What is the Prosperity Gospel and What’s Wrong With It
Updated: Oct 16, 2019
The “Prosperity Gospel” has been called such because of its unbalanced emphasis on wealth and blessings although it can encompass a wide range of teachings. The prosperity doctrine has one or more of the following characteristics:
1. The emphasis is on man and his being blessed. People are told to go to God in order to receive blessings. For example, preachers can say “Accept Jesus Christ in your life and you will be healed,” or “you will be blessed and your needs will be provided” or “You will have a blessed family”, etc.
What’s wrong with it: It is not bad to approach God with our needs. God does love to bless his children (Philippians 4:19). However, this should never be the main reason we go to Jesus. We accept Jesus as savior of our lives because we recognize our own sinfulness and helplessness and our need of saving grace. Not surprisingly, many prosperity teachers do not touch on the subject of sin, repentance, or holiness.
2. The emphasis is always on giving. On many Sundays, whatever the topic is, it always falls back on giving usually by using bad interpretation of the scriptures. The congregation is always encouraged to tithe, make love offerings, pledges, etc. There are some instances and events where members will be encouraged to give sacrificially, that is, to give away their laptops, bags, entire wallets, jewelries, cars during the offering. These are usually described as “seed” which will cause God to bless the giver even more.
What’ wrong with it: While giving is important and should be encouraged, the more important thing is to help people mature in their heart’s conditions pertaining to money. People can give, but they can give for all the wrong reasons. For many, giving to attain more blessings is just using God to get rich. God is sovereign. He is the one who decides to make rich and poor alike. Giving should be done out of love not because you are pursuing more blessings, a miracle, etc.
3. Affluent lifestyles are encouraged and are being championed by the pastors and leaders themselves. In many instances, the pastor treats the church money as his own money and there is no accountability of church funds. This is why giving is so emphasized. It makes the pastor rich and able to live affluent lifestyles. The leader or pastor is usually driving a luxury vehicle, has jewelries, travels abroad in the name of ministry, etc. The most extreme ones have their own personal jets and live in mansions. They usually look at their affluence as a sign that God is blessing them because they are "favored", “holy”, or “anointed” or that they have some other special status before God. They also look down on Christians going through poverty. For them, being in poverty means a Christian is doing something wrong in his life or has lack of faith, even after giving his last money as sacrificial offering to them.
What’s wrong with it: Everything! Pastors and leaders are not called to affluent lifestyles (1 Timothy 3:3). The apostles and disciples in the New Testament church did not live in abundance. In contrast, the apostle Paul said “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6-11.) They suffered persecutions and beatings (2 Corinthians 11:25), they went through poverty and hardship as their properties were confiscated (Hebrews 10:34), and many of them were killed for their faith. Did they have abundant lives as Jesus promised? Yes. Not all of treasures promised by God are meant for this world but for heaven. Jesus promised abundant lives, not abundant lifestyles. John Piper said that "prosperity is not a sign of God's favor, for this is what the Devil promises to those who worship him”
The "prosperity gospel" is a false and dangerous gospel that unduly emphasizes blessings and money. Loving and pursuing money is something that is natural to the unbelieving, fallen world. This is the reason why it is so popular. One does not have to be regenerate or "born again" in order to love money. This false gospel only offers to people what they want as fallen people, and embodies the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life that comes from the world (1 John 2:16).
The love of money leads to all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Jesus told his disciples to “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). Covetousness (or greed) is in fact, idolatry. (Ephesians 5:5)
In Matthew 6:19, Jesus told us to lay our treasures in heaven, not on this world.
Jesus also said we cannot love both God and money. (Matthew 16)
We are also warned by scriptures against pastors and leaders who use the church, ministry or the name of God for personal gain:
They are depraved in mind. "and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. " (1 Timothy 6:5)
They are greedy and manipulative (they will exploit you with their words) "And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep." (2 Peter 2:3)
They are deceitful with their smooth talk and flattery "I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive. " (Romans 16:17-18)
If you’re going to a prosperity-driven church run!
We are destined to live our lives in eternity. Everything in this world will pass away so our focus should be on the Lord. Who cares about designer clothes, jewelry, luxury cars, and affluent lifestyles when people doesn't have Christ. It's not about us. It's all about Him. He should be the center of it all. It's either Jesus is our everything or He is nothing.
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? (Mark 8:36)