Little did I know of course (being a new convert) as I hung unto that promise verse that it was not a special revelation just for us – but one of those frequently touted feel-good verses that rears its head especially when one is making some sort of new commitment to Christ.
But how accurate is applying this particular verse to anyone in Christ? Not very.
"This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon ... " (Jeremiah 29 verse 4). So who is it for? Those the Lord carried out of exile. So what's the problem with applying it to one of us?
Let me set the scene.
Here's Stephen, on fire for the Lord just after Pentecost and one of the original disciples decided to quote Jeremiah 29 verse 11 for him at his baptism. Next day, lo and behold the young Stephen with his whole life ahead of him gets stoned to death for preaching to the Jews. First Christian martyr… just like that. Wouldn't he then have a right to go back to God and ask "Hey, where was this prospering you were talking about? Where was this future?"
Blessed are you… and you… and you…
Junk happens (or should I say 'sin happens'?) in this life but all the Western sheeple in their lavish churches are buying into the lie that they will be "prospered" as if God cares so much more for them than He does for those in His fold that are starving in Africa.
So who says that you will be prospered? That you won't be harmed? Not Jesus that's for certain.
Let me tell you what Jesus does say.
"Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me."
Why are they blessed? Because God has this big plan for them with a bunch of kids and life to retirement and people will be speaking bad about them just because they're jealous of all the abundance that God will one day give them? No! They're blessed only because of the promises of heaven. Blessed are you when you get stoned to death? You betcha, because you know Jesus (and the truth) but not because Jesus is promising to give you stuff.
"Blessed are those who mourn."
Why? Who likes to grieve over things or people they've lost in this life? Is it because God will soon give them a new wife, husband or baby to compensate for that loss? Not necessarily. They're blessed because they have a new understanding of how God mourns over us (and hopefully a greater desire to reach the lost). They're blessed because God mourns with them.
"Blessed are the poor."
Why? Because they won't always be poor? Because someone has declared Jeremiah 29:11 over them and they're gonna get out of the poor person "bondage" that's holding them down? You're kidding me, right? Even if they starve to death next week they're blessed because they'll be with Jesus and never hunger again in the next life.
And the greater blessing goes to…
So what of these mega-church pastors living fancy? Are they "blessed" according to God? "Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you" says James. "But woe to you who are rich" says Jesus.
Please Pastors, stop going around pronouncing blessings of long life, children and monetary things over your congregation (except in the case of direct revelation from God). Yes God is in control but having everything go smoothly is more of a curse than a blessing because it gets people too comfortable to rely on Him.
People that have lost children have a greater understanding of the magnitude of God's sacrifice for Jesus than the rest of us. People that are poor have a great sense of eternal riches – silver and gold that will not rust. People with lost limbs have a greater grasp of how wonderful the new body we will soon receive is. Are we blessed that are rich, with no child deaths and no lost limbs? Not as blessed, not spiritually. It's a blessing we may never know.
Woe to us rich
Let's stop quoting Jeremiah 29 verse 11 and acknowledge real spiritual blessings. Does God bless with children? Sometimes but the barren have their own special blessing of a greater faith than those with their five kids. Does God bless with money? Sometimes, but a poor woman in Africa is more blessed with a greater affirmation of God's love than Joe Mega-church in America. Does God bless with good health? Sometimes, but the one on death row with cancer has a greater value of the time they have left.
As Jesus would say, woe to us and our emphasis on material blessings. May God bless you in whatever form that takes but greater still are those spiritual blessings of those that suffer in this life.
Bridget Brenton has been researching apologetics, philosophy and the paranormal for years. You can check her apologetic effort out at www.101arguments.com.
Bridget Brenton's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/bridget-brenton.html