An excerpt from “Micah: Asia Bible Commentary Series,” by Dr. Johan Ferreira:
There is an escalating crisis among the people of God: The rich have exploited the poor, then the leaders and administrators have become corrupt, but now even the prophets are hypocrites. Noticeably, the institutions and the leaders of the covenant community have abandoned God’s standards and are pursuing their own agendas.
Even the preachers of God’s people are driven by greed for money, power, and prestige. Unfortunately, Micah does not just describe the situation in ancient Israel, his words are also an apt portrayal of many churches and Christian leaders today.
Financial corruption is rife in many sections of the Asian church.
Shallow teaching, emotional extremes, greed, blind compliance, and hypocrisy among church leaders have led to thousands of “unchurched Christians” who have left the organized church. God will hold the leadership of the church accountable for this state of affairs.
Many preachers who have been implicated in financial mismanagement and corruption, whether in Asia or the West, are proponents of the so-called “prosperity gospel.” The theology of the “prosperity gospel” closely links Christian faith with success at work, in business, and in society. There is also an emphasis on miracles, healing, emotional highs, and having fun.
The leaders of such churches are often paraded as model Christians, being good-looking, trendy, healthy, affluent, and popular. They justify their approach on the basis of establishing “seeker sensitive” and “culturally relevant” churches. However, from a biblical perspective, this increasingly popular version of the Christian message is problematic.
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The Bible does not promise perfect health and worldly success for those who would follow Jesus.
Instead, it talks about tribulation, cross-bearing, and persecution. Clearly, human aspirations and the desires of the world are often at odds with the values of God’s kingdom. The Bible encourages Christians to pursue humility, self-denial, simplicity, poverty, honesty, purity, patience, justice, mercy, and faith.
Proponents of the “prosperity gospel” do not preach about sin and repentance, they do not focus on the cross, and they do not nourish the Lord’s sheep with real spiritual food. Rather, they twist the message of the Bible. Their teaching focuses on achieving one’s goals, reaching one’s full potential, and being healthy and happy. This message, of course, is very popular and easily attracts thousands of adherents, but the more important question is whether or not we are faithful to the biblical message that exposes human depravity and that calls us to repentance and faith.
[Read more: Pushing back against the prosperity gospel in Fiji]
Micah’s message calls for preachers and teachers in Asia to examine themselves.
Are we following the latest fashions of the world or are we focusing on the message of the cross, even though some may find it simplistic and others may be offended?
There is a choice to be made: to be popular with the world or to be truthful to God. Preachers and teachers need to take note. Micah’s message announces that God is not inattentive but is very much aware of the motivation and message of preachers. God will honor those who preach the gospel accurately with pure motivation but will forsake those who follow their own agendas.
About the author
Dr. Johan Ferreira is Professor of Oriental Studies at Minzu University, Beijing, China. He has a PhD in New Testament from the University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. He is the former principal of Brisbane School of Theology, Queensland, Australia, where he taught for eighteen years.
This excerpt is taken from “Micah: Asia Bible Commentary Series” (Langham Global Library, 2017). Used with permission.