The space between expectations and reality is called disappointment

Imagine Satan shows up before God and the council of angels and, just like the original story, wants to test Job. But in this particular permutation of the story, God says no. Don’t hurt his body, don’t hurt his children, don’t even hurt his livestock. So Satan pulls out plan B. “Can I lie to him?”

If Satan really wanted to get to Job without being able to hurt him, what could he do? What would be the lie that would make Job the most miserable? Let me submit that one of the most deadly would be this:

“You’ve been good, Job. In fact, when I came before the entire counsel of angels, God pointed you out to me. He said that you were blameless and upright, that there is no one like you on the earth, that you feared him and turned away from evil. So, I asked him, I asked him if I could destroy all that you had. I was sure that you only loved God because of what he gave you. And do you know what he said Job? He said no.

He said that since you were upright, since you stand up for the poor and oppressed, since you lead your family well, I am not allowed to hurt you. And he went further than that. He said that nothing bad would ever happen to you. Your flocks will keep increasing, your children will marry and give you many grandkids, your marriage will never be hard, and you will live a long and happy life. All this because you were righteous.”

If Job believed this, then even if he would not be in for an extraordinarily hard life, then at least he would be in for an extraordinarily disappointing one. Because even without Satan destroying his life, his life would still be hard. Job lived in the same fallen world as the rest of us, and the next best thing to making his life worse is convincing Job that it should be better.

This is the poisoned root at the heart of much of the prosperity gospel. By this I mean the vein of purportedly Christian thinking that says that it is God’s will that Christians will experience physical health and financial prosperity. The fundamental problem with this theology is that it is false. “Real graduate-level stuff there,” you may say. But bear with me. The danger of its falsity is this: if you believe it, your beliefs will grate constantly against reality, and disappointment, self-blame, and discouragement will be the hot metal shards that come out.

To return to the alternative story of Job, the prosperity gospel is the lie that Satan whispers to destroy the happiness of Christians. Proverbs 27 says that wounds from a friend can be trusted, but the kisses of an enemy are profuse. The Bible is a good friend to us when it wounds us with verses like “all who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12) and “In this world you you will have tribulation.” (John 16:33) The Bible is not being dour, it is being a friend who appropriately sets your expectations to the realities of life. Put another way, when life kicks you in the chest, you will be sore but not surprised. You will be able to walk with God through the suffering you knew was inevitable. It won’t hurt less, but you won’t feel betrayed or lied to.

However, when we multiply kisses by telling people that they will not face trouble through their Christian walk, the Bible would put us in the category of an adversary, which, unsurprisingly, is another name for Satan. (1 Peter 5:8)