By Akin Ojumu

You have heard that it was said by many prosperity preachers that “Jesus died in order that we may enjoy an abundant life of sound health, mind-blowing wealth, and eye-popping success.” 

I must confess, this fantasy “gospel” has never made much sense to me at all. For, if the assertion were true that Jesus really suffered humiliating death on the Cross so that everyone who believed in Him might live opulently and be bestowed with riches beyond their wildest dreams, it is hard not to conclude that God made an egregious mistake and sacrificed His only begotten Son in vain, especially when you consider the life of Jesus Himself and all those who followed Him.

Everything we know about Jesus, from Scripture and historical records, points to a man of humble beginnings and meagre means. The fact that He was raised in Nazareth of Galilee is a pretty good indication that he was a peasant boy in a tiny peasant village of no more than 100 to 200 people.

People in the Nazareth area in the time of Jesus made their living growing grapes, olives and grain on terraces cut in the limestone hills. During harvest time, villagers gathered together to stomp the grapes with their feet or took turns standing guard in the watchtower to protect their produce from scavenging thieves.

Jesus lived at a time when Jewish peasants and the lower classes lived a precarious existence as the Romans and the Jewish upper class exploited the land and the people. The Jewish Temple in Jerusalem was a significant economic force and the priestly class that controlled it was very powerful. The richest people were landowners, aristocrats, high-level government officials and high-level priests. The middle class included tax collectors, merchants, and craftsmen. Most people were poor peasants. Women generally married when they were teenagers and endured seven or eight pregnancies to have three of four children.

The daily chores of Mary, Jesus’ mother, probably consisted of grounding corn, wheat or barley to make bread; doing the laundry, fetching water, cleaning; and making the meals, usually a thick porridge made of wheat or barley supplemented by a vegetable, such as beans, lentils, or cucumbers. As was true with all families at that time, the Holy Family ate from a common bowl.

Tradition has it that Jesus was a carpenter from a family of carpenters. The term in Greek “tectone” means “artisan”. In the pecking order of peasant society, a peasant artisan is lower than a peasant farmer. It probably meant a peasant farmer who had been pushed off the land and had to make his living, if he could, by laboring.

Furthermore, this Jesus who was going to make his followers very rich was born in a pen among bleating sheep, into a wretchedly poor family, from one of the poorest and remotest villages in Israel.

It doesn’t stop there. 

To assist Him in the get-my-followers-rich ministry, Jesus went and recruited peasants like Himself as disciples. Among them were fishermen, a zealot, tax collector, and a thief. Together, they went about on foot – dusty and worn – from village to village spreading the “prosperity” Gospel. Jesus, the Rabbi of health, wealth, and success, even confessed at one point that his own living situation was worse than that of a fox who at least had a hole to lay its head.

And that’s not all. 

The next generation of Jesus’ followers who would carry the Gospel to the ends of the earth did not fare any better. They were as poor as the first seventy that believed in Him. One of them, Paul the erstwhile persecutor, had to travel – on foot, of course – from city to city in Asia Minor with cap in hand to raise collections for the poor saints in Jerusalem during a famine raging in the city at the time. The same Paul, who was tentmaker or a tanner by trade, experienced many sleepless nights, endured hunger and thirst, going days without food, exposed to cold and the elements of nature.

If indeed the coming and death of Jesus was meant to result in a massive wealth transfer from the world to those who would believe in Him, that divine windfall seemed to have skipped His own family, his first disciples, and those who came immediately after them all together.

When Jesus was born, poverty and lack reigned supreme in the world. Two thousand years after His death, nothing has changed, poverty remains the bane of human existence. Jesus was poor, his family was poor, His disciples were poor, the first century Believers through whom Christianity reached the uttermost part of the earth were equally poor. The life and death of Jesus seemed to have zero transformative effect on the socio-economic wellbeing of those who believed. And in fact, a legitimate argument can even be made that following Jesus made the individual’s financial status even worse.

Since God cannot lie, the prosperity preachers must be selling the Christian world a bill of goods. The purpose of Jesus’ death must be far more tangible than the stratospheric rise in the socio-economic ladder for those who believe. It must have taken something of much greater consequential importance than the fleeting enjoyment of increased temporal goods for God to pour His wrath on His only begotten Son. Jesus’ pain and suffering must be worth exceedingly more than acquisition of unlimited material possessions.

And indeed, it is. 

Jesus did not die in vain. He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed.

Jesus did not die to make us materially comfortable, He died so that we are not eternally damnable. It is demeaning to our Savior’s monumental sacrifice, to reduce His death to a barn full of worldly goods. And it is a sickening denigration of the ultimate price that the Lamb of God paid, to diminish His agonizing suffering to the weight of shekels.

The snake oil salesmen of the Church preaching such a gospel are cynically exploiting the ignorance of their followers in order to enrich themselves. The gospel they preach is of mammon and not of God.

(Materials borrowed from the article, Jesus’s Life, on Facts and Details)


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