The belief that Jesus was rich lends support to the prosperity gospel. But was Jesus truly rich when He walked upon the earth?
Recently, someone commented that Jesus must be rich since he received gold, among other things, at his birth. Besides that, he reiterated, Jesus’ garments must be expensive, the ancient equivalent of an Armani suit, since the soldiers did cast lots for it. Well, so much for conjectures.
If Jesus was rich, he would have been born in a palace, not in a manger. He probably would have entered Jerusalem in a grand carriage drawn by eight horses, not riding on a borrowed donkey. He would not have needed to take a coin from the mouth of a fish to pay his temple tax. He would not have needed several women to help support him and his team as they carried out their itinerant ministry. He would have a place he could call home; but, as it turned out, he was worse off than foxes and birds which had holes and nests. And he would not have to be laid to rest in a borrowed tomb, courtesy of Joseph of Arimathea.
The trouble with ‘prosperity gospel’ teachers and adherents is that they have already decided what they want to believe. So they twist scripture to support their premise, a practice termed as eisegesis. The correct way of interpreting scripture is to let it speak for itself, exegesis, without our pre-conceived ideas clouding the picture.
Eisegesis occurs when a reader imposes his interpretation onto the text whereas exegesis is the process of drawing out the meaning from a text in accordance with the context and intended meaning of its author.
Here’s another instance where scripture is being misinterpreted. Some say Jesus became poor so that we might become rich. They base their reasoning on this verse: “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).
The context of 2 Corinthians 8:9 is this: The apostle Paul was encouraging the believers at Corinth to excel in the area of giving. The context here is the subject of giving, why the ‘haves’ should give to the ‘have nots’. What better example of self-sacrifice is there than Jesus—whom Paul quotes—who set aside His divine glory and power when He came down to earth (Philippians 2:5-7).
The “riches” Jesus set aside is His glory and power. It does not refer to material riches. Consequently, we become spiritually rich when we believe in Jesus for we are saved from the penalty of sin, enjoy a relationship with God and gain access to heaven when we die.
Christ went beyond humbling Himself; He became a curse for us so that we might be blessed: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:13-14).
In summary, Jesus was certainly not rich in worldly wealth. And this verse, 2 Corinthians 8:9, is not to be interpreted to mean that we will invariably become rich in material wealth when we become followers of Jesus.
To assert that Jesus is rich in worldly wealth and that we would invariably become materially rich by being followers of Jesus is to align ourselves with the teachings of the ‘prosperity gospel‘.
The true gospel focuses on the cross (self-denial) and things above, not the things of the world.
And Jesus said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3).
Balance is needed when we approach the touchy subject of prosperity. We must not think that poverty is a virtue. On the other hand, we must not be mesmerised by money. For the love of money is the root of many evils.
In making a stand against the prosperity gospel, we are not implying that money is evil, God doesn’t bless believers, being poor is good, laziness is a virtue or that ministries can flourish on sunshine alone. What is seriously wrong with the prosperity gospel is the use of stratagems such as ‘seed faith’, ‘name it, claim it’, ‘the more you sow, the more you’ll reap’ for personal gain and lavish lifestyles, often with little accountability. Paul strongly rebuked those who preach Jesus as a means of financial gain, referring to them as men “depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain” (1 Timothy 6:5).
What does the Bible say about abundance and riches? What does Jesus actually mean when He says, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10)?
Some say Jesus became poor so that we might become rich. Is this true? Those who say so base their reasoning on this verse: 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).
How do we know the difference? The true gospel focuses on the cross (self-denial) but the false gospel emphasises what can God do for me: Prosperity, happiness and comfort.
There are some ministers today who have all the trimmings and form of religion but inwardly harbour an ambition for the world’s goods. They may have started out well but, along the way, got bedazzled by riches. Their ethos is coloured by material comforts and well-being far above spiritual considerations.
Popular ministers today quote various isolated verses they have memorized, even though this means that they will usually leave 99% of the Bible’s verses unpreached. The Bible is not a collection of people’s favorite verses with a lot of blank space in between. Using verses out of context one could “prove” almost anything about God or justify almost any kind of behavior–as history testifies.
“Many prosperity preachers today who would like you to believe that Jesus was rich while here on earth and that God wants nothing more than to lavish His children with an abundance of material blessings. After all, a rich Jesus would certainly make it easier for them to persuade their flock that God wants them to be rich, too. However, a materially rich Jesus Christ is utterly incompatible with biblical truth.”
Definition: “Believers have a right to the blessings of health and wealth and that they can obtain these blessings through positive confessions of faith and the ‘sowing of seeds’ through the faithful payments of tithes and offerings.”
HOW TO QUICKLY ACCESS PORRIDGE
ABOUT Author: Dr Lim Poh Ann is a medical practitioner. He was the former editor of Asian Beacon magazine (December 2008 – October 2011). He can be reached at his blog, Porridge for the Soul
For a quick overview: http://bit.ly/1ijiXHp
For the source article, go to: http://limpohann.blogspot.my/2016/05/was-jesus-rich-or-poor.html
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