The local prosperity pastor here in Greenville has a church called “Relentless”

That’s pretty cool. Sounds like either a rock band or one of those gritty Netflix TV series.

Pastor John Gray gave his wife a $200,000 Lamborghini for their anniversary.

You can read about it here. When Mrs Longenecker saw the headline “Greenville Pastor Gives Wife $200,000 Lamborghini” she ran down to check our garage.

Seriously– she wouldn’t be caught dead in a Lamborghini–not even a Lamborghini hearse.

The debate flared up of course. The pastor was attacked for such profligacy. He argued that the super car wasn’t for him. It was a gift and people should mind their own business. Mrs Gray jumped into the fray pointing out that hubby is a hard worker and has earned every penny and that he is super generous to those in need.

At least Pastor Gray collected the cash honestly. That’s more than we can say about the two Catholic nuns who allegedly embezzled half a million dollars and went on spending sprees to Las Vegas.

Catholic priests are supposed, by canon law, to live in “apostolic simplicity” but what does that mean? I’m reminded of G.K.Chesterton’s quip that “a man who eats caviar because he likes it is closer to simplicity than a man who eats grape nuts on principle.” Applied to motor cars you could say, “A man who drives a Lamborghini because he likes it is closer to simplicity than a man who drives an old Fiat on principle.”

I don’t know if Pastor Gray preaches the “prosperity gospel” or not. It’s fashionable and snobbish to look down one’s Pharisaical nose at prosperity preachers, and I know their theology is sub-orthodox, but they do have a point, and that is, if you live the gospel faithfully, you will end up being prosperous.

Here’s what I mean: First of all you have to define “prosperous”. I don’t mean by this word that you will be financially loaded. I mean you will have a blessed and abundant life. That might include financial well being, but not necessarily.

If you think about it, following the gospel will make you prosperous, and some of that abundant life will end up having a financial dimension. If you have faith you will also have a more positive outlook on life. If you have faith you believe things will work out. If you practice your faith you will have a positive self image and therefore you are more likely to succeed in whatever you set out to do, and by “success” I mean first of all, you will be happy and gratified doing what you do.

Furthermore, if you are religious you will develop at least a little self discipline and self criticism. That is part of what it means to repent. People with self discipline and who are self critical are more responsive and more likely to get good jobs and be higher earners or at least to step into rewarding and satisfying jobs.

It gets better: if you are a follower of Jesus Christ you will have values that are not materialistic. That means you will buy what you need and don’t care so much about all the flashy trash that is so expensive and people only buy to make themselves feel better or to impress other people. Believers should get to the point where they live simply. This means they are less likely to be in debt and more likely to save. People who are not in debt and save, end up being more prosperous.

If you follow your Christian faith you should give generously. When you give generously to charities and church your attitude to money changes.  You set better priorities and if your giving pincyes your budget a little, then that might make you work harder, save more and end up being more prosperous.

Finally,  if you belong to a church you are more likely to be making good friends and contact with other people who are also on the path to an abundant life. In other words, you’ll be mixing with other people who have purpose, who have drive, who have solutions to problems and who are building positive lives and careers.

I therefore don’t write off the prosperity preachers completely. I disagree with the extremes of their message, their tendency towards spiritual blackmail and their own extravagant lifestyles.

I criticize the extravagance because not because there is anything wrong with material goods, but because it is a gospel principle to help the poor–and giving money to the poor is not the only way we help them. We also help them by living more simply. Material possessions are not bad in and of themselves. It is our attachment to them which makes them an idol. That is why we should always be examining not only what we have, but how much we love those material things.

This means a simpler life is better.

We should have what we need and be satisfied with that.

That’s why I told Mrs Longenecker she didn’t need a Lamborghini…

…she would just have to be satisfied with the new Ferrari I bought her for Christmas.