In the third season of The Righteous Gemstones, the character Uncle Baby Billy delivers a stirring rendition of “There’ll Come a Payday,” a gospel song that first made waves when Red Sovine performed it back in 1978. This song, with its unintentional comedic undertones, is an unwittingly prophetic critique of the prosperity gospel, perfectly showcasing the show’s talent for exposing the excesses and hypocrisies of contemporary Christendom. But let’s clear the air: Jesus never promised a payday.
The Prosperity Gospel: A Tantalizing Myth
The prosperity gospel, often dubbed “payday theology,” is a modern Christian doctrine that dangles the promise of financial blessings in exchange for faith and donations to religious causes. It’s a tantalizing concept, right? The notion that your faith could be your golden ticket to a heavenly jackpot. But here’s the reality check: it’s a con.
Jesus: The Carpenter, Not the Prosperity Preacher
Jesus, the humble carpenter from Nazareth, was not a prosperity preacher. He didn’t promise a mansion in the sky or a divine 401(k) plan. He didn’t preach about interest-free loans or celestial real estate. Instead, he advocated for self-sacrifice, loving the unlovable, and the importance of doing the right thing without the expectation of compensation or reward.
From ‘Take Up Your Cross’ to ‘There Will Come a Payday’
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus famously stated, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” There’s no mention of a payday in that statement. No promise of a heavenly bonus for good behavior. Just a call to self-denial and a life of service. So, how did we journey from “take up your cross” to “there will come a payday”? How did we lose sight of the essence of Jesus’ teachings and replace it with a theology that resembles a spiritual Ponzi scheme more than the teachings of the Son of God?
Faith Isn’t a Transaction: Debunking the Misconception
The answer is straightforward: Faith isn’t a transaction. The misconception is that if we just believe hard enough, pray fervently enough, and give generously enough, we’ll be rewarded with heavenly riches. But that’s not even in the same ballpark as what Jesus taught.
Living Jesus’ Teachings Without the Promise of a Payday
Jesus emphasized that our actions in the present matter. Not because they earn us points in some divine ledger, but because they reflect our character and values. He taught that the kingdom of God isn’t a future reward, but a present reality that we help shape through our actions and attitudes. The kingdom happens here and now through our actions and how we treat others. So, what’s the next step? How do we embody Jesus’ teachings without the promise of a payday? We start by doing the next right thing. We love our neighbors, even when they’re challenging to love. We give without expecting anything in return. We seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.
The Hollow Promise of a Payday
In the grand scheme of things, the promise of a payday is a hollow one. It’s a carrot dangled in front of us to keep us on the straight and narrow. But Jesus didn’t promise a payday. He promised something infinitely more valuable: a life of purpose, a life of love, and a life of service. And that, my friends, is worth far more than any payday.
Spoiler alert: Jesus never promised a payday. He promised a way of life. And that’s a promise worth keeping.
Don’t believe me?
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