I’ve been moved afresh by Jesus’ authentic and gentle way of engaging with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in Sychar according to John 4. The way Jesus handles his Jewish-male believer status before a woman of another faith in heart of her territory informs and inspires me. How does Jesus deal with outsiders’ perception of his Jewish male supremacy? How does he embody the fullness of grace and truth attributed to him as the Word become flesh?
Jesus first meets the woman when she arrives at the well to draw water. He is already there ahead of her, weary and thirsty from a long journey from Judea. He requests a drink from the woman, provoking her to question why he, a Jewish man, is asking this of her, a Samaritan woman.
Jesus doesn’t apologize for himself and skirts her question. He is secure in his identity and mission. In response to her resistance to him, Jesus shifts from unwelcomed guest to generous host. He offers her living water, a faith-filled move that shows his confidence in what he has to give. After a prolonged conversation where she expresses her reservations and he responds, she finally asks him to give her living water.
When Jesus tells her, “Go call your husband and come here!” the woman denies having a husband. Jesus exercises his power at this point, showing her that he knows what is true about what she’s said, and then brings into the light what she’s left unsaid.
“You have correctly said, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly” (4:17-18).
As the new coronavirus spreads across the world there is a big risk of it becoming a full-blown pandemic, killing tens of thousands if not millions of people. The complaint of the World Health Organization is that many countries are ill-prepared for handling this.
It’s not hard to see why.
Two things are crucial for stopping an infectious disease before it transforms into a pandemic: international cooperation and universal health care of good quality. When these are missing, the likelihood of certain areas around the world becoming infection hubs increases, which in turn spreads the disease uncontrollably.
I was recently published in the Christian Post where I argued that Christians should live simply, generously and sustainably to address global hunger. Three million children die annually, while the rest of the world has much more food than we need (and throw away large portions of it).
I didn’t expect much opposition to what I wrote, but it turns out that in some evangelical circles, feeding the hungry is a sensitive topic.
Jeff Maples at Reformation Charlotte wrote a passionate response in which he, among other things, calls me a heretic and say that I preach a demonic message that might lead to me losing my salvation. Let’s see if he has any Biblical support for these accusations:
Evangelicals are lining up at the door trying to make the case that Jesus is all about a socialistic government that makes everyone equal. One of the stupidest articles I’ve seen in a long time is an article recently published at the Christian Post by Micael Grenholm titled How would Jesus respond to global hunger? In the article, while he doesn’t use the word “socialism,” Grenholm argues that Jesus taught a form of socialism based on the story of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16:19-31￼.
The 22 richest men in the world have more wealth than all the women in Africa.
Women and girls put in 12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work each and every day —a contribution to the global economy of at least $10.8 trillion a year, more than three times the size of the global tech industry.
Getting the richest one percent to pay just 0.5 percent extra tax on their wealth over the next 10 years would equal the investment needed to create 117 million jobs in sectors such as elderly and childcare, education and health.
Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar commented on the report by saying:
“Women and girls are among those who benefit least from today’s economic system. They spend billions of hours cooking, cleaning and caring for children and the elderly. Unpaid care work is the ‘hidden engine’ that keeps the wheels of our economies, businesses and societies moving. It is driven by women who often have little time to get an education, earn a decent living or have a say in how our societies are run, and who are therefore trapped at the bottom of the economy.
“Our broken economies are lining the pockets of billionaires and big business at the expense of ordinary men and women. No wonder people are starting to question whether billionaires should even exist”.
The prosperity gospel, or “health and wealth” preaching, originated about 70 years ago in the United States. At various tent meetings connected to Voice of Healing and similar ministries, preachers like Oral Roberts and A. A. Allen started to teach things like financial sowing and reaping, the prosperous power of faith and that God wants us to be rich.
Their theology was influenced by Baptist theologian E. W. Kenyon, who in turn was highly influenced with ideas from New Thought. This American movement is quite similar to New Age and emphasizes, among other things, the power of the mind to influence physical reality by, for example, naming and claiming health and wealth before it actually has materialized.
Of course, a believer in the prosperity gospel will probably reject the brief historical review above and claim that they believe in these things because it is what the Bible teaches. And so, we must deal with the Biblical material. In this article, I will go through two passages that challenge prosperity teaching, and two that’s being used in its defense. Continue reading The Problem With Prosperity→
Benny Hinn is for many synonymous with the prosperity gospel of “health and wealth”. The Israeli televangelist has for decades been preaching that you get rich if you donate a lot to him, that Jesus was rich and that luxury and affluence signifies a “blessed” life.
Needless to say, many were surprised when he said this:
I think it’s an offense to the Lord, it’s an offense to say give $1,000. I think it’s an offense to the Holy Spirit to place a price on the Gospel. I’m done with it. I will never again ask you to give $1,000 or whatever amount, because I think the Holy Ghost is just fed up with it.
I don’t want to get to Heaven and be rebuked. I think it’s time we say it like it is: the Gospel is not for sale. And the blessings of God are not for sale, and miracles are not for sale. And prosperity is not for sale.
