1. Biggest Obstacle to Jesus’ Message
Mahatma Gandhi said, “I like your Christ, but not your Christianity”. That is a sentiment many of us would sympathize with and acknowledge. It is not just having some human weaknesses among those who call themselves Christian. Sometimes it is more sinister – the desire for control, exploiting the institution of organized religion for the opportunities it offers for self-glorification and self-serving ends. This is the biggest obstacle to the message of Jesus today.
2. Gospel Is Not Merely Verbal
We often try to bail out of the situation by saying, “Look at Jesus, not at us”. But Jesus did not give us such an option. Jesus’ followers are supposed to represent Him, and that is how the world will come to know Jesus. There is no shortage of people who can verbally articulate the gospel. What is lacking is the visible witness (of people representing Christ) behind the verbal witness. The great commission (Matthew 28:16-20) is not merely a verbal articulation. It has to be backed up by obedience to the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:36-40: Love God.. Love neighbor), treating every human as people made in the image of God and the stewardship/care of God’s creation (Genesis 1:26-28).
3. Not Prosperity Gospel Nor Poverty Gospel but Contentment Gospel
In Psalm 103, David says “Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases”. It would be a grave error to assume that David was praising God only because he was prosperous as a king. Did God heal all his diseases all the time? After all, David died of sickness. A total lack of sickness is to be expected only in the new creation (Rev 21-22) – not in the current world. David’s words are that of contentment that comes by being in God. The gospel is neither prosperity gospel nor poverty gospel, but a gospel of contentment!
3. Jesus Never Asked for Money
David continues in Psalm 103, that the Lord “satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s”. He is the God who provides. Jesus/disciples did not ask around for money. They were supported, but they did not ask for money – directly or indirectly – not in the name of “ministry needs” – nor did he guilt trip anyone into giving. He told the rich young man in Matthew 19:21 to give all his possessions to the poor and then follow Him. Jesus said in Matthew 10:29: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care”. In the same way, a follower of Jesus may have problems but not without the will of the Father.
4. Resolving the Contradiction
Living a life of contentment and trust in the provisions of God is perhaps the first step in resolving the contradiction that Mahatma Gandhi pointed out.
Paul says in Philippians 4:12-13: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength”.