The message of Job vs the “prosperity” gospel

large__6790625269 (1)Christians sometimes experience the depths of despair In Job chapters 1-2 Job has lost his livelihood, his business, his employees, his children and has been inflicted with a loathsome, painful, debilitating skin-disease. Yet 3 times in these chapters it says he is blameless. In other words, he is above reproach, a man of integrity and not living in sin. He is also a believer. Blameless believers, who have not fallen into sin, may go through utter dereliction.

In ch 2:8 it says Job, “took a piece of broken pottery with which to scrape himself while he sat in the ashes.” Sitting in the ashes meant sitting on the rubbish dump outside the city where the refuse was burnt. A picture of overwhelming despair.

In ch 2v11-13 Job’s “friends” come visit and are shocked at how disfigured, dishevelled and down Job is. They weep aloud, tear their clothes and put ash on their heads. These are signs of deep anguish and mourning, particularly of the mourning of a dead person. They consider Job as good as dead!

In ch 3:1 Job himself wishes he was dead. It says, “After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth.” Not only does he curse day of birth, but also the day of his conception, “Let the day perish on which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man is conceived.’” (v3) Job is depressed, desolate and despairing.

It gets worse, in 3:17-19 Job talks about sheol – the place of the dead in Old Testament thinking:

“There the wicked cease from troubling,

and there the weary are at rest.

There the prisoners are at ease together;

they hear not the voice of the taskmaster.

The small and the great are there,

and the slave is free from his master.”

Job says that at least in sheol the prisoners are free from the harsh voice of the slave-driver. Have you felt like that? You’ve considered death to be better than to be alive?

Now compare the message of Job to the superficial message of the “prosperity gospel” proponents, the “health and wealth” preachers. Job tells us that the authentic, real, long-haul Christian life is not a triumphant, victorious, happy, illness-free life that “claims the promises of God” every day. No, the authentic Christian life is a life characterised by steady obedience to God and persevering trust in God during good times and during sad times.

The prosperity gospel teaching causes massive psychological damage. You see one can only attend a health and wealth church for so long. You will almost inevitably come a point where you are just too emotionally drained to keep pretending that life is just hunky-dory. You generally do not have the psychological strength to keep imagining that you have overcome all sickness, sadness and sin. Normally this is when you hit the wall, become disillusioned with Christianity, leave the church, “loose your faith” and become an atheist at worst and an agnostic at best.

However, that was not Christianity that you were disillusioned with – it was a false gospel. It was a different gospel that Satan would have you believe. Remember what Satan told Adam and Eve? You can have your best life now! (Interesting that this is also the title of a Joel Osteen book.) Eat the fruit and you will be like God! Satan fed them a false gospel. Our best life is not now. Suffering comes to all. Even Christians. Especially Christians. (cf. Colossians 1:24 etc)

So Job is inconsolable, almost suicidal and in the depths of depression. Christians get sick, get disabled, get depressed and are involved in car accidents. Christians sometimes experience the very depths of despair. The “health and wealth prosperity” guys need to put the book of Job in their pipes and smoke it.

 

photo credit: Anant N S (www.thelensor.tumblr.com) via photopin cc