“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.” The Pharisees, who dearly loved their money, heard all this and scoffed at him. [Luke 16:13-14 (NLT)]
The Lord is my banker; my credit is good.
He maketh me to lie down in the consciousness of omnipresent abundance;
He giveth me the key to His strongbox.
He restoreth my faith in His riches;
He guideth me in the paths of prosperity for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk in the very shadow of debt,
I shall fear no evil, for Thou art with me;
Thy silver and Thy gold, they secure me.
Thou preparest a way for me in the presence of the collector;
Thou fillest my wallet with plenty; my measure runneth over.
Surely goodness and plenty will follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall do business in the name of the Lord forever.
When I came across this revised version of the 23rd Psalm, I was sure it was written by a cynic as a way of mocking God, Christianity, and many of today’s popular evangelists. Imagine my surprise when I learned that it was written in all seriousness by Charles Fillmore, the founder of Unity, a church within the New Thought movement. The “revised” psalm was published in Fillmore’s book Prosperity in 1938. Although we may associate the beginnings of prosperity or “health and wealth” theology with televangelists like Jimmy Swaggart and Jim and Tammy Bakker in the 1970s, the movement began in the late 19th century. Sadly, in one form or another, it still is preached today.
Fillmore promised that, “The spiritual substance from which comes all visible wealth is never depleted. It is right with you all the time and responds to your faith in it and your demands on it.” Seeing God as the ticket to perfect heath and financial wealth, rather than focusing on eternity, this version of the gospel reduces it to a way people can experience the “best” things of life today. With the belief God blesses his followers with material wealth and health, people’s faith is measured by the thickness of their wallets and the fitness of their bodies.
Like many of today’s “name it and claim it” preachers, Fillmore taught that, “It is necessary to give freely if we are to receive freely. The law of receiving includes giving. The knowledge that substance is omnipresent and that people cannot, therefore, impoverish themselves by giving (but rather will increase their supply) will enable us to give freely and cheerfully.” A promise that God will reward hefty tithing with financial blessings turns Him into a sort of heavenly slot machine promising a huge payout if we just keep putting in money! Sadly, Satan seems to have an endless supply of charismatic leaders who continue to sugar-coat the gospel, whose eloquent sermons make false promises, and whose extravagant life-styles undermine the gospel.
Let us not forget that Jesus was born poor. His parents couldn’t even afford the requisite sheep at Mary’s purification so they offered a bird in its place. Joseph was a carpenter by trade and Nazareth was an obscure little town that didn’t even merit mention in the Hebrew Scriptures. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, He rode on a borrowed donkey and, when He was buried, it was in another man’s tomb! When Jesus spoke of monetary wealth, it was usually in a cautionary tale. He didn’t tolerate the money changers of His day turning the Temple into a marketplace in the 1st century and I don’t think He’s any happier about it now!