Posted in Bible Studies, Other Things

I Hate the Prosperity Gospel

Hate is a strong word. I rarely use it. When I do use it, I make it clear that I do not use it in jest, or without reason. When I say I hate something, I mean I abhor it, I detest it, and I wish it were not in existence.

Therefore, saying that I hate the prosperity gospel, I still feel I am putting it mildly. Frankly, I wish it would disappear never to deceive another Christian again.

What is the prosperity gospel?

Without giving you a long, drawn-out definition, I will make it simple: the prosperity gospel convinces Christians that God wants them to be wealthy, that he does not want his children to suffer, and that he wants them to enjoy every moment of this life, because he promised he would bless those who have faith enough to believe he would do just that.

In effect, the prosperity gospel does more than hurt Christian growth. The prosperity gospel attempts to deceive us into believing that with enough faith, we will inherit the blessings promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and by extension, the nation of Israel in this lifetime, which is simply not true.

What is worse is that Christian ministries throughout North America are now exporting this health and wealth gospel to poorer nations, such as Africa, and walking away with millions of dollars in donations for what in reality is a lie.

Problems with the prosperity gospel

Several inherent problems exist with the prosperity gospel that Christians ought to understand:

1. The prosperity gospel negates Christ’s sacrifice.

Jesus sacrificed his life in order to reconcile us with God (Ephesians 5:2; Hebrews 10:14). Up until Christ’s death, there was a need for a blood offering as a means to approach God’s throne (Exodus 30:10). Without that sin offering, which typically came in the form of an animal sacrifice performed by a representative of the Levitical priesthood (Leviticus 4:1-7), no one could request an audience with God directly.

All that changed once Jesus died on the cross. No longer do we need to worry about our sins getting in the way of our relationship with God. Instead, we have Jesus, who bore the penalty of our sins, who now acts on our behalf as intercessor, drawing us nearer to God in a communion based on repentance and forgiveness (1 Timothy 2:5-6). In turn, God refers to us as sons, of whom the creation is eagerly waiting for the revealing of our inheritance (Romans 8:18-19).

The prosperity gospel throws that all aside for the temporary hope of gaining riches now. Christ’s shed blood is meaningless in the context of our desire to petition God to grant wishes, as if he were some kind of genie. God is only there to serve, and if he does not give us what we want, then we did not ask him with enough faith, which cheapens what Jesus did for us because there would be no need for redemption if all we are looking for is a comfortable life without sickness.

2. The prosperity gospel does not recognize Christian suffering.

When God began working with Job, one of the richest men of the Old Testament (Job 1:1-3, 8), he began doing so by allowing Job to lose everything (verses 13-19). God not only used Satan to permit Job’s suffering (verse 12), but he also used Job’s sense of loss to act as a contributing factor to bring about his repentance. Job came to realize just how awesome and wonderful God is, such that he accepted God’s greatness regardless if he understood, or not, why God did what he did (Job 42:1-6).

Contrast this example with how the prosperity gospel interprets scripture.

The prosperity gospel renders Job’s suffering as an example of the doubling-up principle detailed in Exodus, “If a man gives to his neighbor money or goods to keep safe, and it is stolen from the man’s house, then, if the thief is found, he shall pay double” (Exodus 22:7 ESV throughout). In Job’s case, the thief was Satan; and since Satan took all that Job had, Job’s compensation would be double his loss (Job 42:10).

Saying it another way, Job’s suffering had nothing to do with repentance, but had everything to do with claiming a reward from a long-forgotten civil statute enacted in ancient Israel to discourage thievery.

A couple of things are wrong with this thinking. First, when Job went through everything he did, the nation of Israel did not exist, therefore, the thievery statute, being part of the Law of Moses, did not exist. Second, and more importantly, it would be presumptuous to assume God’s intention when he allows people to suffer. It would be even a bigger mistake for others to deny that God allows suffering.

In the New Testament, Jesus spoke many times about this life’s riches and the futility of trying to accumulate wealth (Luke 12:15-21). He even made it clear that the rich would have a hard time entering the kingdom of God, “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24). In all that Jesus said, he guaranteed one thing: his followers would suffer for his name’s sake (John 15:20) and his apostles confirmed this understanding (1 Peter 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:12). He did not promise material wealth, but actually encouraged followers to sell everything to give to the poor (Matthew 19:21).

3. The prosperity gospel blames poverty on a lack of faith.

People are poor because they want to be poor. In essence, that is the prosperity gospel message.

