Make it last

So for the past few weeks, I have been talking about the Generosity Gospel. If you’re scratching your head, wondering what is the Generosity Gospel, go look at my past few posts.

I hope that in the last few posts, you noticed that I broke the big topic into many smaller items and stretched it out. Like all good things, we want to make them last. And a good, challenging topic is no different.

God, in the Bible talks about many different topics, but He doesn’t lay it all out in one go. He stretches it out and we can read about it throughout the Bible. We learn one aspect here and a few weeks or maybe even months later, we learn another.

Having the time between the different aspects allows us to process and internalise. We get to learn more when we ponder on a topic over time, much like cooking. Simmering over low heat over a long time turns tough sinew from something tough and chewy into something tender and falls apart in our mouths.

The description of God’s throne room in Revelations 4 is the most descriptive reveal of God in the Bible. It describes His surrounds and gives us an physical image to picture. But this isn’t complete. It is like a final reveal after the massive build up that starts in Genesis 1.

Just reading Revelations 4 might give us a description of God in His throne room, but it fails to tell us what God is like, His character, His attributes, etc. In a way, the description fails to fully describe His majesty, glory, holiness, and when taken without the context of all the other things we learn about God, fails miserably in describing God fully. I believe that’s why God doesn’t give us such a detailed description of Himself until the final book in the Bible.

There’s so much to Him that we need the time to process before we get a full idea of who He is. So when you write to discuss difficult topics, take your time, stretch it out a little and make it last.

Give it an appropriate title

“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

When Shakespeare wrote that line, he was talking about the nature of the object/subject being more important than what we call it.

As I’ve been talking about in my past two posts, I agree that the nature of is more important than its name. However, the name given to something can cause people to have wrong ideas about it. The Prosperity Gospel (PG) is thought about as talking about God wanting people to be prosperous. Again, in this post, I am saying that’s a misdirection. It is talking about being generous.

The title “Prosperity Gospel” directs people in a wrong direction by giving them ideas about something it is not about. I suggest that we give it a different name to start pointing people in the right direction.

The Simpsons asked a good question when a character quoted the Shakespeare line, “What’s in a name?” Bart suggested calling roses, “Stink Blossoms”. The idea of calling a nice flower “stink blossoms” is a big turn off, no matter what the flower is really like. So we need to clearly label things as they are. As a web writer, I cannot misdirect people labelling links with the wrong name. That just wrong as it confuses people.

The same thing has happened to the PG. We have the name “Prosperity” in it, and people start talking about how God wants us to be rich. We can’t run away from the name. As I have shown, I believe it is about about generosity. I suggest that we rename the PG as the “Generosity Gospel”. That starts people off on the correct foot. We can see that in its title, and we are both on the correct foot.

As writers, we need to understand the topic before we give it a proper name. We can title a book “Trek through space” if we want to, but have it tell a story about a Russian family in history near the start of the Soviet Union. You can do that if you want to, but that would be deceptive. There is nothing to what we know as “space”.

One would have to put in a lot of creative thought to the story. “Trek through space” would be picked up by many Trekkies and sci-fi buffs. But once they look at the blurb at the back, they would drop it like a ton of rocks. Would history buffs even pick it up? Very unlikely.

So my tip for you this week is this. Give your writing an appropriate name. That’s how you get people to read your material.

How to reframe your topic

Last week, I talked about the Prosperity Gospel (PG) and how many who talk about it have missed the point. We talk about it in this day and age about receiving the reward for giving. Go read about it if you want to know more.

Because of this false focus on the PG, many people have an issue with the prosperity gospel. They feel that the PG promotes greed and features God as someone we can get to do our bidding. Interestingly enough, I got saved when I heard the Good News through a preaching on the PG. Now you have an idea of the kind of person I was. I’ve grown a lot since then, so put away your pitch-forks and torches.

