For a time around the turn of the millennium, it seemed that all Bibles were going to have to be reprinted to include a fifth gospel – The Prayer of Jabez. It was a wildly popular book when it was published in 2000, and it became wildly controversial. An obscure Old Testament passage had become the basis for a new theology. At one point, I was hearing the book preached from the pulpit, studied in a small Bible study group, and serialized in a Sunday School class.
The message of the book: pray to God and ask him to “enlarge your territory,” that is, bless you spiritually and materially. And he’ll do it. If that sounds like a modernized version of the prosperity gospel, that’s because, in my opinion, that’s exactly what it is.
I was reminded of The Prayer of Jabez and its teaching as I read Hashtag Faith: A Powerful Gospel in the Hands of a Distracted Generation by Chris Buscher, co-founder and CEO of Lay Me Down Ministry. One of the things Buscher does in this relatively short book on faith is take the prosperity gospel head on and strip it down to the false teaching it is. Faith is not about gaining material wealth, enlarging your territory, or experiencing worldly success, he says, and he’s exactly right. Jesus and the apostles did not teach “how to become rich and be as powerful as the Romans.”
Buscher provides a primer on what faith is, and what it isn’t. He explores what the foundation of faith is and where the word “faith” comes from. Faith is not the prosperity gospel; neither is it the social gospel, “which secularizes the faith and attempts to secure harmony and recognition with other religion and people groups.” Both the prosperity gospel and the social gospel are creations of humanity, not creations of God. What we do in this world for this world is aimed at spreading God’s kingdom.
He particularly takes aim at the prosperity gospel. It is motivated by greed, he says, and it shares one essential element in common with all false teachings – that our thoughts control reality. “Whether it is the power of positive thinking or the ‘prosperity gospel,’; he writes, ‘the premise is the same: what you think or believe will happen is ultimately what controls what will happen.” It other words, it’s all about us, and all about me.
Buscher, a pastor, is also the author of My Confession: Finding Myself at the Feet of Jesus and Take Up Your Cross and Follow Me: A Christian Devotional Inspired by Those Who Gave Their Life for Jesus.
True Biblical prosperity has nothing to do with material wealth or riches. It is seeking God first, understanding the purpose for which you were created, dying to self, and making heaven your goal. That’s the core message of Hashtag Faith, and it is a welcome one.
Photograph by Ben White via Unsplash. Used with permission.