So Abram went up from Egypt to the Negev, with his wife and everything he had, and Lot went with him. 2 Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and in silver and gold.
3 From the Negev he went from place to place until he came to Bethel, to the place between Bethel and Ai where his tent had been earlier 4 and where he had first built an altar. There Abram called on the name of the Lord.
5 Now Lot, who was moving about with Abram, also had flocks and herds and tents. 6 But the land could not support them while they stayed together, for their possessions were so great that they were not able to stay together. 7 And quarreling arose between Abram’s herders and Lot’s. The Canaanites and Perizzites were also living in the land at that time.
8 So Abram said to Lot, “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herders and mine, for we are close relatives. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Let’s part company. If you go to the left, I’ll go to the right; if you go to the right, I’ll go to the left.”
10 Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.)11 So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: 12 Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. 13 Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.
14 The Lord said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Look around from where you are, to the north and south, to the east and west. 15 All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. 17 Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you.”
18 So Abram went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he pitched his tents. There he built an altar to the Lord.
What do you all think about Prosperity Theology? You know, Joel Osteen and preachers like him that say God wants us to be prosperous, and we can do so through a faithful attitude, positive thinking and prayer, and donations to the church. I ask because this chapter, and the chapter immediately preceding, are strong arguments for it. We are told right at the beginning of the chapter “Abram had become very wealthy in livestock and silver and gold.” (13:2) “All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever,” God says to Abram in 13:15. And last chapter, God blesses Abram “I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great.” (12:2) That’s a three-fold blessing, people, that’s serious stuff.
I’m uncomfortably comfortable with much of Prosperity Theology, if that makes any sense. Yes, I definitely think some of it is exploitative and asking those with very little to donate more, more, more when the preacher’s second house is worth almost three million bucks (that’s right, Joel Osteen’s second home is worth that much, his first home is worth over ten million). Also, I think it ignores or tries to gloss over a lot of the bad things that happen-not just in the Bible, but in everyday life. No one needs to feel like cancer is a personal failure on their part, that they just weren’t faithful enough. Sometimes cancer, or other shitty situations, just happen. Even to good and faithful people.
All that being said, I hate it when people go all sour grapes on what others have. No doubt Joel Osteen got a leg up in life, but he’s devoted his life to his work, and built a brand up around himself through not only preaching but books and promotional deals. Also, he’s increased his church membership to 40,000 people. From a purely business perspective, I have to respect that.
And I do agree with one of the core messages of Prosperity Theology: that God wants us to be happy. Perhaps the major difference is how followers of Prosperity Theology and I define “happy.” I do not want a yacht, or a mansion, or even a pool – I know how much upkeep those things take and that’s not how I want to spend my time or money. But maybe someone else does want those things, and who am I to judge?
So where does that leave us? I’ve talked an awful lot in the first two months of this project about the importance of acceptance and understanding – mostly from a left-looking-right standpoint. But acceptance is just that – accepting people my have viewpoints that are not in line with my own. As long as they aren’t hurting anyone, then I can’t be overly critical, right? But what do we define as harmful? I think the followers of Prosperity Theology are doing themselves a disservice by missing some of the wonderful subtleties of the Bible and trying to force God into a “magic genie” role that falls far short of what I believe God to be. But, is that harmful? Should I try to dissuade them?
I wish I could wrap this up with a neat little answer, but I don’t think I can. There are so many other problems that I think are larger than any issues I might have with Prosperity Theology, so until they do something truly exclusionary, I’ll table any misgivings. I think that might be my larger takeaway from this reading: a reminder to pick which battles are worth fighting, and being able to live with decisions others might make that I don’t like, but that have no bearing on me. For now, the best course of action I can think of is to just keep living an example of what I think is the best way: Enjoy life, tread lightly upon the earth, and find joy in giving back. Most days I fall far short of what I think my best should be. Seriously, every disposable snack pack of pudding or applesauce I give the girls feels like a moral failing for this regenerative farmer, but sometimes it’s the only way to get calories in them. But every day I try, and I hope I’m getting better as I get older. And, I hope, that those little changes, and my own little examples are enough, with time, to spread the change I wish to see in the world.