The Poverty of Prosperity
For those in the UK who may not be so familiar with White there is a helpful briefing available from The Gospel Coalition – but the main reasons for those bowed and shaking heads are White’s health ‘n wealth teaching, and that she is twice divorced and thrice married; plus the dispiritingly long line of evangelical figureheads eager to endorse her.
I once heard a preacher (an American) lamenting how unfair it was that he had kept his hand out of the till and his zipper up yet his church was not nearly so large as others down the road with pastors less squeaky clean. In the UK we are less blighted by celebrity ministries yet the ‘success’ of theologically wobbly church leaders can still jar. And I look across the Atlantic and wonder why godly and biblically faithful pastors seem to struggle while less admirable figures appear to thrive.
Firstly – and I hope obviously – this shouldn’t lead to a ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ mentality. Just because others are prospering despite (or even because of) their personal and theological failings we shouldn’t abandon personal holiness and biblical faithfulness. It is easy to look at Paula White gifting T.D. Jakes a Bentley for his birthday and wonder, ‘Where did I go wrong?’ but we have got to have confidence our reward is in Christ rather than the trinkets of this age.
We also need to have confidence that in the end the Lord will set all things to rights. I’m planning on preaching from the Magnificat this Sunday. We should be strengthened by Mary’s song that, ‘He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.’ It is easy to pounce on the obvious personal and theological issues of the likes of Paula White but the Lord alone is the one able to truly read the inmost thoughts and he will do what is right. I don’t know why those preaching a false gospel so often seem to get so far but I do know that God’s kingdom will break out over all the earth.
We should also be provoked to sorrow, repentance, and action. Sorrow, that the public image of evangelicalism is too often a compromised one, offering a false gospel. Repentance, for our own compromises with the cultural waters in which we swim. Action, because the world needs to hear the true gospel of Christ proclaimed and see it lived out in local churches which resist the spirit of the age and function as colonies of heaven.
There have always been many who peddle the word of God for profit (2 Cor. 2:17) but that doesn’t render the gospel untrue or untrustworthy. Rather, it calls us to truth and trust.