… only if you went to Saddleback Church and heard Rick Warren.
This last weekend, Mr. Warren kicked off “Decade of Destiny,” a two-month “spiritual growth” program at his church in Mission Viejo, California, saying,
“I want the next ten years of your life to be the best 10 years of your life. I want you to be more blessed and less stressed. I want God’s blessing … on every area of your life.”
I want… I want… I want… Did he ever consider what God’s will is?
His prosperity gospel has fully matured, saying that God enjoys blessing his children. What about those suffering affliction, deprivation, persecution and even martyrdom? Didn’t Jesus say, “If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20)? Or “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33)? Maybe he applies these texts only to the apostles and other first-century Christians who were fed to the beasts.
Didn’t Paul warn faithful believers, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim 3:12)? He encourages us to continue in the faith, because “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). This flies in the face of Mr. Warren’s teaching that God will surely bless those who are faithful and obedient, “There’s a condition. … God promises and actually guarantees that He will bless your life if you do what He says.” If this sounds like works-righteousness, it is. He even adds conditions to receiving God’s blessings: “meeting with God daily, studying His word, tithing, helping others in need, sharing the Good News, and participating in fellowship (such as small groups).”
Why then are so many faithful believers in America and in other rich countries suffering in this economic crisis? Why are so many faithful believers in the poorest countries of the world suffering deprivation? Why are so many faithful believers in hostile countries suffering persecution and martyrdom?
Why was David feeling envious when he saw his wicked enemies prosper while he continued to flee for his life and suffer affliction? (Psa 73:2-3)
Jesus Came “Enjoying Life”?
In a short “devotional” entitled, “God Wants You to Enjoy Life,” Mr. Warren says, “[God] doesn’t want you to live without fun. The apostle Matthew spent three years with Jesus and he wrote, ‘[Jesus] came, enjoying life'” (Matthew 11:19 Phillips paraphrase). Why is Saddleback—and all megachurches—obsessed with entertainment? Because, for Mr. Warren having fun in church is part of God’s blessing, “You can have fun, laughing in church.” Does this church worship sound like fun—“Let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire“ (Heb 12:28-29)?
Matthew 11:19 is not about Jesus enjoying life. How did Jesus enjoy life, when all of his life he suffered, as Isaiah 53:2-3 says?
For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Matthew 11:19 doesn’t even say Jesus “came, enjoying life.” The Greek literally says, “Came the Son of Man eating and drinking.” Mr. Warren’s modus operandi is taking texts out of context and scanning multiple Bible translations (mostly the abominable The Message) to support his preconceived views. The context of this verse is the false accusation against John the Baptizer by the Pharisees. They said he was demon-possessed because of his appearance and lifestyle in the desert, and he didn’t eat and drink with others. Now they see Jesus eating and drinking with others, particularly sinners, and the Jews accuse him of being a glutton and a drunkard. How the Pharisees showed their inconsistency! So at the end of the verse, Jesus tells them about their foolishness compared with God’s wisdom because John and him evidenced God’s wisdom by the righteous deeds of their lives and ministries.
God Provides Riches for Our Enjoyment?
Mr. Warren also twists 1 Timothy 6:17 in saying that “God wants you to enjoy life.” So let’s look at the passage in its context (verses 17-19):
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works,… to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.
First, Paul is not talking to all Christians. He’s specifically commanding the rich among believers to be good stewards of their riches and not to be proud of their riches, reminding them that it was God who blessed them with riches. Second, he’s teaching them that even though they are rich in this life, it’s much more blessed to store up treasures for their future life, “that which is truly life.” Third, they are to use their riches to do good works and to share their riches generously among the poor in the church.
Does God want us to enjoy life? Yes, but enjoyment doesn’t necessarily mean being rich. This wouldn’t happen to all believers until the age to come, when we will “glorify God and enjoy him forever” (Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 1).