Culture At Large

Does God want you to be rich?

Andy Rau

Time is running a cover story asking "Does God want you to be rich?" It's a lengthy article, but well worth the read--it charts the rise of the "prosperity Gospel" and the criticism it's met from Christians on both the theological left and right.

All in all I feel that the piece does a good job of presenting the movement both as it sees itself and as its critics see it. One interesting insight from the article is that the popularity of the prosperity Gospel movement might be understood as a backlash against or pendulum swing away from the traditional church's extreme relunctance to discuss money:

...the Bible leaves plenty of room for a discussion on the role, positive or negative, that money should play in the lives of believers. But it's not a discussion that many pastors are willing to have. "Jesus' words about money don't make us very comfortable, and people don't want to hear about it," notes Collin Hansen, an editor at the evangelical monthly Christianity Today. Pastors are happy to discuss from the pulpit hot-button topics like sex and even politics. But the relative absence of sermons about money--which the Bible mentions several thousand times--is one of the more stunning omissions in American religion, especially among its white middle-class precincts. Princeton University sociologist Robert Wuthnow says much of the U.S. church "talks about giving but does not talk about the broader financial concerns people have, or the pressures at work. There has long been a taboo on talking candidly about money." [emphasis mine]

The default response of many Christians (myself included) to the prosperity Gospel is to reject it as a very risky blend of American affluence and Christian theology. But before we get too self-righteous about it, perhaps it's worth considering whether the traditional church, by steering clear of the topic of money, has created a void just waiting to be filled by people who are willing to talk about it.

What do you think? Does your church talk clearly and openly about money? Has the rise of prosperity Gospel theology prompted your church community to tackle the uncomfortable question of wealth and Christianity?

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, Theology