BY: KELVIN WASHINGTON
One of the fastest growing movements in American Christianity today is the prosperity Gospel movement. Most people wouldn’t say that they out right ascribe to the prosperity Gospel, but many have been affected in some shape or form by this movement. This movement has taken root especially within urban communities, but certainly isn’t limited to these communities. Across the nation we have seen many preachers pressing to their people the idea that if they have enough faith, blessings of health and wealth are subsequent to follow and that they are somehow in control of the amount of blessings God gives. That philosophy then leads to the question: What happens if someone doesn’t have “enough faith”? Will they fail because their measure of faith doesn’t meet the necessary quota? Of course not! No one falls in and out of favor with God based off of the works of their faith. However, this is the false gospel that is destroying local churches and its leading people astray. The doctrine that is being taught by prosperity preachers is extremely dangerous. While it may lead to financial wealth for some preachers, it is depriving people of their desperate need for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The prosperity gospel has only flourished within the last 50 years, but that alone is enough to call this a heretical movement. If you have a loved one that affirms the prosperity gospel, you should attempt to guide them towards what the bible has to say on this heretical work. I hope you would consider the next three sections: biblically demonstrating the danger of this heresy and illuminating the necessity for the one true Gospel to reign in our lives.
1. God is second to “self”
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. (1 Timothy 3:1-5)
This passage brings up theological issues that we must consider. First and foremost, this text shows that a love for pleasure over a love for God is sinful. This isn’t saying that if someone is pleased in different ways that they are sinful, but that God himself should bring the most pleasure and satisfaction to their lives. In Paul’s letter to Timothy above, he explains the sinful issues that people are going to struggle with in the last days. He does this to show that if the heart is not constantly seeking protection from these areas, then the person will eventually only demonstrate a form of godliness, denying that God is the ultimate authority.
If someone believes the prosperity gospel, they are telling us that they believe that God is only good when we are prospering. The impression that gives connotes putting more faith in your-self vs putting faith in God. Furthermore, they are teaching that we can somehow manipulate God by the amount of faith that we show. This is completely contrary to what scripture says about God and His faithfulness to his people despite their disobedience. The Israelites are a prime example of rebellion against God and how he displayed His covenant faithfulness despite their works, because it was apart of His plan. Would you rather trust in your faith or His faithfulness? One of those isn’t so good of news. The truth is we don’t always have the faith that we should. Fact about it, we sometimes openly show God that we don’t trust him like we should. But regardless, God takes care of us anyway. We should understand that because we know how broken and helpless we are without God. God will be forever faithful to His people, even when we are unfaithful. So we should center our striving to grow in faith in order to please God alone: just because of who He is and what He did for us on the cross. Not so we can get something from Him because He doesn’t owe us anything. He’s already given us everything in Jesus.
2. Your View of Prosperity isn’t always God’s Perspective of Prosperity
I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. (John 10-9-10)
The only way that the prosperity gospel would be accurate is if our view of prosperity was in line with His. In most cases our view isn’t in sync with his, because the prosperity gospel promotes wealth and health as favor. This false teaching encourages people to seek after money, large homes, cars and health in hopes that they will be able to have the
“best life” that God has for them. This should be tough for believers to fathom when mirrored with Jesus’s saying, “it’s harder for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” There is a starch contrast between these too concepts. I’m not saying that someone can’t be wealthy and love Jesus, but when the pursuit of these wordily things come before Jesus, we have a issue to deal with. What is prosperity as defined by God?
God doesn’t find more delight in His people when they have more possessions here on earth. What John 10:9-10 points to is the fact that Jesus is the provider of life and, through him, believers inherit the abundance of life. The joy of knowing Jesus is the benefits of the abundant life. Its not, Jesus plus everything equals abundance, but Christ alone is everything to His people. Mankind doesn’t set the parameters for abundance, but God himself. The sinful nature that I have wouldn’t guide me to make good decisions on my own, which means I wouldn’t chose what’s best for me. I need the good shepherd to protect my life. Our view of good isn’t always His view of good. Jesus wants our fulfillment to be found in Him and not in what the world has to offer to us. Our best days will be when we are reigning with God when He comes back for His people. Until then, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God…” and everything else you need will be provided for you.
3. You Will Never Find Satisfaction
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. (John 6:35)
If I am honest, it doesn’t matter what you gain in this world. The only gain that matters in the world is Christ. We know that a man can gain the whole world, but yet forfeit his sole (Matthew 16:24-26). The point is this: you will never find satisfaction outside of Christ. When we continue to attempt to add heath and wealth to the gospel, we are ultimately saying satisfaction can be found outside of Christ. Jesus says, “I am bread of Life” to show to the people that he is what we have always desired, but they didn’t understand that. The prosperity gospel will forever leave you with an empty stomach. So empty, that you will spend your entire life looking for material things to satisfy you. In addition to that, you will always spend time “working” to satisfy God. This perspective is counter-active to the Gospel. You will never be able to satisfy him on your own accord. That’s why His Son took the wrath that we deserved and restored our relationship with Him. This alone is the atonement that we needed to live a life of satisfaction.
The more someone keeps living out this potent disease, the more they will stop resting in the power of the cross. Jesus said it was finished. My prayer is that people would find their delight in God and seek to glorify him with their lives. The Prosperity Gospel doesn’t bring glory to Him but to your-self. Are you living for things that will perish or for Christ himself?
Kelvin Washington is the Church Planting Apprentice at Village Church of Midlothian in Richmond VA. He is currently working on his MDiv. at Liberty University’s School of Divinity. He has a passion for teaching God’s word and helping people devote their lives to Jesus' mission.