A lot of headlines has described this as Benny Hinn denouncing the prosperity gospel. He did point out, however, that he still believes in prosperity, since “the Bible clearly teaches it.” But his understanding of what prosperity means has changed:
When I was younger, I was influenced by the preachers who taught whatever they taught. But as I’ve lived longer I’m thinking, wait a minute, you know this doesn’t fit totally with the Bible and it doesn’t fit with the reality. So what is prosperity? No lack…
Did Elijah the prophet have a car? No. Did not even have a bicycle. He had no lack. … Did Jesus drive a car or live in a mansion? No. He had no lack. How about the Apostles? None lacked among them,” Hinn said. “Today, the idea is abundance and palatial homes and cars and bank accounts. The focus is wrong … It’s so wrong.
At Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice, we’re happy that Hinn has changed his mind on this. The Bible warns against those receiving money in order to impart God’s gifts and blessings to others (Acts 8:20). Paul goes against the idea that one can gain financially through faith in his first letter to Timothy:
These men regard godliness as a means of gain. Of course, godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, so we cannot carry anything out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. Those who want to be rich, however, fall into temptation and become ensnared by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. (1 Tim 6:5-9)
So was Benny influenced by his nephew? Maybe, but Costi’s departure from charismaticism makes me doubtful that his words would have much authority for Benny. I think that Benny genuinely describes the cause for his change of opinion when he says
I’m sorry to say that prosperity has gone a little crazy and I’m correcting my own theology and you need to all know it. Because when I read the Bible now, I don’t see the Bible in the same eyes I saw 20 years ago… The more you know the Bible the more you become biblically based and more balanced in your opinions and your thoughts, because we are influence.
I do think that Bible study helped Benny realize his errors. And I take this as great encouragement to continue to point to the Scriptures when discussing with fellow brothers and sisters why we should care about peace and justice. People are not beyond redemption and correction. Even those with deep convictions can change over time. We should not give up pointing to what the Bible really teaches about poverty and wealth.
Micael Grenholm is editor and contributor for PCPJ.
Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!
Poverty is one of the most pressing issues in the world today. Despite our best efforts we still have a very long way to go. Children continue to die of hunger, people still make the choice between food and education, some will never have the opportunity to fulfill their potential, simply because there’s not enough.
In an era when it has been reported by the bank, Credit Suisse in November 2017, that the world’s richest 1% own half the world’s wealth, the other side of the coin is that the 3.5 billion poorest adults each have assets of less than $10,000. These people, who account for 70% of the world’s working age population, own just 2.7% of the global wealth.
None of us can fail to notice that there are crises at the gates of every culture and nation. War and famine produce refugees in numbers that are untenable. Our broken economies are driven by the greed of those for whom the almighty dollar has far greater value than the life of one small child, one refugee, one trafficked woman, one homeless person.
Not the least of our problems is the lack of good leadership. When the prophet Daniel was interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream about his future insanity, he pleaded with him to change his ways (Daniel 4:27) in order to avoid the catastrophic effect of his pride. His key point was that he ‘break from his wicked past and be merciful to the poor’. Integral to really good leadership is mercy for the poor. Continue reading Living Generously→
Are you tired of being able to travel almost anywhere in the entire world? You don’t want open doors and red carpets wherever you travel? Are you tired of Mexican beaches or job opportunities in Johannesburg? Do you want to sink Caribbean cruise ships and blow up airports? Is it closed borders for your own people you want?
Let us end our little blog series on why wealth is wrong. We have already looked at the mathematical argument, where we saw that it is impossible to keep wealth while giving the same wealth to the poor. Then we discussed the economic argument, which says that it is better to invest in goods and services beneficial for the poor rather than superfluities like luxury and entertainment. And last time, I brought up the Bill Gates argument, which states that it is the quantity of what we keep, rather than what we give away, that measures our generosity.
In each post we have started with an argument for why wealth is right, and we shall do the same in this post. The most common moral argument I hear when people defend wealth is: “Rich people have worked hard for their wealth, and deserve therefore to have it and do what they please with it.” It is often combined with “We only have a moral obligation for ourselves and our families, not for the entire world.”
When (rich) Christians defend mammonism, the idea that Christians may or should be rich, they often include arguments that aren’t necessarily based on Bible study – such as the arguments I discuss in my God vs Wealth series – but rather in philosophy or economics. These are the sorts of arguments I tackle in my Why Wealth is Wrong series. You can also read my discussions on the economic argument and the mathematical argument.
The Bill Gates argument for why it’s OK to be rich is a variant of the mathematical argument that involves billionaires. Look at Bill Gates, the mammonist says, he’s so generous! He has his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that does so much good for the world’s poor. This is because Gates is the richest man in the world, with his net worth of 75 billion US dollars. His abundant wealth allows him to be abundantly generous, and thus he as a rich man should not be condemned but celebrated both for his skills in computer invention and business, and his philanthropy.
The problem with the argument is that it tries to eat the cake and give it away at the same time: wealth is good, because you can give it away. This is the same error as the mathematical argument makes. Saying that wealth is good because billionaires can give lots of money to the poor, is like saying that it’s good to be fat because then you can lose a lot of weight. It’s trying to rationalize a phenomena by arguing that you can get away from it. Continue reading Why Bill Gates Doesn’t Prove that Wealth is OK→