We do not have because we do not ask. If we asked, we would have and we would not have any reason to disbelieve God’s promises made to Abraham. Of course, this reasoning does not take into account what the apostle Paul said:

“Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ.” (Galatians 3:16)

People become sick and stay sick because they lack faith in God to heal them. After all, did not Jesus say, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease” (Mark 5:34)? Yet when someone dies of cancer, is it because of a lack of faith that he or she died, or was it that God allowed it to happen for a greater purpose?

The prosperity gospel answers this question by hinging its entire theology on faith. With enough faith, God will bless us Christians with health, wealth and happiness. If we hope for whatever we ask, we will receive it; and if we do not receive it, we did not hope for it enough.

The problem with this type of thinking is that we make what we hope for our goal instead of asking God what his will is for us (Matthew 6:33). In fact, God’s will soon takes a backseat to our desires, which could run contrary to what he wants (James 4:2-3). For this reason, many Christians wonder why God allows things to happen the way they do, rather than trusting God’s ability to resolve things according to his will.

There is nothing wrong with having faith, so long as we do not mistake it for materialistic faith, which leads nowhere other than against God’s plan.

4. The prosperity gospel guarantees a payback for anything Christians give.

Imagine investing $100 and receiving $10,000 back. That is what the prosperity gospel will have us believe. Whatever money we give will come back to us a hundredfold: “Jesus said, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life'” (Mark 10:29-30).

Other than the apostle John, historical evidence suggests all the apostles died by the hands of persecutors. What happened to their reward? Whatever became of their hundreds of houses they owned?

The prosperity gospel twists the meaning of these verses to suit an invalid premise: if we Christians give, we will receive a hundredfold reward now in the form of money and property. But, that is not what it says. Jesus is talking about prosperity in relationships and families. Jesus explains this at the beginning of the book of Mark:

“And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.’ And he answered them, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother’.” (Mark 3:31-35)

As regarding to the mention of houses and lands, these verses are referring to families, much like how other parts of scripture refer to families by a patriarch’s name; such as the House of David (1 Samuel 20:16; 2 Samuel 3:1), the House of Judah (2 Samuel 2:4; 1 Kings 12:21), and the House of Jacob and Israel (Jeremiah 3:18; Hebrews 8:10).

And should there be any confusion as to what Jesus was preaching, we need to read Mark 10:29-30 in context with the other verses surrounding the passage, starting from verse 17 all the way to verse 31. Jesus was saying that for the rich and wealthy, it would be difficult, almost impossible, for them to enter the kingdom of God, “And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’” (verse 23). Before that, he made it even clearer to a rich, young man what his stance was regarding riches, “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me’” (verse 21).

Other proponents of the prosperity gospel camp turn to the Old Testament to convince Christians to give generously: “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need” (Malachi 3:10).

Again, should what Malachi say apply to Christians today, it does not refer to blessings now, although we may receive blessings but it may have more to do with God’s spontaneous generosity than with the verses written in Malachi (Matthew 6:3-4).

God wants generous and cheerful givers (2 Corinthians 9:7). He does not want Christians giving with the expectation of getting something back in return (Proverbs 11:7). He does not want to limit us to give only a tithe, or rather, 10% of our increase either. Everything is his (Psalm 24:1). He wants to see just how much of what he gives to us do we dare keep.

What is the true gospel?

Jesus came as God in the flesh (John 1:1-3, 14), lived, died, and rose from the dead. He sits at the right hand of the father (Romans 8:34), waiting for the time when he will return as a conquering king (Hebrews 10:12-13). During his time on earth, Jesus taught about loving God and loving others more than himself (Mark 12:28-31; John 15:13). He healed the sick (Mark 1:34), taught forgiveness (Matthew 6:14) and instituted the Lord’s Supper as a memorial of his death and resurrection (Luke 22:17-20).

Jesus willingly gave his life on the cross (Matthew 26:39), to save from the penalty of sin, which is death (Romans 6:23), all those who believe in him (John 3:17-18).

Everyone who believes now has salvation through Christ’s sacrifice (John 3:16).

This is the true gospel.

Author:

Jack Flacco preaches a message of repentance and forgiveness, offering hope to those looking to improve their relationship with others through faith in Jesus.

18 thoughts on “I Hate the Prosperity Gospel

  1. God does detest wealth-seeking (Luke 16). Jesus wants us to care about our fellow man and help the poor especially (the rich man and Lazarus). I also hate the hucksters like Kenneth Copeland who lie to people to enrich themselves.

