In her book Will Jesus Buy Me a Double-Wide? (Cause I Need More Room for My Plasma TV), Karen Spears Zacharias unpacks the myth of the prosperity gospel with humor and sobering stories of how this “Santa Claus” vision of God who rewards the “good” little boys and girls has corrupted our theology.
In my book From the Sanctuary to the Streets, I share from my own perspective how this kind of teaching is being used to exploit the poor in our city. However, Zacharias reveals how this same thinking has contaminated even mainline theology with less obvious strands of the same false teaching showing up in all our theologies. Zacharias states “If a person’s worldview presupposes this so-called “truth” – that whatever good fortune comes our way is a result of our own calling it forth – then the corollary has to be true as well, doesn’t it? That any bad thing that comes our way is our own dang fault. It’s a perfect theology for people with means. We convince ourselves that we deserve prosperity because we’ve worked hard for it. We deserve it because of our faithfulness to God. We teach our children that we have earned God’s good favor and that’s why we’re so rich, so healthy, so pretty, so smart, and so free to do as we doggone please.”
I love this Merton quote shared by Zacharias, “It is easy enough to tell the poor to accept their poverty as God’s will when you yourself have warm clothes and plenty of food and medical care and a roof over your head and no worry about the rent. But if you want them to believe you – try to share some of their poverty and see if you can accept it as God’s will for yourself!”