I admit it. I believe in a health and wealth gospel. But not the kind you see on TV.
We are all familiar with preachers and televangelists who manipulate their followers into “planting a seed of faith” in order to reap a harvest of wealth in this life. Of course the “seed of faith” is always in the form of a financial contribution to the “ministry,” to use the term loosely. These scam artists prey on the poor and vulnerable in order to line their own pockets. They are wicked and disgusting.
Luke 6:38 is a popular verse the scam artists distort:
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
In context, Jesus has been speaking of lending money without expecting a return, giving to those in need, being merciful, and forgiving enemies. These are all ways we sow seeds in the Kingdom.
To be clear, the principle of sowing and reaping is a biblical principal. But it’s not what you hear on TV. The real principle of sowing in reaping is simple: what you sow in this life determines what you reap now and for eternity. Notice a few things:
- This is not talking about reaping salvation. Salvation is not earned or deserved. The only thing you sow for your salvation is the sin that makes it necessary. The “reaping” we are talking about refers to the return a believer receives on his or her investment in the Kingdom.
- There are real rewards for Kingdom work. Nobody will be sad for what they don’t receive in heaven. However, some will have more to be happy about because of the rewards they do receive. This was important enough that Jesus told us to lay up treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21).
- Reaping is not just about heaven. We also reap Kingdom benefits on earth. Jesus said that whoever makes a sacrifice for the Kingdom will be repaid 100 times in this life as well as in the life to come (Matthew 18:30).
- God’s rewards are greater than our desires. The problem is that our desires are warped with sin. We treasure the wrong treasures. Thankfully, God doesn’t let us choose the rewards we reap. That’s a good thing because 1) we would be tempted to choose potential objects of idolatry and 2) our desires are too weak. We fall for treasures that fade and don’t satisfy. God’s gifts are better and lasting.
- God never gives a gift for the purpose of idolatry. His gifts are given to make much of Him, not you. He gives to build His kingdom, not yours.
- The principle of reaping is not using selfishness to persuade. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus commands us to seek the Kingdom first! His point is that our sowing and our reaping should both be centered on His glory.
The problem is when we give in order to reap for our Kingdom rather than His Kingdom.
You may interpret this as saying, “Deal with the misery in this life in order to enjoy the next life.” In fact, just the opposite is true. But that would be a version of merit-based salvation, right? But God’s grace is obligated to no one. It is completely free. And that is the key to understanding our health and wealth in this life.
One of the greatest marks of a believer is the love, joy, and peace we demonstrate in the midst of this life’s circumstances. Whether we have a lot or a little in the world’s eyes, we enjoy the riches of Christ’s grace. And we rejoice in our afflictions because we have been healed by the Great Physician. We are free from the worry of want because we are citizens of the kingdom and our King owns everything. He has promised to care for our needs. And no matter the situation, we can be confident, by faith, that we are better off with Christ than if we had anything this world offers.
It’s a shame that we use the terms “health and wealth” to describe a gospel of greed and idolatry. Biblically speaking, the words “health” and “wealth” are great adjectives for eternal life.
Christians should define “Health” and “Wealth” biblically. Health, for the believer, is having been dead in our transgressions, Christ, the Physician, made us alive in Him with eternal life! Wealth for the believer is defined as being co-heirs with Jesus and beneficiaries of the riches of Christ’s extravagant grace.
It’s all a matter of perspective. The world’s perspective focuses on a fading Kingdom with fading health and fading wealth. When it’s gone, it’s gone.
A Kingdom perspective focuses on an eternal Kingdom with eternal life and eternal riches of God’s grace. Faith is not an opiate for the masses; faith is victory for the believer!
So ask yourself, if I were a farmer planting physical seed, how much would I sow? The answer is simple: as much as possible. Does that describe the way in which you invest in the Kingdom?
One last word for the televangelist crowd: It’s not too late. Repent of your greed and lay up real treasure in God’s Kingdom for true “Health and Wealth”:
Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life (I Timothy 6:17-19).