Amos 6: 1-7
1 Timothy 6: 6-16
St. Luke 16: 19-31
Grace and Peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.
Multiple times throughout Israel’s history the stiff necked people would waver back and forth between truly worshipping God and using God to support their own demonic beliefs. They had amazing good kings who were devout and faithful rulers such as King David, but they also had incredibly evil rulers, the most evil, I would say, would be the witch called Jezebel. This is the history of Israel, for its name sake is “Wrestle with God,” and this is exactly what they have done throughout all of history.
In our first lesson, Israel is once again having a fit with God. For you see Amos, a simple shepherd though not a prophet, has been given the task of providing a divine message to Israel. You see, Israel was at that time flourishing with a vibrant economy. The country was rich beyond belief, and its government was incredibly stable. They as well as the southern kingdom, Judah, were blessed, though not by God. For you see, Israel had turned away from God and was persecuting Jews and had raised for themselves their own golden calf. Yet despite their persecution and downright evil practices, they convinced themselves into believing that their good fortune and wealth was a sign that God was blessing them and encouraging their bad conduct.
As Israel prospered in their decadence they drowned themselves in gluttonous drunkenness, filling their bellies with new wine and fattened lambs, laughing the whole time as they
knowingly allowed, even encouraged, the tribes that descended from the line of Joseph to burn. The very people who enjoyed the prosperity of their gluttonous behaviors did so because they were obtaining their wealth by oppressing the Jewish tribes that dared stand up to the atrocities of the ungodly. The people of God who stood up for the Lord were soundly oppressed as they were not accepting of the extravagant golden calf, and through their oppression the ones who lauded the calf grew rich and powerful.
Thus, it is safe to say, God was not blessing these evil elitists who stuffed their faces with the misery of faithful citizens. No, God cursed them. Why in the world would God bless anyone
who breached the divine covenant contracted between Him and His people? There is no contract, for if one party breaks the agreement then there is no agreement that the other party must follow. Israel breached its agreement with God and had to suffer the consequences.
Yet, the filth that ruled over Israel had the brazened idea that they, they who persecuted the people of God, were favored by God. What twisted mental gymnastics do you have to go through to believe that God is going to bless you when you cause destruction and persecution on those who have sound faith in Him alone? Again, the reason why Israel was stable and flourishing was because they scapegoated and were putting to ruin the tribes of Joseph. There was no grievance, pain, guilt, or shame in their hearts; only anger and malicious glee as they tortured God’s truly faithful.
In their minds, the wealth they possess was all the proof they needed to believe that they were blessed by God; such an evil and atrocious belief that comes out of the camps of demons! Yes, it is true that God blesses and through His blessing some become
prosperous. However, this does not mean that being prosperous is guaranteed proof that God is blessing you, for what if you personally obtained your wealth through ill-gain and then use it to continue practicing evil? God does bless some with wealth, but not all wealth comes from God.
Now, I don’t know if the Israelites whom Amos was addressing actually believed their nonsense, but, looking at the Americans today who actually and truly believe the blasphemous teaching that God supports the LBGT agenda and murdering unborn children, I can understand how some malicious Israelites have convinced themselves otherwise. Regardless, it is obvious that the Judaic community did not learn its lesson. You would think that after God punished all of Israel and Judah that this nasty belief that prosperity was proof of God’s blessing would have been washed from the psyche of the generations that followed. Wrong. Instead it persisted and grew in power as the belief started to infect the Judaic camps of the chief elders and nobler society.
Love of money persisted, and even twisted the theology of the times, to the point that scripture was flipped on its head as many started to once again belief that the richer you were the more likely you would enter into heaven. This was a nasty belief that Jesus had to counter, and as such a belief would naturally lead people away from His saving grace. For if people actually believed that their wealth was a measure of how saved they were then such behavior would lead people towards working their way into heaven as they amass for themselves gluttonously more and more. Eventually people would either walk away in misery due to their perceived or actual poverty or they would persecute and steal from each other all in the game of monopolizing wealth.
