“If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”~~ 1 Corinthians 15:19
Abundance of blessings pouring from the heavens! The easy path and the smooth highway stretching out before us! Crowds cheering our names! Green meadows for taking our ease and rest. Puff pastries on silver platters for our dining pleasure. Our beverages of choice flowing in rivers unceasing as we celebrate the good life of the true believers who have put their faith in the one true God, and given their heart, soul, and life to the cause.
This is the theme of the sermons we can hear most Sundays in many Christian churches that follow the false doctrine we know as “prosperity theology.” Those of us who bleed Razorback Red, rather than anthracite grey, have also fallen into this sickness, for we have fed on this swill at the hog trough/altar of the woo pig sooie.
Prosperity theology teaches that if one has faith and behaves appropriately toward the god, one receives rewards in this life as well in the life beyond. Prosperity theology had its roots in the Old Testament before belief in the afterlife became fashionable, for rewards and punishments in this life were the only measure of retribution that the deity had to control the faithful. The book of Job is a commentary on prosperity theology, for the Accuser suggests to God that Job only remains faithful to God because of the blessings that God provides to Job, and Job would lose his faith if these blessings were removed. The Accuser loses this round too, because ultimately evil always loses to Good.
The problem with prosperity theology is that it focuses too much on this world and this life. As Paul reminded the Corinthians, “If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people the most to be pitied.” If we are putting our trust in Christ to get the goodies of this world: cars, houses, gold chains, 401ks flush with profits, etc., then we have made the Lord of heaven and earth into a Candy Man who offers his favorite children treats from his deep pockets.
Now God knows that our Hogs need a Candy Man, but sweet treats are given only to children in costumes on Halloween night and by Santa on Christmas eve into their stockings they left hanging by the chimney with care. If there is no Candy Man or Santa Clause for the Hogs or for the Hog Nation, can we still be believers? How can we have faith in a good God when the evil seem to prosper, when the faithful get cancer, when the innocent are killed in a convenience store robbery, or when the robber barons of this world get rich at the expense of the poor and the middle class? Is our theology, our thoughts about God, rich enough and robust enough to wrap around the inherent inconsistencies of this absurd world?
Take the poor, for instance, and the ill. If one is both poor and ill, does prosperity theology have a place for them? No! It excludes them, for they are not “living righteously, therefore, God doesn’t bless them. Otherwise, they would be well and rich.” Since a great part of the world is both poor and ill, prosperity theology has difficulty explaining why God sent his son Jesus into the world to heal the sick and speak tenderly to the poor: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20). Prosperity theology is retribution theology, or reward theology: tit for tat theology.
What of the Gordon Gekkos of this world for whom greed is good and whose god is money? His prosperity certainly isn’t a blessing from God, for a just God wouldn’t reward a rapacious robber baron. Job’s observation rings true in this world: sometimes the tents of the robbers prosper (Job 12:6). If we hold that God is the source of all blessings, then we are stuck with the unfortunate conclusion that God rewards the unjust as well as the just. That conclusion denies both the goodness and the justness of the God we honor and love in the Razorback Nation.
When we are faithful in our walk before God, and the blessings don’t flow, we are tempted to question God’s love for us or his faithfulness toward us. Likewise, when we faithful and passionate Razorback Nation Fans don’t get the wins we expect from our team, we question the faithfulness and love of the University, the Coach and the Team for US. We buy tickets, dress in team colors, tailgate with friends at the stadium and at home, spend a fortune on tickets and junk food, and park our bacon parts on a cold damp seat. Surely, all that commitment should earn us a blessing from the football gods. Our faith gets dashed into itty-bitty pieces. Just like Humpty Dumpty, it can’t be put together again. We want to sell our tickets on eBay as evidence of our crisis of faith, for we are fair weather fans even as we are fair weather lovers of God.
One of our problems is that we follow the One Armed Bandit of Prosperity Theology: We puts our money in and we expects our flashing lights, bells, and spinning wheels to line up three red razorbacks and bright red coins to spill out of the machine! Yes! We are winners! Each and every time we pull the handle! This is fantasy thinking, and we should recognize it as an imaginary magic eight-year old thought process.
We claim we want to praise God in all things, but when we walk the valleys of the dark shadows of death, we think God isn’t with us. We forget that he is near to the broken hearted (Psm 34:18) and the defender of the Nation (2 Mac15:30). In the fat and easy times, we take God for granted. In the times of famine and drought, we should count on God all the more: “Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will exult in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).
Win or Lose, Grey Helmets or Red Helmets, Home or Away, God Loves the Razorback Nation! WOO PIG SOOIE!!!!!!
A good project this week is to make a family altar: mine is a tongue in cheek “altar to the woo pig sooie”: Fancy red pig elevated upon the purple amethyst mountains, handmade cross stitch, Christ of the Ozarks souvenir, clay art pieces (girl cheerleader, snowman yell leader—may be a cold day before we win a game…)