  2. I came out of one of these kinds of churches. It had not been that way in the beginning…. The pastor and his extended family moved into town and settled down after he (originally an evangelist) went back on his word to the churches in the area that he wasn’t there to start a church, but only to hold revival meetings. The bad way many of their employees were treated while those in the leadership moved into gated communities and bought vacation properties in Hawaii and other places, their desire for nice “things” and their work of detaching themselves from the people by coming through separate entrances of the church, limiting their contact with the “sheeple” by simply not being available for personal contact via bodyguards and security staff, and the ever-longer “give to get” offering messages, spoke far louder than their emphatic declarations that they weren’t in it for the money. I believe the pastor honestly started out as a missionary type person, with good intentions and a pure heart, but the lure of the American dollar got to him. He also lost a daughter to a chronic illness and went on a one-man crusade, backed by millions of dollars from his “flock,” declared by him to be approved by God as a way to take back millions into the kingdom for the loss of his child. What about all the others who lost family members to illness or accident? What about the members of his own church who couldn’t pay their rent or buy food but who were reminded it was their sovereign obligation to tithe even if it left them unable to care for their families while the pastor and his leadership team lived in their comfy houses with far more than enough including multiple cars, motorcycles, designer clothing, and even a private jet for a time?

    I don’t think God is concerned with the amount of money we give. I myself gave enough over many years (until my eyes were opened by the Holy Spirit) that at times my kids and I went without, or I had to ask for help with food and bills. I believe our obligation is to our family first unless God specifically directs us to give sacrificially for a specific purpose. Not only that, but giving isn’t just money. It’s time, and caring, and love, and compassion….it’s not all about the pocketbook. We’re told in Matthew 25 that visiting the sick and those in prison, ministering to the poor, and caring for those in need is ministering to Jesus. This one church no longer has a food pantry, and they don’t emphasize touching the lives of the suffering as much now as they do adding a $10 million extension to the church campus so they can build a bigger bible school where students can be instructed in the finer details of the prosperity and Word of Faith movement. They have turned their eyes inward. They use their students to travel all over the state and, indeed, the country, holding “revivals” and encouraging others to join their self-declared great awakening…..Frankly, I’ve never read of any time in history where God had to wait for mankind to spread the word before He visited revival — in Wales, on Azusa Street, or anywhere else. He doesn’t move by man’s timetable, or at his direction. There is no repentance spoken of except in the altar call, and then it’s just fleeting. People aren’t taught about sin except as it refers to not giving enough. If you’re sick, it’s because you need to give more. If your spouse dies of cancer, it’s because you don’t have enough faith — better give an extra offering and pray more. If you don’t live like the leadership do, in comfort and style, it’s your own fault. You need to give more, serve the church/pastor/leadership more, and if you’re faithful enough, God will bless you too.

    As you can see, this is a subject near and dear to my heart. I honestly think this kind of teaching grieves the Holy Spirit as the emphasis has moved from worship and living for God as witnesses even in the midst of the trials of life to money, things, and status. Where are the intercessors? Where are the programs for widows and orphans, for clothing the needy and feeding the hungry? Where is the prison ministry? Where are teachings on living in holiness, dressing modestly (both genders, not just women!), turning from sin, and being the extension of Jesus to a lost and dying world? I don’t know. I don’t see that at this church. What I see are those in leadership using their flock as a way of garnering personal wealth and status (“I go to so-and-so’s church” — why do we elevate the leaders so far that they are almost deities?) often at the expense of those who are supporting them, luring them in with promises of perfect health and wealth if only they give enough and believe enough. This movement has caused the growth of mega-churches to support the lavish lifestyles of the elite, while the workers in the trenches are supposed to be grateful for any crumbs tossed in their direction.

    I pray for those who have been deceived by these charlatans, that God would open their eyes as He did mine. He did not ever tell us we’d be comfortable in this life….in fact, what we experience here on Earth is designed and allowed to shape us into stronger, more compassionate people — not to sit high and mighty, comfy in our lush surroundings, while millions around us go quietly to hell.

    One last thing…..I keep getting drawn back to the story of the widow’s mite. There’s the rich man, all puffed up because of how much he’s given, convinced of his self-importance….and the widow comes in, dropping her last coin into the offering, and Jesus tells the disciples she has given far more because she gave all she had. The stories these prosperity gospel proponents tell of giving thousands of dollars to another prosperity gospel ministry hold no water because in the scheme of things, based on what they have to start with, even sometimes a $50,000 donation doesn’t put them at the point of having nothing left. Are they giving sacrificially, or giving to make a show? And, by telling everyone what they’ve done, aren’t they negating the command to not let your one hand know what the other hand is doing when it comes to giving??? Aren’t we supposed to give in secret, and let God handle the rewards? When they do this, telling people that they gave so much and they got so much in return, they have gotten their reward. (Matthew 6:4)

    Anyway….sorry for the discourse. This has been on my heart for many years now.

