The Prosperity Gospel teaches that God just wants to shower us with the good gifts of financial prosperity, healthy bodies and trouble free relationships. All we have to do is “name it and claim it.”
Now, such a materialistic heresy is easy to spot a mile off. However, I think there’s another area where that type of thinking creeps in.
It has struck me as we’ve been learning about the gifts of the Spirit that this mentality can come along in a way that looks deeply spiritual.
We’ve seen that our worship together is all about
– Glorifying God
– Encouraging and building one another up
– Hearing God speak to us.
This means that when we talk about gifts, they are not primarily gifts to you and me for our personal enjoyment. Rather they are gifts to the whole church through you and me for us all to enjoy together.
So, when I see a particular gift as something that I want and when I expect the church to ensure that everything falls into place so that I can get to use and develop that gift, then I can end up becoming a “name it and claim it” person.
It sounds very spiritual to say that I desire to be able to use and develop my gift (indeed Paul tells us to desire spiritual gifts). I can even express that in terms of a calling or ministry. But if I lose sight of the fact that God is giving the gifts to the church in order to grow his kingdom and so that His voice will be heard then really I’m being as carnal and selfish as the person who is praying “God give me a Mercedes Benz” and as superstitious as the person who thinks that if they say the right prayer, have hands laid on by the right person etc then they will be cured of that sickness or even escape ill health altogether.
Looking back, I can see that there have been times in my life when I’ve been desperate to fulfil a role and use a gift in the life of the church and I haven’t been able to for various reasons. Now maybe I felt at the time that I was restricted and constrained. But maybe, just maybe the reason was so that I would stop and listen to God, that God would use others and their gifts so the Church would hear Him and so that I would learn to use other gifts so that others would be built up, God’s Word would be heard and the name of Jesus glorified.
By the same measure, I hope that it hasn’t been the case that I’ve been so busy pursuing my calling, exercising my gift and doing my ministry that it has been hard for people to hear God speak, they have been discouraged instead of built up and Jesus’ name has been dishonoured (cf 1 Corinthians 12:1-3).