the prosperity gospel

The prosperity gospel, in my opinion, is not the gospel at all. What is the prosperity gospel? Well, it is the idea that God wants Christians to be successful in every way, including being healthy and financially prosperous. Some bible verses used to support this gospel are 2 Cor 8:9 which says, “Yet for your sakes he became poor, that you by his poverty might become rich” and Deut 8:18 which says, “God gives you the power to get wealth to establish his covenant”. Yikes, talk about taking verses out of context. And how about this one? “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:25). I know that one is ripped right out of the text, too, but the ideas of living simply, sacrificially, and generously seem to run deep in the bible and directly counter the prosperity gospel.

Churches that proclaim this prosperity gospel claim that you will become more prosperous in every area of your life when you follow God and claim that God wants all Christians to prosper. You may have heard of T.D. Jakes or Joel Osteen, both mega-church pastors in the US that are preaching the prosperity gospel. “The Church Report” named Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes as the #1 and #4 most influential Christians in America based on over 200,000 online voters- it shows just how influential this movement is in America. Joel Osteen starts each service with his signature line “This is my Bible: I am what it says I am; I have what it says I have; I can do what it says I can do.” This just stinks of the prosperity gospel. One simple way to tell? Is the gospel more about you or about Christ? Does the gospel balance both receiving from God and asking for your surrender and your sacrifice? Or is it just all about you?

I understand why the prosperity gospel is so influential. Who doesn’t want to hear that they can be prosperous in all areas of their life simply by being a Christian? It’s a very tempting idea to buy into. Unfortunately it distorts the gospel. Are we raising up true Jesus followers if they are seeking personal prosperity before they are seeking the Kingdom? I doubt it…

This false gospel seems to be preying on some of the most vulnerable Christians in the world. Mike King recently visited Africa where he saw these two billboards:

These billboards are of Benny Hinn and Creflo Dollar, both well known pastors that preach the prosperity gospel around the world. They are now preaching it in Africa… which is so so dangerous. People were lining up many hours in advance to hear the preachers. As Mike King said:

Much more disturbing than inconveniencing us westerners is the reality that Benny Hinn is running a stinking prosperity gospel sham on the poor people in Africa. His message is clear – bring an offering to sow a seed of faith… God wants you to be rich and healthy. This is a crime against humanity. A huge majority of Africans live on $1 per day and are vulnerable to this un-biblical message. This is a new form of Colonialism. God have mercy. Benny Hinn isn’t the only charlatan pulling off this cruel scheme. Right after we passed the stadium (with thousands of Africans lined up in the rain to get in the stadium a full seven hours before the meeting was scheduled to start) I saw a poster of Dr. Creflo Dollar. Check the news story below if you don’t believe he is up to no good. Another one of Creflo’s billboards said, “Come meet the man whom God has anointed to lead you out of poverty.” (something to that effect).

Here is that news story about the prosperity gospel, including some interview with Creflo. It is definitely worth watching:

Here is a video montage from Benny Hinn’s “Miracle Crusades”. It makes fun of him (which may be deserved) and is a little twisted, but gives you an idea of what this guy is all about:

Scary, right? But the prosperity gospel is just as scary for me. Especially when it is being used to exploit the poorest of the poor by disguising itself as hope for the future.

So there it is… a dangerous twist on an amazing message. But how do we confront the prosperity gospel? I don’t want to become an “anti-Christian” that goes around fighting against other forms of Christianity, but this needs to end, right? I think they crossed the line when they cross the Atlantic and started spreading their message among those most vulnerable to the message. Is this simply a matter of theological education, helping people identify false gospels and discovering the real one? Or do we need to specifically try to stop the prosperity pastors and crusaders who are making millions off of their message? Or do we just quietly allow the prosperity gospel to go on, because as Christians we are to be unified and that is more important than extinguishing this twisted message? I feel the need to do something, and I hope you do too, but I don’t quite know what. Share your ideas and thoughts… and maybe we can form a anti-prosperity-gospel-superpowered-fighting-team!

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7 thoughts on “the prosperity gospel

  1. The prosperity gospel is the thorn in the side of the mainstream church. Yet, what’s so damaging is how popular, especially in the Westernized, “me-first” culture of the U.S. These preachers prey on the poor here, as well as in Africa.

    I think one of the biggest things we, as pastors and lay people, can do is call a spade a spade, and don’t allow our friends, family and congregations buy into such false teaching. With sound theological and exegetical teaching, we can train our congregations to reach their own conclusion–which hopefully would be similar to your’s.

  2. Actually while well intentioned, your remarks our ill informed… Your criticism about the ” prosperity gospel” is almost verbatim the same remakrs that Jakes makes in his new book, Reposition Yourself “.

    In it he disavows the idea of prosperity by faith without works, education and basic common sense skills which have more to do with work ethics than offerings…. It was also interesting to hear him discuss at length his outreach to the third world countries.

    I think the problem is born when we allow media persons with deadlines to teach us who each other really are…souund bites do not do justice to anyone.

    Finally I think Jakes is coming of age and starting to speak for himself… I found it a good read.

    David

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  4. Creflo’s lifestyle is questionable. I don’t see how JO’s is though? He is helping thousands of people to feel better about themselves. Money isn’t what he’s teaching. He’s teaching hope and faith.

    Another thing you have to consider is if you were in their shoes. If you imagine that you were rich because of factors outside of your control (JO never expected his book to be printed in 4 million copies and for him to reach such huge benefits) it would not be so easy for you to live without giving yourself a little bit of a treat for your hard work. Maybe you wanted to get that pair of extremely expensive sunglasses that you want. You know what, I see nothing wrong with that. What I see something wrong with is people who let money control their lives, but that is not what JO is teaching.

    But there are alot of hypocrites in the world who say they would never do the same as Osteen, when in fact they would probably be using their money threefold the way Osteen is using his. Give the guy a break! Stop being whiners and start doing something about helping the poor, instead of complaining that nobody does. Reasoning against Osteen the way you guys are is pathetic and sad. Perhaps you are a hypocrite, and just jealous because you don’t have any money, which you are drooling for.

  5. Woah, Alex…. big attack here on me. Jeez. Kinda harsh for not knowing anything about me, wouldn’t you say? I actually don’t understand what you are trying to say to me. I understand that you don’t think JO’s message is harmful, and I respect that opinion, but the last paragraph seems unfounded.

    First off, I did not complain anywhere in this post that no one helps the poor. Second, I am helping the poor… but we won’t get into that. And finally, I don’t want money and I’m not drooling for it.

    I don’t think Christianity is fundamentally about feeling better about yourself, and maybe that is where we most differ.

    Thanks for all your self-help Alex. I would like to hear more responses from you, even if I disagree. Oh, and leave a link to your blog if you have one. I would like to read it.

  6. False profets all around. Who shall we believe to and follow to???? Nobody but JESUS himself and Your own soul. How???? Very simply, Before reading the Bible, pray and ask God for the understanding he wants you to give you to understand what you read and you shall not need the guide of FALSE profets….GOD Bless you……

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