Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 15; 147:1-11, Judges 18:16-31, Acts 8:14-25, John 6:1-15
The “prosperity gospel” teaches that if we give our resources (usually money) to God, God will reward us several times over in kind. Some preachers sell this idea through a basic list of proof texts, usually neglecting the proper context. Worse, they reduce faith to a transaction or formula ($1 x God = $10), and when people who faithfully put up money don’t realize a material return, their faith is called into question. Think about it: with all the spiritual difficulties Jesus assures us attend wealth, wouldn’t bestowing wealth almost be a punishment? Fortunately, Acts and John teach us some real truths about the nature of giving and resources in God’s kingdom.
When Simon, a magician-turned-convert, saw the apostles’ power to impart the spirit by laying on hands, he offered them money for the same power. Peter’s reaction is unequivocal: “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain God’s gift with money!” Maybe Simon mistook the disciples’ practice of pooling resources for a membership fee, but his understanding of the relationship between faith and giving was seriously flawed. No one can buy grace or power. We do not give because we expect a return of wealth or status; we give because a relationship with God prompts generosity.
The miracle of the loaves and fishes is told in all four gospels. Beyond a sign of Christ’s power, this event teaches us no resource is too small in God’s kingdom. Like Andrew – who asked “But what are they among so many people?” – our expectations of God can be surprisingly low. Faith is not about outcomes, but trust. We should first have faith that when we act in God’s name, our resources will be abundant. This differs from the prosperity gospel because we believe God will use resources given in good faith to increase the kingdom, not our personal bank accounts.
“Believe and receive” is a misleading simplification of our faith in a God who provides for our needs. We are not called to a faith that bribes God to action, but to actions confident in a faith God has already provided.
Comfort: Our generosity is a grateful response to God’s generosity.
Challenge: Meditate on whether your giving fully reflects your gratitude.
Prayer: God of renewal, I offer generosity in thanks for your many gifts.. Amen.
Discussion: Money isn’t the only way people try to by favor. What other ways have you seen?
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