mindGrazing

chewing ideas down to stubble, then moving on…

My Thoughts on “Prayer of Jabez”

Posted by Jason on November 13, 2008

 

The worst book ever!

The worst book ever!

 

 

I wrote this about Bruce Wilkinson’s book a while ago on Goodreads, and I’ll follow with more discussion:

“This is pretty much the worst book I’ve ever read. I would’ve given it zero stars but then it would look like I didn’t rate it. This book highlights what is wrong with modern American Christianity. “Dear God, please make me rich…” What a bunch of crap, and yes I read the entire thing. Prayer of Jabez serves a very big purpose in my life: I shoved it under the front of an old bookshelf so that it won’t tip over forward, dumping out all of my good books.”

Why must poverty be invisible to evangelical Christians? Or if it is not invisible, it only exists as a foil to wealth which proves how much one has been blessed. After witnessing a poor, unfortunate wretch, the attitude of wealthy American evangelicals is often, “Thank you God, for making me blessed/wealthy so that I did not end up like that…” One prays and prays to be “set apart,” so as to be a “holy and living sacrifice” for the Lord. “Set me apart from those that are dirty, drugged-up, drunk, or just plain poor…”

The obsession with purity in modern evangelicals almost reminds me of the exclusive and divisive Jewish policies that gave birth to our great religion. As Christians, aren’t we called to dwell with the poor and lowly? To give them comfort, and convince them of their humanity and inherent worth in God’s eyes? Did Jesus give prayers of thanksgiving because he knew he would be beamed up soon and be done with the nasty prostitutes and tax collectors? No…

He stayed and taught us that the least of these are the ones cherished by the Lord. The Beatitudes give a pretty good summary of that. In Methodism, we talk a lot about the Weslyan quadrilateral that focuses on the use of Scripture, Tradition, Experience, and Reason to guide our Christian lives. I love this methodology, and I think it’s beautiful.

However, what happens when that Scripture is absolute and unyielding, that Tradition tells us that we are rich because God made us that way, that Experience doesn’t include any inkling of poverty, and that Reason has been closed off to new ideas?

“The Prayer of Jabez” happens…

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4 Responses to “My Thoughts on “Prayer of Jabez””

  1. Kelli said

    Friendly banter….not all “conservative Christians” feel that way about the “poor and lowly.” I can’t begin to tell you how many homeless people I tried to be nice to when I worked downtown, gave food to (one even refused because the food was “too healthy” for him), I even gave money. In fact there were two sweet gentlemen whom I greeted every single morning as I walked from the bus stop (no one knows that except you now! 🙂 ). And then of course, there were those scary guys who yelled, cussed and tried hitting on me…those I stay away from because they are just not safe! I could tell you stories! 🙂

    Also, just trying to understand better, but what does your church teach if you aren’t supposed to live pure and holy lives? Or maybe I misunderstood?? Colossians 3 talks about clothing yourself in Christ. I don’t really see this as absolute and unyielding…it’s just the way God calls us to live our own personal lives. That’s my take on it, at least!

    Oh, and the whole “rich” thing…richness comes when you store treasures up in heaven by acting Christlike in our everyday lives (ie helping the poor, serving others,pretty much acting selfless, ect). I’ve never heard any conservative church (that I have attended) preach that richness means “worldly wealth.” I promise you that! That’s a twist us humans have added to the formula incorrectly, not something our church is teaching us. 🙂 Blessings come in many forms, not only $$. Sadly, many think that is the only way (I agree with you). 😦 Honestly, sometimes I do feel judged by some of those people…but I don’t hold that against God or the church. It’s them trying to elevate themselves by inwardly putting others down, you know?

    Love you! Sorry! Didn’t mean for this to be so long!! 😦 Maybe we can talk more over Thanksgiving. 🙂

    Love,
    Kelli

  2. Kelli said

    I write WAY TO MANY :)…uggg…and dots!!

    Love,
    Your Crazy Sister-in-law

  3. Jason said

    Don’t take it as a personal attack. It’s only ideas. Also, if you’re confident you’re doing the right thing in your walk with Christ, then you have no need to justify yourself to me or anyone else=)
    When I talk about purity, I’m not saying that some churches say you should be pure and holy and others don’t. What I am saying is that so many conservative evangelicals that I’ve met (maybe this is not any church doctrine, but they’re getting it from somewhere) seem to think that purity is a goal or a means to an end that is called salvation. My belief, which comes from the Methodist church as well as a lifetime of talking with churchfolk and reading all kinds of stuff, is that salvation is already ours through Jesus’ death on the Cross…we must do nothing but accept it or reject it by putting our faith in Jesus Christ or not. Because of this wonderful gift called Grace, which is freely given to us while we are yet sinners, we live our lives in accordance with the teachings of the Lord.

    Many people, and several churches I’ve been to as well, seem to portray that people who are faithful will be blessed because of that faithfulness. “If one just does the right thing and lives a pure enough and holy enough life, then God will bless that person.” It may seem like semantics, but to me this difference is absolutely critical in how we go about our lives as Christians. One way preaches that you are blessed by God with Grace because you are faithful. Another way, the way that I subscribe to, preaches that you have already received blessings or prevenient Grace, and then you choose to be faithful in gratitude for that Grace/blessing. In one view, you work in order to receive blessings; in the second you work because you have already been blessed.

    Prevenient Grace is a major cornerstone of Weslyan thought, most prominent in the Methodist Church, but also embraced by several other denominations. When I talk about scripture being absolute and unyielding, I’m referring to an idea that many people have that the Bible is written by God Himself and therefore infallible… but my thoughts on that issue would make this reply way way way too long. I’ll save that for its own post someday. Hopefully this clears some stuff up for you. And if you don’t agree with me, that’s totally fine, no worries. There’s no right or wrong in my book!
    Talk to you soon,
    JT

  4. thewesgazette said

    Finally someone else who didn’t dig Prayer of Jabez. I read it and just could not understand what all the fuss was about. In fact, I thought it was cheesy and not very compelling.

    There are some out there who teach the “prosperity gospel” unabashedly, including perhaps the most influential pastor in America right now. But, I think for most churches it’s a little more subtle than that. Even some churches that ostensibly teach a grace gospel in reality place a lot of “holy rules” that folks have to follow to be in God’s favor. I think it often reduces Christianity to a checklist of dos and don’ts, and that doesn’t really lend itself to a fulfilling relationship with God.

    I honestly can’t remember a lot about the book, but based on your comments I think we agree on this one.

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