The False Teaching that’s More Prevalent than the Prosperity Gospel

Do you ever get that feeling that something around you isn’t quite right? Like what you’re hearing and what you’re experiencing are two different realities that aren’t matching up to each other?

I’ve been feeling that way about American Christianity for a while now, but haven’t really been able to put my finger on it until recently.

And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. The realization that there is indeed a common Christian teaching going around that is more insidious and more subtly false than the prosperity gospel. The best name to describe it is this: self-help Christianity.

The Dilemma

I fell victim to this teaching for quite a while myself, because it sounded right and fed a lot of the doubts and insecurities I had about my faith. Self-help Christianity is fond of maxims like “deep down, you’re really a great person”, and “ultimately, God wants you to be happy.” Or how about “learn to love yourself.” Sounds pretty good right?

The problem is, that’s not at all what the Bible teaches. It’s kinda like western New Ageism and historical Christianity had a child and it was — this.

The problem with self-help Christianity is that it removes God from his rightful position of authority and power and places you (the self) at the center of the solution to life’s problems.

If only you could know yourself deeper and more intimately, then you would finally break through to the next level of happiness/success/whatever. If you take the time and energy to get your needs met, then you’ll finally be able to fulfill your true purpose (spoiler: you are not designed to meet your own needs).

The main issue with this teaching is that it assumes people are innately good at heart, and capable of having a positive impact on the world by undergoing a process of self-discovery. In fact, this could not be further from what the Bible teaches.

I subscribed to self-help Christianity during a period in my life when I was searching for purpose. I had just left another job (the 2nd in 9 months) out of disillusionment and despair. I was feeling repressed, like my talents weren’t fully being utilized (how millennial can you get?), and just generally bored with the whole thing. I set off on a journey to discover what I was really meant to do.

The problem was (and I realized this later), a career was never meant to give me the satisfaction I was expecting to get from it. I was trying to fill the God-sized hole in my heart with work, success, and self-realization. And it was woefully insufficient.

The Solution

The good news is, because self-help Christianity falls so woefully short in solving the big issues of life, it points us towards the ultimate truth: that there is a creator God who designed humans to find complete satisfaction and fulfillment through worshipping and glorifying Him.

It’s a paradox really, the idea that the only way to truly ‘help’ ourselves is to give up all autonomy and control of our lives. This idea flies in the face of our enlightenment-tinged paradigms, but it remains true nonetheless.

If you’re struggling in some area of your life, I invite you to stop trying to ‘help’ yourself (because I can assure you it’s not going to work). As one of my favorite authors Tim Keller says,

“We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

Oh what a relief to realize we don’t have to be the solution to the world’s problems (or even our own!). Let’s come and find our true help at the cross of Jesus Christ.

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Should Christians Do Long Term World Travel?


This is a question I have been wrestling with for a few weeks now. As I’ve spent the last 3+ months tramping all up and down Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, I’ve come to a point where I am mightily fatigued of being a tourist. I’m still enjoying being abroad and exploring, but a part of me really desires stability, structure, and just to feel like a normal person again.


My life for 26 days

My life for 26 days


I feel like I’ve hit the point where I’ve realized, this is no longer just a vacation. This is my life for the foreseeable future. When you’re on vacation you do things like cram as much as possible into a tight time window. You set up itineraries and book flights and make hotel bookings. I haven’t made an advanced hotel booking in over 10 weeks. Even when I crossed into Vietnam and arrived in Saigon at 3:30 am, I just took a mototaxi into the city and wandered around and made noise until someone from a guest house poked their head out. It’s a completely different mindset when you become accustomed to another culture and begin to understand how things operate. You start to lose your fear.

But while that’s all grand and well, some days I daydream about mundane things like going to a park to play frisbee golf. Or Chick-Fil-A, I daydream about their sandwiches. Or even the other day I went to see a Hollywood movie with friends, and it felt really nice to experience something familiar again.


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Back home, the struggle was always trying to avoid boredom. Out on the road, the struggle is to not romanticize how that boredom felt and want it back. Because at least the boredom was familiar, it was predictable. You knew it was there if you wanted it, and sometimes even if you didn’t. Schedules and routines felt like cozy fireplaces. When in reality, at the time you thought they felt more like shackles to a life you weren’t entirely sure you wanted.

I suppose “the grass is always greener” aptly describes the traveler and non-traveler’s struggles alike. We tend to want what we don’t have, or maybe even what we used to have. But what we have now is never fully appreciated in the moment.


Hanging Around on Monkey Island

Hanging Around on Monkey Island


And finally, that brings me to the title of this post. Should Christians travel? Specifically solo long-term world travel? Is it possible to have a balanced and thriving spiritual life while your daily life, your bed, and your relationships are constantly changing? Is continual movement the catalyst for growth? Or does structure foster stability which in turn yields deep roots in a community?

I don’t have the answers to these questions, nor am I particularly looking for advice into my personal life. I’m just curious if anyone else has experienced similar thoughts.


Vietnam-Sunset


For the time being I am resolved to travel a little slower, see a little less and soak up a little more. I’ll let a place show me what is, rather than always running around trying to find out for myself. Because after all, I have a pretty darn good life right now. And while I think our desires morph and change as we get older, gratitude and appreciation for what you have is beneficial no matter your age or what you want out of life.

So for now, I’ll just breathe. Breathe in the moments of life while they’re still here.

Vietnam_Coastline