Our Best Life
Many years ago, when I was a 17-year-old Southern California girl, a young man I met at the mall invited me to church. I agreed, and thus began my relationship with the Word of Faith movement. The church we attended was very different from my Lutheran church. The worship services were charismatic, something I’d never experienced before. And the people were devoted to the Scriptures in a way I’d never seen before.
Those folks really knew their Bibles! They could rattle off quote after quote. And that’s because they believed that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ,” which it does (Rom. 10.17). By repeating these quotes, they believed they could build their faith and speak their desires into existence. Only later did I realize that they really knew only certain parts of their Bibles, the parts that included the promises they wanted to claim and the list of sins that might keep them from gaining them. It was all about living your best life now (though that phrase wouldn’t be coined for another 20 years). The rest was ignored or re-interpreted to better suit their desires.
For instance, I was taught that Job’s tragedy was his own fault, a result of the sin of fear (Job 3.25), and that since Jesus “became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8.9b) God will not be glorified if we are driving around in jalopies. It was the shiny new Mercedes that would let people know that God had blessed us. Our wealth would make people want to be Christians. Further, because “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law” (Gal. 3.13), we should never be poor, or, for that matter, sick. If we are, it is a failure in our faith.
All these years later I’m always surprised to hear that some are still preaching this way, and that people are still falling for it. On the other hand, I’m not surprised. We all want to live our best life now, and considering we only get one life, why shouldn’t we? My question is, what do we mean by our best life? Are our hopes and dreams and energies invested in a material bucket list, or, like the heroes of faith before us, does our best life reflect our deepest desire for “a better country, that is, a heavenly one”?