I wish Jesus were simplistic, but he is painstakingly balanced
and complex. Simplistic minds and
simplistic teachers have created one of the most distorted and deforming myths
about Jesus the world has ever told.
Particularly driven by American-style consumerism and materialism, some
Christians have imagined and proclaimed a Savior who not only wants to take us
to heaven, but who would make our life easy if we follow him.
This kind of easy believism has been preached by
televangelists eager to get donations to support all kinds of luxury. From private jets to ocean-side mansions, not
a few prominent preachers appear guilty of neglecting the command made to spiritual leaders in 1 Peter 5:2, "Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly".
Make no mistake about it, Jesus talked a lot about
blessedness, happiness, and life. But
Jesus’ path to being blessed had to do with a person’s journey into the
wilderness of sacrifice and suffering than with material blessings.
See what Jesus says about what it means to be "blessed" in his famous beatitudes that begin what we know as "The Sermon on the Mount" in Matthew 5:3-12:
3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Consider who Jesus warns most gravely following these famous
beatitudes above, conversely, in Luke 6, these beatitudes are followed by the dire warnings. Here they are:
24 “But woe to you who are rich,
For you have received your consolation.
25 Woe to you who are full,
For you shall hunger.
Woe to you who laugh now,
For you shall mourn and weep.
26 Woe to you when all men speak well of you,
For so did their fathers to the false prophets.
Or consider these famous words of
Jesus: “It is more difficult for a camel
to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom” (Matthew 19:25).
Beyond the fact that these famous teachings of Jesus reveal
blessing belonging to those who are poor, hungry, thirsty, persecuted, in
mourning, and meek, etc., Jesus seems to indicate in numerous passages that
material wealth and a lifestyle of luxury can be obstacles to a deep union with
him and commitment to his kingdom.
Instead of promising prosperity, Jesus calls on his followers to make
the deepest sacrifices for him, as Luke
9:23 records, “If anyone would be my
disciple, he must deny himself daily, pick up his cross, and follow me.”
To be sure, the Christian life is one of abundant blessing;
Jesus is not planning poverty as the purpose of a follower's life. But to understand Jesus’ vision of blessing in merely material
terms is to completely misunderstand and misshape his teaching and intentions. I challenge you, especially if you have been
charmed by this prosperity myth about Jesus, to get clearer on what Jesus means
when he says, “I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly.”
Share this post today to help people in your life who are resisting Jesus by repeating this old myth about him. You can learn more about the 21 Myths in 21 Days blog series by clicking here!