Over the last few weeks, we’ve been discussing ways that many Christians get entangled with thinking in the same way as spiritists and witches do. In “Righteousness, Blessing, Salvation,” we saw that blessing is inseparable from salvation and justification. We must continue in our salvation in the same way that we started—through faith in Christ. Then last week, in “The Law And Witchcraft,” we saw parallels between witchcraft and relying on the Jewish law. This week, I’d like to point out how Christians sometimes measure their blessing by the same standards as those who rely on incantations and Macumba priests. (Or Voodoo, Santeria, etc.)
“I Want My Blessing!”
Recently, my wife was talking with me about someone we both know. This is a person who I prayed for before, and God healed her. She often goes to Christian meetings, but also attends a Macumba ritual once in a while. My wife said “She goes to whatever place she can get the most. If she could be healed (of a minor problem) at church, but get a husband at the Macumba ritual, she would go to the Macumba priest.” This saddened me. She has experienced God’s blessing, but her focus is still self-centered.
Don’t get me wrong. God wants to bless you, heal you, and meet your needs. I believe divine healing is always God’s will, and I believe in supernatural provision.
But I’ve often seen a brand of Christianity that seems to be totally self-centered. “I’m gonna go to church to get my breakthrough!” Teaching focuses almost exclusively on getting your blessing, getting your healing, and getting your breakthrough. What’s wrong with this?
Christianity is different than Macumba and Spiritism in that the primary focus isn’t “getting my blessing.” The primary focus is transformation.
2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (NRSV) For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.
You should want your blessing. Jesus gave his life to free you from the curse and to bless you. But the primary focus of Christianity is becoming a heavenly person, like Jesus is. It’s about living a life that’s compelled by the love of Christ, and no longer living for ourselves. It’s about showing the world what Jesus looks like. The standard by which we must measure our blessing is what Jesus has done for us and the transformation he has accomplished in us. We are new creations in Christ, with the Spirit of God dwelling in our mortal bodies, partakers in the divine nature! The Father has loved us with the same love as he has for Christ, and has given us the same glory he gave to Christ! How could it be possible to be more blessed than that? If you are righteous, you are blessed and are immeasurably rich, regardless of your circumstances or how much money you have in the bank.
There are two problems with measuring our blessing by the wrong standard. One is that we may lose our confidence in the indwelling Spirit of Christ and the work he’s done in us when we face trials. The other is that we can end up thinking we are rich, when we are really poor.
Revelation 3:17 (NRSV) For you say, ‘I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.’ You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
“I’m Living In God’s Blessing!”
This is the story of someone we know personally, who was influential in leading a close friend to the Lord. What fruit has this self-centered version of Christianity produced in her life?
She began going to a church which focused a lot on prophecy. This was the kind of church that emphasizes “You tithe and give generous seed-offerings to us, and God will open the heavens and release your blessing.” She believed God would bless her because she gave money to this church. One night, someone gave her an amazing prophetic word about her “breakthrough.” It included details about a man “God is bringing into your life” and the blessing that would result from this relationship.
She followed the word, and got involved in a relationship with her boss—who is a married man. He’s still married. She has been in a long-term sexual relationship with her boss for many years now.
And she got “blessed”! She got her “breakthrough”! Of course, her boss promoted her and increased her salary. She has a nice car and lots of money now. And she boasts of how God has blessed her because she tithes and goes to a wonderful church that gives prophecies. She thinks she’s right with God, and she thinks everybody needs what she has. But she’s really poor, blind, and naked!
Do you think this is an extreme example of the deception that comes from measuring our blessing by the wrong standards? It’s common. Brazil and Nigeria have some of the biggest churches and Christian populations in the world, yet they are some of the most corrupt countries in the world. People who routinely lie, cheat, and steal boast of God’s blessing. They tithe on huge sums of money which they obtained dishonestly, and then boast that they have God’s blessing and prosper financially because of their tithes. They think they are spiritually superior to others because of their wealth. My wife worked for a company whose owners were exactly like that. That’s the message we’ve gotten across by presenting a self-centered version of Christianity.
