Dearly beloved, for the past few weeks we have been examining the topic of The Prosperity Gospel. This week, let’s delve into scriptures and find out for ourselves, what the Bible has to say about this gospel.
What Is the Prosperity Gospel?
Prosperity Gospel is also referred to as the health and wealth gospel, the gospel of success or seed faith. It is a religious belief among some Christians, who hold that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for them, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one’s material wealth. Prosperity theology views the Bible as a contract between God and humans: if humans have faith in God, he will deliver security and prosperity.
Promoters of the false “prosperity gospel” and Word of Faith movement often like to talk about “seeding,” “seed faith offerings,” and “hundred-fold returns.” A seed faith offering is money given in faith that God will multiply it and return it to the giver. The more money you give—and the more faith you have—the more money you get in return. Prosperity preachers often solicit gifts to their ministries by promising such in-kind returns: “Send me ¢1000 and trust God to give you back ¢1,000,000.” They give their appeals for money a spiritual gloss with statements such as “God wants to bless you with a miracle” and “Jesus is bigger than your debt.”
What do they teach?
According to proponents of this gospel, the way to take advantage of the law of sowing and reaping is three-fold:
(1) Look to God as your source,
(2) Give first so that it may be given to you,
(3) Expect a miracle.
As a “proof text” for the second step, seed-faith teachers like to use Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
The misuse of this verse starts with its application to material gain—Jesus was speaking of forgiveness in Luke 6:37, not money. Also, there’s a difference between “Give, and” and “Give so that.” Seed-faith teachers advocate a selfish motive for giving—give so that you can get—and they state as much. The Bible teaches that we give for the sake of benefiting others and to glorify the Lord, not in order to enrich ourselves.
Teachers of seed faith offering also like Matthew 17:20, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Of course, this verse says nothing about getting money or making seed faith offerings.
Another passage misused by seed-faith preachers is Mark 10:29–30, “Truly I tell you . . . no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields.” Seed-faith teachers latch on to the promise of a “hundred times as much,” but they only apply it to “homes” and “fields”—that is, material wealth.
They conveniently ignore the rest of the list. … vs. 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.
Are we to suppose that Jesus promised His followers a hundred literal mothers or that we should expect a hundred times more blood relatives than we have now? Or was Jesus speaking of an increased spiritual family? Since the mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters are spiritual, then perhaps the homes and fields are spiritual, as well.
The promoters of the doctrine of seed faith offerings ignore several important details in Scripture. Consider, for example, 2 Corinthians 9:10–12, “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.”
This passage says God supplies the seed for sowing; that is, He supplies the resources for us to generously give away. And, when we give, God will supply more resources so the giving continues. Note, however, the reaping is not monetary gain but “the harvest of your righteousness.” Also, it is thanksgivings to God that overflow, not our bank accounts. The seed sown in this passage does not result in miracles or in personal wealth.
The promoters of seed faith offerings also ignore the fact that the apostles were not wealthy men. The apostles certainly gave to others: “I will very gladly spend for you everything I have and expend myself as well” (2 Corinthians 12:15). Based on the doctrine of seed faith offerings, Paul should have been a rich man. Yet, “to this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands” (1 Corinthians 4:10–11). The apostles were materially poor, yet they were spiritually blessed by the Lord.
God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7), but we must not assume that His favour will be shown in financial returns. Nor should we appropriate promises given to Old Testament Israel for ourselves. Our motive for giving should not be to get money in return. Our goal should be godliness with contentment (see 1 Timothy 6:6–10). We should pray, “Lord, help me learn to be content with what I have, even if I am hungry or in need” (see Philippians 4:11–13).
What does the Bible teach?
In the prosperity gospel, the believer is told to use God, whereas the truth of biblical Christianity is just the opposite—God uses the believer. Word of Faith or prosperity theology sees the Holy Spirit as a power to be put to use for whatever the believer wills. The Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is a Person who enables the believer to do God’s will. The prosperity gospel movement closely resembles some of the destructive greed sects that infiltrated the early church. Paul and the other apostles were not accommodating to or conciliatory with the false teachers who propagated such heresy. They identified them as dangerous false teachers and urged Christians to avoid them.
Paul warned Timothy about such men in 1 Timothy 6:5, 9-11. These men of “corrupt mind” supposed godliness was a means of gain and their desire for riches was a trap that brought them “into ruin and destruction” (v. 9). The pursuit of wealth is a dangerous path for Christians and one which God warns about: “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many grief” (v. 10).
If riches were a reasonable goal for the godly, Jesus would have pursued it. But He did not, preferring instead to have no place to lay His head (Matthew 8:20) and teaching His disciples to do the same. It should also be remembered that the only disciple concerned with wealth was Judas.
Paul said covetousness is idolatry (Ephesians 5:5) and instructed the Ephesians to avoid anyone who brought a message of immorality or covetousness (Ephesians 5:6-7). Prosperity teaching prohibits God from working on His own, meaning that God is not Lord of all because He cannot work until we release Him to do so.
Faith, according to the Word of Faith doctrine, is not submissive trust in God; faith is a formula by which we manipulate the spiritual laws that prosperity teachers believe govern the universe. As the name “Word of Faith” implies, this movement teaches that faith is a matter of what we say more than whom we trust or what truths we embrace and affirm in our hearts.
A favorite term in the Word of Faith movement is “positive confession.” This refers to the teaching that words themselves have creative power. What you say, Word of Faith teachers claim, determines everything that happens to you. Your confessions, especially the favors you demand of God, must all be stated positively and without wavering. Then God is required to answer (as though man could require anything of God!). Thus, God’s ability to bless us supposedly hangs on our faith. James 4:13-16 clearly contradicts this teaching: “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” Far from speaking things into existence in the future, we do not even know what tomorrow will bring or even whether we will be alive.
Instead of stressing the importance of wealth, the Bible warns against pursuing it. Believers, especially leaders in the church (1 Timothy 3:3), are to be free from the love of money (Hebrews 13:5). The love of money leads to all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Jesus warned, “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).
In sharp contrast to the Word of Faith emphasis on gaining money and possessions in this life, Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19). The irreconcilable contradictions between prosperity teachings and the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, is best summed up in the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:24, “You cannot serve both God and money.”
Until next week,