Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: prosperity

Its shame and reproach gladly bear

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One hundred and forty years ago a young Englishman came to an Indian Reserve in Saskatchewan as a missionary. He learned the Cree language well enough to effectively share the gospel and some band members were converted. He returned to England to marry and then came back A church was established and began to grow, his family grew also. After a few more years the missionary had to leave his post on the reserve since there was no one for his children to play with. Not of the correct social class, anyway.

My father would often approach strangers and strike up a conversation by asking “What do you think of Jesus?” Yet he considered black people and “half-breeds” to be inferior people; he reproved his mother for speaking French to their neighbours; he persisted in mispronouncing names that sounded foreign to him.

Shouldn’t Christian faith trump attitudes like that? Why are Christian people so inclined to think themselves superior to others?

It seems that years of living prosperous, untroubled lives has led us to believe that this is the norm for Christians. We carefully select Bible passages that seem to emphasize the blessedness of Christian life. Yet these verses are closely linked to the message of suffering with Christ, with not thinking ourselves better than we are, with rejoicing in persecution. We cannot comprehend those parts, so we invent ways to interpret them as metaphors for minor difficulties in our lives.

Aren’t we missing the whole point of the New Testament? Jesus did not die to save us from suffering in this life. Jesus said: “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33) and “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake” (Matthew 5:11). Paul taught “that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Peter said: “ If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you” (1 Peter 4:14).

We can spiritualise these passages, and others like them, saying they mean something else than what they say. What shall we say then of Christian martyrs of ages past who gloried in these verses and took strength from God to face persecution, torture and death? Or Christians suffering today in other countries.

Are we not missing the essential part of identifying with Christ in His rejection and suffering? I believe we misunderstand what He meant by denying ourselves and taking up our cross daily. The cross is not a minor affliction like rheumatism, nor is it a fashion accessory. It is an instrument of torture and death.

If our faith is going to be without respect of persons, that means that we need to identify with those who are looked down upon by the world, not with those the world looks up to. We must seek the approval of Christ, not the approval of the world.

There is no point in comforting ourselves in the esteem of the world anyway. All signs point to the distinct possibility, or probability, of that being taken away from us. Let’s be true followers of Jesus Christ, whatever the consequences may be.

God and Mammon

No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.  (The words of Jesus, quoted in Matthew 6:24 and Luke 16:13.)

Here is a stark warning that the pursuit of spiritual gain and the pursuit of material gain are not compatible. In such a materialistic age as we live in it is hard for us to fathom that this could be true. Yet here is another pronouncement of Jesus for reinforcement:

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:31-33).

Here is a clearly stated promise that if we make spiritual gain our goal, we will not suffer material ruin. On the other hand, it is clearly implied that to make material gain our main priority will lead to spiritual ruin.

This is a basic truth that is supported by many other statements throughout the New Testament. There is nothing in the New Testament to suggest that the pursuit of material gain will be beneficial to our spiritual life.

We must also resist the temptation to make either poverty or prosperity the gauge of a person’s spiritual life.  North America is a land of opportunity and  many Christians here have attained to a level of prosperity that is well above that of most Christians in other lands. This is no proof that we are more spiritual than they are, or that God is more pleased with us.

There are people in North America who have been denied access to the opportunities most of us take for granted. Others, for various reasons, seem unable to see or to manage the opportunities that are available to them. This is not proof that they are less capable of spiritual gain or that God is angry with them.

According to the social conscience of our time, material poverty is the one great sin of our society. In the light of eternity, the spiritual poverty of those who live for ease and pleasure is the great sin that will bar them from heaven.

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