The pastor of the Baptist church I’m involved with in Brazil is a heavenly person. God’s light shines around him. He often has to confront these mindsets, because he knows how often people seek God’s blessing by tithing, but live lives of deception and selfishness. His preaching cuts right to the heart issues of being right with God and loving others. He never mentions a tithe or compels people to give, but encourages them to contribute as they are willing and as they are able. The church feeds people in the Favelas* and helps the weak. These believers are learning to give because they are blessed in Christ, which is contrary to most of the religious culture around them.
Is it just in Africa and Brazil? How many Christians in the US boast of their tithes and their prosperity, yet haven’t paid money that they owe to people who did work for them? I’ve experienced it in the US too.
I’ve heard those people tell me that they got God’s blessing by tithing. Well, my in-laws got rich by doing Macumba before they were Christians. “Macumbeiros”* boasting of their wealth obtained by doing rituals dedicated to spirits don’t sound any different than Christians boasting of wealth attained by tithing. It’s pride and self-righteousness. Christianity is all about giving, because Jesus gave his life for us. Giving should be motivated by love for others. If our whole focus in giving is “my blessing,” we are thinking in the same way as “Macumbeiros” and others who offer sacrifices to demons.
“Am I Under A Curse?”
On the other hand, sometimes Christians whom God has done a marvelous work in get confused and disturbed when someone teaches them to measure their blessing by the wrong standards. They lose their confidence and wonder “Am I under a curse?” Many Christians also judge the blessing on another believer’s life by their financial situation. If we believe the false teaching that the blessing or curse hinges on our tithes and giving, the natural response it to wonder if somebody is being disobedient if they are facing a need.
Don’t get me wrong. I believe there is a biblical form of “prosperity teaching.” I believe Christians should seek to prosper financially.
Brother Kenneth Hagin, the “father of the faith movement,” came from a background where people considered poverty to be a spiritual thing. They actually measured a preacher’s spirituality by how little he had! He rightly saw that scripture teaches God wants us to prosper. However, the pendulum soon swung the other way, so that many people began to measure spirituality and blessing by financial status. Measuring a person’s blessing by how much money he has, is the same error as measuring it by how little he has!
How do we so readily forget some of the greatest scriptural examples of God’s blessing and favor? Joseph had God’s favor resting on him since he was young. He spent many years as a slave. Mary had great favor. She bore the stigma of unwed pregnancy and had to flee to Egypt. And what about the apostle Paul? He suffered physical hunger, thirst, and nakedness at times. He worked with his hands and often paid his own way in ministry. Yet he was rich in Christ!
Philippians 4:11-13 (NRSV) Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Paul said that people treated him as poor, yet he made many rich. Many apostles throughout history up until today have also experienced trying circumstances and faced need. We see the fruit of their labors and acknowledge God’s blessing and favor on their lives. Yet some of us would have never acknowledged God’s favor if we had seen them in the process. Many Christians would have called Bruce Olson rebellious and cursed when he went to Venezuela to share the gospel with native tribes. He faced many trials, and didn’t have money or support. Yet now we see him as a hero, and nobody can deny God’s favor on his life!
You may have felt the judgement of other Christians if you have faced hardships. You also may have wondered if there was some hidden “curse” in your life. I encourage you to seek to prosper so that you can meet your needs and your family’s needs, and so that you have financial abundance to help others with. Learn to make money and to make good decisions with your money.
However, don’t get deceived into measuring your blessing by how much money you have. Focus on what the Holy Spirit has done in you and on what he is doing in you. Remember that the Holy Spirit dwells in you, so you are rich, and focus on giving those riches to the world around you. Don’t allow yourself to feel any sense of inferiority because of your financial status. Like Paul did, learn to always rejoice in the Lord whether you have plenty or are in need. If you can love with the love of Christ, you are greatly blessed!
We must know that God is for us regardless of circumstances or how much money we have. He has spoken that he is for us through his son, Jesus.
Next week, we’ll examine how having a self-centered focus vs. living a life of love applies to the truth of divine healing.
*Macumbeiros are people who practice Macumba, a form of witchcraft that’s popular in Brazil.
*Favelas are poor and dangerous neighborhoods which are controlled by drug lords and even the police fear to enter.