Saturday, March 1, 2008

Forrest Gump & True Prosperity

Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.
3 John 2

There are few in this world who do not want prosperity or success. The goals of each are as varied as their nationalities, religious or economic backgrounds. Some ideas border on the absurd where success in crime is a goal, success in relationship(s) – the plural here already indicates failure – is exalted, or owning half of New York is sought after. My favorite is someone who considered that becoming disabled at work – on purpose - and collecting disability for the rest of their life was success. Never mind the inability to walk.

John tells us that there are three areas where he desired prosperity for his friends. He wanted them to prosper in all spheres, not just one. He also wanted them to have good health. However, he indicates that these areas of prosperity are somehow in proportion to our souls prospering. This is a far cry from those who work this as a formula in reverse order. They think that health and wealth produce inner peace, and the adherents of this are not confined to the secular realm. Sadly, some prosperity teachers in the church expound this error every day on airways all over the world. While claiming that Jesus is still the center the proportion of time given to talking about money betrays the true value system.

Having the resources that I need for life is a good thing, but I must first comprehend what “Life” actually is so that I can live it to the fullest. One of the best examples of a fully lived life in recent history was
Forrest Gump. In fact, the film has become iconic in its portrayal of a broad period of American history, and Forrest’s simplistic value system often ran against the grain of society to the point that he looked stupid. His answer was quoting his favorite philosopher, his mama, who said, “Stupid is as stupid does.” If we look at the daily news we would have to agree with his mama. Very prosperous people do very stupid things. However, Forrest, who was a little slow, was not so stupid after all because he did some very wise things.

  • Forrest was not opposed to wealth. “One less thing,” was his response. He took his wealth and donated much to a hospital, built a church and he then “cut the city’s grass for free” because he was not trying to get rich. Forrest was generous.
  • Forrest was loyal to a fault. He gave half of his wealth to Bubba’s mother even though Lt. Dan said he was an idiot for doing so. Bubba had died in Vietnam, but the promise was 50/50 when they planned to go into business together. Forrest was an honest man.
  • Forrest did not grow cynical when he experienced loss. His life had many ups and downs, and he grew reflective instead of bitter when pain came his way. The reason might be because his goal wasn’t to be up or avoid being down.
  • Forrest was too stupid to understand prejudice. Oh that the world was his kind of stupid, but the world is a different kind of stupid, the kind mamma talked about.
  • When the shrimpin bidness was not going well Forrest turned to God. It did not matter to him that he was the only white guy in the church. Forrest witnessed to Lt. Dan and even got him to go. God eventually showed up in the shrimpin bidness.
  • Forrest never stopped loving his friends even when they rejected him. His loyalty and optimism wore down the cynicism of Lt. Dan, and even though Jenny had ruined her life she was won over in the end by his simple yet steadfast love. Even though he was not a smart man he knew what love was, and this was the bedrock of his prosperity.
Ultimately, Forrest’s simple faith brought more inner contentment than many Christians have. “Why”, you might ask? I will try to make it simple. Many Christians have adopted the goals of the world as their source of identity and security. They want too many things, and even too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Forrest even thought that Elvis may have died because, “He probably sang too many songs.”

Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Phil 4:11-13

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