Sunday, August 12, 2007

"For I Know the Plan I have for you..." Jeremiah 29:11 and the Prosperity Gospel

I've recently been blessed by the Todd Friel DVD video Herman Who? A Hermeneutics Primer. While only 1hr15min long, it essentially covers the necessary aspects a seminary student would cover in their hermeneutics and exegesis classes (if at all in today's Christian learning environments).

Anywhoo, I thought I'd do a post on perhaps one of the most common prooftexts used to justify the modern prosperity gospel:

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11 (New International Version)

Now, at first glance, someone may think when reading that "Okay, that seems pretty easy. It affirms what I was told earlier that God Loves Me and Has a Wonderful Plan For My Life. God's going to grant me prosperity, a life full of hope and a great future. There's no way that harm will come in my way because God's got control over everything."

Now is that what the verse actually says? Let's take a look at verses 9-14 in a more literal translation:
10"For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.
Jeremiah 29:10-14 (English Standard Version)

First of all, who was it written to? It was a prophetic word from God to the Israelites living under captivity in Babylon. Secondly, it is talking about their deliverence, that god will in effect come to their rescue, releasing them so that they can go back to their homland where all that was pillaged, all that was lost during the conquest will be restored. The nation would be restored as would it's relationship with the almighty. Ergo, Jeremiah was speaking to a specific group of people within his own time period about a specific thing that was going to happen there and then. Hence, v11 in it's proper context cannot apply to anyone who stumbles upon that verse; it is exclusive in meaning to chapter 29 and doesn't apply to anyone else today.

Secondly, v11 used on its own as a prooftext for the prosperity gospel just doesn't make sense with the rest of scripture which promises the opposite of a harmless, hopeful, hopeful life here on Earth:

35Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated?38 wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.of whom the world was not worthyandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
Hebrews 11:35-38 (English Standard Version)

19When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name sake.(I) But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 
Matthew 10:19-22 (English Standard Version)

 10Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord."11And the Lord said to him, "Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight." 13But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem.14And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name." 15But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name."Acts 9:10-16 (English Standard Version)3We put no obstacle in anyone way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 the Holy Spirit, by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, genuine love; 7by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.
2 Corinthians 6:3-10 (English Standard Version)

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