A Wealthy Life?
I find the prosperity gospel to be most objectionable. The idea that God wants us to be self absorbed — focused on our own health, wealth and western ideals of prosperity — has done more to harm the kingdom of God than build it up. It also directly contradicts Biblical, particularly New Testament, notions of kingdom living.
I was reminded this once again while reading on a plane. I started reading Luke but before jumping into the text, I asked for God to highlight simple things that I’d missed before. One of those dealt specifically with our false notions of prosperity and kingdom living. It comes specifically from Luke 5 and is the story of Jesus and the fishermen.
3 He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the shore. Then Jesus sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and lower your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing! But at your word I will lower the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets started to tear. 7 So they motioned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they were about to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For Peter and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, Zebedee’s sons, who were Simon’s business partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” 11 So when they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.
Here is something amazing. Jesus is traveling with these fisherman and teaches some from their boat. What exactly — we don’t know. We could probably guess a little bit — it seems that often Jesus taught about what the kingdom of God is like, through parables and stories and simple truths, like in the sermons on the mount and plains. He often spoke of an alternative lifestyle — one lived in a subversive opposition to the dominant culture.
And so here are these fishermen. They first recognized that in Jesus, there was someone worth listening to. Even though they had been out fishing all night with nothing to show for their hard work, they were willing to take Jesus at His word. When He said, ”Lower your nets” they did, and to their amazement caught more fish than they likely had ever seen at one given time. They even had to call another boat over to hold all of the excess. For these fishermen, this likely represented an enormous wealth such that they didn’t often come across.
For us in the states, more often than not it seems that this would have been the end of the story. God is supposed to bless us with wealth beyond measure. It’s an expectation to live and walk in. And sadly this satisfies us. So often we leave it at that (wealth accumulation as outward sign of blessing) and ignore the greater truth of what abundance and wealth truly is.
Thankfully though for Simon Peter and his business partners, this wasn’t a sufficient end to the story. They are amazed at the wealth but more amazed with Jesus. Jesus’ abundance immediately draws attention to their deficiency. But not the deficiency of their pocketbooks — the deficiency of their hearts.
And what they did next is truly amazing. As soon as they got to shore they left all of that new found wealth behind (as well as everything else that they had) to follow Jesus. The wealth truly didn’t matter a single bit when contrasted with Jesus (the source of all our life). Worldly wealth pales in comparison with the wealth of a heart filled with His kingdom.