Neither is safe. It all boils down to this - you cannot save yourself into heaven, only Jesus Christ can save you.
This was the lesson Jesus was trying to tell everyone, but to many, in order to reach this goal, Jesus had to first dismantle the nauseous beliefs surrounding prosperity. Our parable is one of many lessons Jesus gave to tear down the mansion of self gratifying salvation. Imagine a table filled with luscious food, a fat, rich man gluttonously filling his belly with food, and a paper-thin poor man under the table picking up crumbs to eat. If one was to go to heaven and one to hell who would go up and who would go down? This was a challenging picture for prosperity because whereas the rich man should obviously go to Heaven on account of his riches, again their belief; this picture did not sit well with them, and it shouldn’t. The answer did not come easily to them, so Jesus spelled it out and explained why Lazarus was in Heaven and why the rich man was burning in Hell.
Again, multiple times Jesus provided parable after parable and lesson after lesson imploring that the cultural attitude regarding salvation through wealth was all wrong and that no amount of selfish self-gratification will ever win you the keys to Heaven, but that faith alone in Jesus Christ and His merciful sacrifice through the cross is the only way into heaven.
Now, today it may seem crazy to believe that people could save themselves by amassing wealth or to believe that the amount of wealth they possess directly correlates with the strength of their faith, but there are a multitude of false prophets out there in America alone who have created mega churches that preach this very blasphemous teaching. Oh how I feel sorry for the little sheep of God’s flock who attends these churches and do
not know that their wolf-in-sheep-clothing conmen of a pastor are leading them down a dangerous road known as prosperity gospel. Among Lutheran pastors alike, even ELCA pastors, we are united against these charismatic preachers, calling them out as blasphemous false preachers, while instructing in our seminaries that these are the type of pastors we do not want. Famous examples of Prosperity Gospel pastors who actually teach works alone through wealth and disparage the minds of worshippers by telling the masses that if someone suffers of lack then that is proof that his or her faith is not strong enough includes Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, etc. I don’t even dare call them pastors, but they are definitely demons wearing human skin. On top of preaching that prosperity is proof of one’s salvation, they all also preach indulgence, though an even more wicked version of indulgence commonly acknowledged of the Renaissance Era. Their form of indulgence is that if someone is financially struggling, which is proof of one’s faith, then if he or she gives indulgence personally to the preacher then his or her faith will be strengthened and through such wealth will increase. This is why these demonic preachers are also conmen. Now, whereas I am not a fan of using Wikipedia, I do have to say that its title description of Prosperity Gospel Theology is accurate. They state that Prosperity Theology is the belief that “financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for them, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one's material wealth. Material and especially financial success is seen as a sign of divine favor.” What difference is there between the belief of the Israeli who persecuted the Jews during the times of Amos, the beliefs of the
common prosperity Jew during the times of Jesus, and these prosperity gospel preachers? I see none.
The problem they all face is that they are gluttonous and suffer from love of money, and due to their sinful tendencies they have fallen into the temptation of altering scripture to fit their own voracious agenda. Do they not understand that salvation is only found through Jesus Christ and on account of nothing we do but wholly on account of everything Jesus has already done, so long as have faith which is provided for us only through the Holy Spirit, that we are most definitely saved? The poor who believe are just as equally saved as the rich who believe. The amount of wealth and how well accomplished is meaningless with regards to one’s salvation. To think such is complete vanity. In fact, the one who hates wealth and is thus not personally tied down by it but instead selflessly looks out for the needs of others is more likely to be saved than he who loves wealth.
In the end, beware the ravenous gullet of gluttony and all its malicious temptations. Instead, worship the fact that Jesus Christ died on the cross for all people, asking for faith alone. And know this, compared to the absolute richest person who has walked the earth, not even they can pale in comparison to the endless joy and happiness and true wealth of those in Heaven possess.
Let us pray,
Dear Heavenly Father, give us hearts that focuses not on our own financial state, whether fortunate or otherwise, but looks upon you above alone. In your heavenly name we pray: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.