Monday, 12 October 2009

Does God Really Want You to Be Healthy and Wealthy?

Hi all,

This great question just came in from one of our members:

"The pentecostal 'health and wealth' gospel emphasizes the idea that God wants us to be healthy and wealthy. Does God actually want us to be healthy and wealthy, or is this based on some flawed presuppositions?" - Jason C.

When it comes to the Law of Attraction (LOA), you have some pretty sharp disagreements out there - I suspect most Christian groups would denounce it as a demonic fabrication, whereas at least some Protestants and lots of people with New Age inclinations claim it's true.

However, the truth here may be more complex than either of those groups believes:

In my book, The 5 Pillars of Life, I introduced you to "Authentic Ancient Traditions" (AATs), spiritual traditions that can prove they get the results they claim. The original Christian tradition, preserved in the East, and several other traditions worldwide fit the criteria of Authentic Ancient Traditions.

One thing AATs have in common is they see the whole purpose of human life as "self-transformation" - a total transformation of mind, body and spirit that goes beyond anything we can imagine in our current state, a transformation that is itself union with God, with the "Absolute Reality" behind our visible universe.

In fact, everything they teach has only one purpose - to bring about this transformation.

A logical corollary of this is the teaching that in our current, untransformed state, we're not "normal" at all. Quite the opposite; we're suffering from serious delusions about the nature of reality based on a chronic self-aborption and ego-centrism.

Since this is the case, it would be ludicrous to believe that God, the Absolute, wants us to get what we want all the time, since many of our wants are going to be self-destructive in the long run, no matter how good they would make us feel right now.

All these AATs teach from their own experience that love and compassion are fundamental to the very fabric of reality. It doesn't take a genius to realize that if the Absolute IS love, then giving us what we "want" all the time would not be a loving act. We don't do that for our own kids and parents who do this are actually harming their children.

So contrary to what certain Christian and New Age authors will tell you, "what God wants" is not necessarily identical to what you "want" at any given moment and certainly isn't restricted to a particular idea like wanting everyone all the time to be healthy and wealthy. If the real purpose of human life is self-transformation, then what people need at any given moment is what leads them in that direction.

Obviously, health or wealth could be spiritually helpful to some people at certain stages of their spiritual development and spiritually harmful to others. Like nearly everything in human life, health and wealth are neutral - the use we make of them determines whether they help us or harm us.

The GOOD news here, though, is that God doesn't have an agenda to keep you sick, miserable and impoverished either. And that's really important to know, since some Christians think a pious Christian life has to be sick, broke and miserable and that suffering is somehow the purpose of human life. There's a whole mistaken theology behind this I won't get into now.

Now, the Flip Side...

Does the LOA actually exist? Well, everyday experience suggests it does. So without getting into the latest discoveries of quantum physics and all that, we can definitely say this: anyone with any experience in counselling people will come to the ironclad conviction that how we think about ourself and our life determines what our reality looks like.

We are all the victims or beneficiaries of deeply ingrained belief systems from early in life. Some of these beliefs propel us to our greatest successes while others make us miserable. What examples can you come up with from your own life?

So, not surprisingly, AATs put a huge emphasis on faith, on believing in the reality of your spiritual work so that it has the intended effect. This is not "faith" as in an abstract belief in the invisible that you can only confirm when you die. No, this is faith as in trusting in the Absolute until you come to a genuine and irrefutable experience of It.

If you look at some of the ancient spiritual teachings on prayer and meditiation from various traditions, you'll be struck by how similar they look to the LOA. Take these words on prayer by St. John of Kronstadt from late 19th century Russia:


"The main thing in prayer is a lively and clear faith in the Lord. See him vividly before you and in you, and then ask Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit for whatever you desire and you will obtain it. Ask simply, without the slightest doubt, then God will be everything to you, instantly accomplishing great and marvelous things."

"When we pray, we must believe in the power of the words of the prayer, so as not to separate the words from the deeds they express. We must believe the deeds follow the words as surely as a shadow follows a body, for the word and the deed of the Lord are indivisible: 'He commanded and they were created.' And likewise, you must believe that what you ask for in prayer will be done."

"To God all things are possible and nothing is difficult. So when you pray, be firmly convinced the Lord can do everything you ask in a moment. Do not ascribe your own inability to God."


Bottom line? Reality is very complex and we simplify it at our peril. On the one hand, the universe is not a cosmic vending machine designed to fulfill your every whim. On the other, the universe will deliver what you think about most of the time, for good or for ill, and it IS set up to look after your long term welfare. And God is most definitely not out to keep you sick, broke and miserable.

So there is far more truth to the LOA than its detractors claim, but much more nuance involved than its proponents are often telling you.

Hope that helps!

- Dr. Symeon Rodger

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