Adam · Creation · Dominion · Gifts · Health & Wealth Gospel · Poor · Poverty · Poverty Theology

Progressive Christianity and Poverty Theology

It is popular in current Christianity to think that everything done in the past was done wrong. Not only is it popular, it is arrogant. I would not lie to say that I have found a couple chinks in the armor myself. However, some current Christian leaders think they are reinventing the entire wheel, and are making a lot of decisions about theology they have not thought through.

One such area I’d like to discuss is “poverty theology.” This is the opposite of health and wealth theology, which says if you follow God, you are guaranteed to be happy, healthy, and wealthy. This is foolishness, and I have written on it and the consequences of it: <strong>Consequences of Health and Wealth Theology</strong> and <strong>Consequences of Health and Wealth Theology</strong>.

Poverty theology is a pendulum swing – an overcorrection to the health and wealth gospel. It tries to make righteousness out of poverty. It attempts to lift up as examples only those who have given it all away. If you have material goods and wealth, you are evil because God wants you to dispense everything.

If this was the case, Job would have been evil. He not only was wealthy, he was filthy rich. Yet God said about him, “that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God, and turned away from evil.” So clearly having goods, and material wealth is not evil in itself. It is not money that is evil, but the love of money (I Timothy 6:10).

As Americans, are we materialistic? Yes. This is not to paint with a broad brush but to ask all of us to individually evaluate ourselves. That being said, there are consequences to all bad theology. There are two that specifically come to mind when it comes to poverty theology. First, is the rejection of God’s good gifts. Second, is the failure to live out the dominion mandate.

Rejecting God’s good gifts isn’t something which is new. Monasticism, the rejection of material goods, has been around long before our culture. As a Christian Hedonist, I reject this notion. Thinking that something material is evil within itself is foolishness. 

It’s not that I focus on living in the lap of luxury. Christ must be the center of all I do. But rejecting material goods that I receive from God is in essence rejecting Him. Rejecting the gift is rejecting the gift-giver (see I Corinthians 1:17). On the other hand, I want to enjoy those gifts for God’s glory (see I Corinthians 10:31).

The second issue is failure to live out the dominion mandate. Progressive Christianity would hate such a term because they foolishly believe that any type of power anyone has is evil. They don’t acknowledge there is power and authority used for evil and used for good.

The command for Adam( for man) in Genesis 1:28 was “have dominion.” He was to rule over (be in charge of) the garden and everything in it. Today we are given rulership and leadership. As fathers we lead our marriages and households (Ephesians 5:22-24), wives manage their households (I Timothy 5:14). Managers lead employees. These are not evil things, but God-given domains found in Scripture.

So when a family is taking care of their family first, it is not evil. This is commanded (I Timothy 5:8). When it is said to love your neighbor as yourself, isn’t a man’s wife and children his closest neighbors? Not that he is to neglect other neighbors, but he is to do good to them first. 

This “family first” philosophy doesn’t only apply to family, but also the church.  The apostle Paul tells us to “do good to everyone,” but he says “especially to those who are the household of faith (Galatians 6:10).” So taking care of those who are within my church community first before I spend time, money, energy, and resources elsewhere is not something evil, but God-ordained.

This dominion mandate, coupled with family first and church first, is also generational. Poverty theology where you die with nothing and pass on nothing because you have given so much away is not Scriptural. 

In fact, the opposite is true. Proverbs 13:22 says good men leave inheritance to their grandchildren. If we believe in building the kingdom of God, why would we not leave money to our churches, and other kingdom ministries that would continue to advance God’s kingdom?

Christian, be careful of pendulum swinging. Our material goods should not be the most precious to us, Christ should. That does not mean that we should reject things. We are called to take dominion, leave inheritance, and help build God’s future kingdom. God uses resources to do that. They are not evil in and of themselves. 

Where have you seen poverty theology take place? Have you seen the pendulum swing from health and wealth gospel to poverty theology? Do you have Scriptural balance in your life?

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