How do you know that God is pleased with someone? What does God's favor look like? What will you find if you look at the life of a thriving Christian?
One false gospel claims that the best Christians will be healthy. Freedom from sickness reflects your freedom from sin. A healthy body stands as the outward manifestation of a healthy soul. Strengthening your faith-muscles gives you a healthy glow. You'll live long.
Except that this didn't work for Jesus or the early church. Few lived to ripe old age.
Another false gospel claims that the best Christians will be wealthy. God blesses those he loves with material abundance. To the faithful, more will be given. God enlarges your tent if you obey him (especially with the tithe). You will prosper.
Except that this didn't work for Jesus or the early church. Few lived with great wealth.
Live long and prosper. Few evangelical Christians will claim that this is the goal of life or the good news about Jesus. Jesus didn't join our humanity, live a life of love, die on the cross, conquer sin and death, and rise to new life just so we can live long and prosper. He wants more for us than health and wealth.
We know this.
We ... know ... this.
This is the temptation for us. To measure by knowing. To measure not by health and wealth, but by knowledge.
Which books have you read?
Who and what can you quote?
Who do you recognize?
Do you know arcane theological terms?
Do you know the Alpha according to its nature?
Did you catch that reference to the Infancy Gospel of Thomas?
Knowledge, like health and wealth can become a false North Star for the Christian life. It's tempting for us to think that all God wants from us is to grow in knowledge, that a little more knowledge will solve all our problems. We look for answers in the latest books. Fight the latest controversies, thinking that if we're on the right side, we'll be accepted by God. We think that a little more knowledge will end war, end poverty, end racism and sexism and fanaticism.
This is where the Haiti Test comes in so handy.
The Haiti Test is a test my friend Evan Keller over at Entrust uses to fish for cultural snobbery in spiritual life. It goes like this: "if it isn't true in Haiti, it isn't true at all." The Haitians who most love Jesus don't experience health and a wealth. The earthquake shook everyone. Disease and poverty effects everyone. And the godliest people seem to suffer significantly.
With this in mind, it certainly wouldn't be fair to claim that a man in Haiti who was never taught to read can never be as favored by God as faux-Ivy Leaguers like me. By virtue of my education and comparative wealth, I will always have more knowledge, more access to knowledge, than that man in Haiti (and most of the people who ever lived).
Now, you might say "Didn't Jesus have knowledge? And weren't the founders of the church wise?"
Sure. I'll give you that. But so were the Pharisees and the Sophists. They memorized the Scriptures. They were in constant dialogue with the most brilliant minds of their day. But they still missed out on Jesus.
Though wise, Jesus didn't make wisdom our goal. He didn't say "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, that you have great knowledge."
What did Jesus say?
If the mark of a disciple of Jesus isn't knowledge or health or wealth, what is it?