Thank you so much for the great emails, comments, questions, challenges, discussions, and ideas from last week's blog on Wealth Creation. It was really great to hear the thoughtful takes that many of you shared and it helped to shape my thinking as well as the group's thinking as we ponder this!
Some of the discussions that occurred in this last week made me want to dig a bit deeper into this subject in this blog as I think there may be some confusion about the difference between wealth creation and the prosperity gospel. My husband recently gave me a book (to which you should now be saying in your head, "Of course he did!" as you have heard that phrase many times!) called The Prosperity Gospel in Africa, by Marius Nel who has done extensive research on the subject. Some of my reflections will come from that book as well as some of the reflections that you have shared.
While there are different kinds of prosperity teaching strands, the most common is the miracle prosperity gospel which teaches that wealth is not achieved through hard work and a strict moral code, but "rather through God's desire to bless people with miraculous wealth, either through their own faith or by vanquishing the spiritual powers of evil that continually want to thwart God's miracles." Wealth is not created through a theology of work and being co-laborers with Christ, but rather by miracles and faith. This leaves out the purpose of our creation in Genesis 1:28 and 2:15.
The centrality of tithing and giving generously is also taught in prosperity gospel teaching, to win God's favor and blessing. We give in order to get. There are usually no ministries at these churches to help people increase their capacity to earn but rather only prayer meetings to drive out the enemy. The leaders of these teachings often consider themselves prophets, which makes them unchallengeable, and often leads members to attribute their blessings to the prophet rather than to the Lord.
Unfortunately, prosperity theology is very popular in Africa for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the immense poverty and unemployment. Pew Research reports that when Pentecostal Christians were asked about this question, "Will God grant material prosperity to all believers who have enough faith?" 85% of Kenyan Pentecostals, 90% of South African Pentecostals, and 95% of Nigerian Pentecostals said yes (Nel, pg. 3).
Let me say clearly that the teachings of the prosperity gospel is in direct conflict with the Bible, and is in direct conflict with what BAM Global presents in it's Wealth Creation Manifesto, with their ten affirmations:
- Wealth creation is rooted in God the Creator, who created a world that flourishes with abundance and diversity.
- We are created in God’s image, to co-create with him and for him, to create products and services for the common good.
- Wealth creation is a holy calling, and a God-given gift, which is commended in the Bible.
- Wealth creators should be affirmed by the Church, and equipped and deployed to serve in the marketplace among all peoples and nations.
- Wealth hoarding is wrong, and wealth sharing should be encouraged, but there is no wealth to be shared unless it has been created.
- There is a universal call to generosity, and contentment is a virtue, but material simplicity is a personal choice, and involuntary poverty should be alleviated.
- The purpose of wealth creation through business goes beyond giving generously, although that is to be commended; good business has intrinsic value as a means of material provision and can be an agent of positive transformation in society.
- Business has a special capacity to create financial wealth, but also has the potential to create different kinds of wealth for many stakeholders, including social, intellectual, physical and spiritual wealth.
- Wealth creation through business has proven power to lift people and nations out of poverty.
- Wealth creation must always be pursued with justice and a concern for the poor, and should be sensitive to each unique cultural context
What struck me in my discussions is also the difference between "east and west" or "majority world versus minority world." While the West or Minority World was protesting the term wealth creation out of reaction of seeing how wealth has caused much apathy, complacency, and self-reliance around them, the East or Majority World was saying how important it is in their context. This warrants some consideration. Those representing the Majority World said that too many Christians are looking only for a blessing from God, without work. They said that too many Christians are looking only to the West to save them, rather than work. So context is important, and of course, definitions are important.
In closing, let me share a chart that we use in our teaching to help people understand where Discipling Marketplace Leaders places emphasis. I've used this for so long that I don't remember where I got it (but I think it was from Ann Sherman in Kingdom Calling). It shows the difference between those who value poverty, those who value wealth, and those who value stewardship. For example, if I value poverty, I view possessions as evil; if I value wealth, I view possessions as my right; but if I value stewardship, I view possessions as a responsibility. And so on through the chart.
Of course, DML promotes stewardship. Our faith in our loving, creative Father beckons us to be a steward of our time, treasure and talent while on earth to the glory of God.
I hope this clarification is helpful and would love to continue to hear feedback from you on this!
By the way, some of the proposals I heard last week as alternatives to "wealth creation" were "resource creation," "fruit creation," and "asset creation." I love the body of Christ as we wrestle together to communicate and seek to emulate the goodness and creativity of God!