    Excellent post! You put it well. God, please keep me from this trap….though it seems You have already done so….

  3. The word prosperity is never once found in the New Testament. 1st Corinthians 9:18 says when I preach the gospel I’m a present the gospel of Christ without charge so that I will not abuse my authority in the gospel. That is one of the best verses against Prosperity Gospel in the Bible. Good article

  4. Great post! God bless you for sharing this truths.
    I though I was the only one hating this prosperity gospel! Here in Africa it is so rampant unfortunately majority of this preachers are given air time on TV deceiving many.

  5. This post has a lot of truth. I remember the era of prosperity preaching. It seems that it was the same era that America was prospering as well. There were seasons in Israel when the people would prosper – but often in their prosperity they would forget God because they had become content in their “things.” I have often described American Christians (and I am one of them) as fat latte drinking people who have not tasted the suffering of Christ.

    With that said though- I do not want to throw out the baby with the bathwater, so to speak. Prosperity, in and of itself is not necessarily bad. It is the message of greed that is in error. Like I have heard some state, “money is the root of all evil”. No, it is the “love of money that is the root of all evil”. (1 Timothy 6:10a). God is the one who causes us to prosper and prospering is exemplified in more ways than material wealth. So, what we need to do is take back the LIES that satan has spewed about prosperity.

    I like verse you quoted: “Jesus said, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life’” (Mark 10:29-30).

    I think people forget the part of persecutions in the scripture. This verse has meant a lot to me because I watched my parents, as I was growing up, give up so much to follow the Lord. Many on both sides of their families mocked them as they devoted their lives to the Lord. They had purchased their first house when the Lord called them to Africa. They gave it up (that American dream) to follow Jesus and instead ran a boarding school in Africa. Many children got saved there. Still some 40 years later they have kids around the world who tell them “thank you for leading me to Christ”. And this was one example of the life they have lived. They have done it time and time again. They worked with children and the down trodden most of their lives. And often have been verbally persecuted by many in the process.

    They have given up land, houses and family more than once but in return have received in this life so many brothers and sisters in the Lord, so many children who called them their parents. And the Lord has always, and I mean always met their needs and sometimes given them over and above. Some seasons they lacked and some they prospered. They have been blessed with living arrangements that only God could arrange, and sometimes money came in from people they didn’t know. They have been prosperous, not wealthy by the worlds’ standards by any means –but never greedy. They continue to give to spread the gospel.

    Still today, they pray for others and help where they can and are looking forward to another mission in their 80s. Paul said in Philippians 4:12, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed, or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

    The key to prosperity is contentment. That kind of prosperity will always satisfy. Thank you for letting me share.

  6. ” Indeed all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceivers and deceived. ”
    2 Timothy 3:12-13 (RSV)

    As I’m sure you are aware, you are not alone in your desire to see such a false teaching be utterly removed from the face of the earth. There are several such teachings (doctrines of men) that mislead many away from the true gospel of Christ (dispensations, Calvinism, Once Saved Always Saved, a secret rapture [as opposed to the first resurrection], a triune godhead, etc.).

    Call it prosperity teaching or the word-of-faith movement, it, as all false teachings come from the father of lies.

    https://focusedandfree.com/2017/11/07/word-of-faith/

  7. Absolutely amazing post and absolutely spot on. I came out of a charismatic UPCI church where the pastors had millions, taking 10% Tithes and 5% offerings from people, all while shouting the Malachi 3:8 like, that God will curse you for not giving the money, and God would pay back far more than you give!

    Thank you for writing and elequently exposing the heresy of the Prosperity doctrine.

  8. Reblogged this on The Biker's Wave and commented:
    I am in agreement with Flacco his article. What is interesting is that Benny Hinn, one of the main purveyors of this heresy, seems to be moving away from it:

    https://www.charismanews.com/us/69756-did-benny-hinn-just-renounce-the-prosperity-gospel

    Most of those in the Renewal / Charismatic movement utterly reject the prosperity gospel. Young people see though the heresy as anti-Biblical and anti-Gospel.

  9. Jack, very well said. I hate it as well as these are false prophets seeking to greedily make a fortune off of the backs of the followers of Jesus. I am seeing this right now with a very prominent ministry in California with a huge international following. It is shameful and very dangerous. It must be exposed.

    Thanks for fighting the good fight for the truth.

    Be blessed. God is with you.

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