But the PG is very much misunderstood by just about anyone who’ve talked about it online. That has a lot to do with its name. With such a name, just about everyone thinks it is about wealth and ‘having’.

Christ is in the business of inward change, not outward change, therefore nothing in the Bible talks about outward action. Therefore, we have to conclude that what we call the PG is not about giving and receiving as they are outward actions.

So what should the conclusion be? I propose that God is talking about being generous, not about giving, not about receiving. Generosity is an inward attitude that is demonstrated externally, and therefore, it is a better understanding of God’s goal for us.

Let’s bring this back to writing and storytelling now. I have tried to reframe the point of the PG by talking about what I think it is truly about instead of tearing it apart. If we seek to convince people, it is easier to start on a place of agreement. People are more open to hearing from us when they think we agree with them – we see this in many people’s social media use.

It has been shown that people are spending so much time because the AI behind people’s newsfeed tend to show people what they are interested in. People won’t be shown ideas from others who oppose theirs, so you’ve gotten past the first gate-keeper – social media algorithm.

Now that you’ve gotten past their defences, people start reading. If they see that you’re tearing down their belief system, they’re turned off. However, if you show that there’s agreement, you have a captive audience and can “redirect their gaze”. You have an open door to reframe the narrative.

Let’s look at a classic movie (I term it classic because it’s over 20 years ago when it was first released). They started showing how Shrek was a classic ogre – dirty and disgusting creature which is destined to live alone. That’s the “agreement” part. Most people would think that’s the image of ogres in their minds.

From this place of agreement, the story goes on to show how Shrek isn’t just a dirty, disgusting creature. He is also a friend and someone who is capable of love. I’ll leave the summary as that as I don’t want to spoil the story for those who may not have watched the movie.

So my writing tip for you today is this – start from a place of agreement and make your point. You go fishing with something fish wants to eat, not not something that drives them away.

Get the full story

The Prosperity Gospel (PG) is given a bad name because the name promotes greed. I agree because it tells people to ‘want’, to ‘have’, to ‘receive’ because that seems to be the focus on the PG.

There are many who believe it is wrong to be blessed, to be prosperous, to live in abundance. That belief is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. This comes from a misunderstanding of 1 Tim 6:10. Those who have the wrong belief seem to skip over “the love of”. Money itself is not evil, but the love of money is. So money is not evil.

Jesus had money for his ministry. He had a treasurer (Jh 12:6). Jesus didn’t have to worry about the money. He in fact, had enough that Judas (the treasurer) was able to help himself to some without anyone noticing. If there was any form of lack, Judas would be caught out very quickly.

However, after all that is said and done, the Bible does tell us that God blesses us if we are faithful with what he gave (Mal 3:7-11). And God blesses us when we are faithful to Him, and open our wallets to what He has called us to do. Read Proverbs 11:25, Proverbs 22:9, Isaiah 32:8, 2 Corinthians 9 (pay special attention to verse 7). And these are just a small handful of God promising His faithfulness to us.

So you may be now wondering what my stance is – do I agree with the PG or I don’t? It doesn’t matter. What matters is what the Bible teaches. And the Bible teaches us to be generous, to give cheerfully. And that is what is missing in the PG. PG teaches us to give so that we can receive. I suggest we need to focus on the most important thing. to give, and to give generously because that reflects our Father’s heart. And receiving will come naturally because “You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion” (2 Cor 9:11).

Let’s bring this back to writing now. As writers, we have stories to tell. We love telling the story of the “hero” or “protagonist”, and their adventures. But there is also the story of the antagonist. What does the antagonist want? What is their motivation? How does that play out in the story?

I don’t know about you, but I love to hear the stories of antagonists. Hot Fuzz’s antagonists had a great story and rounded off the story well. When we just focus on the antagonist, the story feels unbalanced, like so many 80’s and 90’s action films when I was growing up.

So when we write, remember the PG. It actually doesn’t have much to do with prosperity as all. It has to do with having a generous spirit. Tell the full story.