). Proponents link this verse with Deuteronomy 28:21-22, he says, in which disease is named as one of the curses of disobedience to the law.

“There is not even the remotest possibility that Paul was referring to the curses of Deuteronomy 28 when he spoke of the ‘curse of the law,’” Fee states. “And ‘redemption’ in Galatians has to do with one thing only—how does one have right standing with God.”

The real issue, Fee says, is not how to get the biblical text “to work for us” but how to understand the text in the light of the full biblical revelation. He acknowledges that his sympathies lie with those who want to see God perform miracles of healing.

“One must ruefully admit that evangelical Christianity by and large does not expect much from God,” he notes. “Most Christians’ expectation level when it comes to the miraculous is somewhere between zero and minus five. Even though evangelicals often pray, ‘If it be Thy will, please heal so-and-so,’ they would probably … faint if God actually answered.”

Clearly Fee loves the Word, noting that heresies are creeping into the church because of lack of theological understanding and misinterpretation of Scripture. What’s needed, he emphasizes, is Spirit-filled living and sound scriptural interpretation. “If I could say one thing to the American church,” he cautions, “it would be this: Keep integrity with Scripture and spiritual experience.”

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5 thoughts on “The Grace of Giving or the Grace of Prosperity?

    • Oh, you noticed. But I really do thank God for J Prince, whom God raised for the need of the hour to re-package the Glorious Gospel of Grace to many within God’s kingdom who have been hurt and harmed by the mixture of the truth of Grace and the teaching of the Law from the pulpit and the printers! And if only pastors and leaders fully grasp that all of us have our own VANTAGE POINTS when championing or advocating issues of sanctification (discipleship) “against” amazing and awesome Grace. As one local ‘theologian’ recently puts it – there are ‘indicatives’ and ‘imperatives’ in our legacy, BUT I notice that the imperatives of sanctification and discipleship tend to be raised by theologians, pastors; (understandably the burden of such roles to exhort believers and fill their church with quality Christians) while the thousands of testimonies for the lasting deep impact and influence of Grace are from the believers who realise our indicatives, and the power of God’s grace (vantage point of a sinner!); which I believe is the great need of the hour. Indeed, Teachers and pastors who fully know the fundamental purpose, plan and program of God in Jesus in coming as Grace upon Grace. Having briefly said this, indeed a Great flaw in NCC is the acceptance of the H & w teachings which pastor JP grew up in. In adopting the inherited and imputed righteousness of Kenyon, the H&W teachings were included as a “denominational” (loosely used here) legacy. This unfortunate adoption has great collateral damage to JP’s gift and calling to restore the Gospel of grace! Sad!

    • Hi Ps Aaron,

      Thank you for your comment and input. I’ve noticed that your writings are mature, measured and meaty! And it is refreshing to read your observations and meditations. Perhaps we could engage one another – may I have your email so that I can write apart from this social media? Mine is pilgrimgoinghome@gmail.com

      Be blessed in Yeshua in all ways always!

      On Friday, 10 June 2016, New Creation Church – transiting through … wrote:

      >

      • Hi brother, you can call me Aaron (I’m not a pastor!) 🙂 Thanks for your encouragement and once again, I want to affirm your journey with the Lord and it’s been very enlightening engaging with you over this platform. You can email me at holeelove@gmail.com

        God bless you too!

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