The Gospel vs. the American Dream

The Gospel vs. the American Dream

by Zach Whitmore

Bethel Church hosted Kenneth Copeland, one of the foremost prosperity gospel preachers, in their pulpit on January 8 of this new year. The American Dream has become ingrained into every part of American life and culture, and the church is no exception. Many preach a false gospel, a prosperity gospel, that is totally against what the Word of God teaches and contrary to the example of Jesus and his Apostles. These prosperity preachers and churches, like Kenneth Copeland and Bethel Church, target the weakest, the poorest, and the sickest. They tell them that it is God’s will that they find wealth and be healthy. If they aren’t, it’s because of a lack of faith!

What a damning message for the chronically ill, those in poverty, the permanently disabled, and the mentally ill! That is not the message of the Gospel. Paul writes in Philippians 4:10-13:

10I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.12I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound, in any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.13I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (ESV)

Epaphroditus has just brought a financial gift from the Philippian church, and he is thankful for it. But he is careful to watch over how he thanks them–he is grateful for their concern for him. Of finances, though, he is content in all situations. What a radically different attitude than that of today’s prosperity preachers! Paul’s example to believers is not one of lavish luxury, but of simple living with all of his energy and skill focused on one goal: preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.

That isn’t to say Paul didn’t need money–he certainly did! He’s writing this letter to the church from prison, where the Romans would not have afforded him much help to sustain himself. He needs money, food, and clothes! He trusts God to hear his prayers and to provide for him. In Philippians 4:4-7 he writes
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (ESV)

The point of this life is not to pursue riches or comfort, but to serve Jesus Christ. We will have suffering, but our suffering is not worth comparing to the glory of Christ Jesus that will be revealed to us (Romans 8:18). Indeed, Paul realizes that his Roman citizenship and his Jewish heritage are of no value, for “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself” (Philippians 3:20-21, ESV). We ought to ask our heavenly Father, asking with thanksgiving, knowing that, even if He does not give us what we desire, He will always provide us with what we need (Matthew 6:25-34). And even if it is His will to take us home, we are confident in this: we are citizens of Heaven and heirs of God with Christ Jesus (Romans 8:17), and nothing can take that away from us.
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