The Prosperity Gospel Part 1
Their Beliefs and Practices
There are preachers today who will tell you that financial blessing is the will of God for all Christians. They take the promises given to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, their blessings and their dominion, and apply it to the Church, the Body of Christ in this day and age. Through faith, positive speech and donations to the ministries of these preachers, they claim that you can increase your material wealth, health and overall prosperity.
In this article we are going to introduce the teaching of the prosperity gospel, also known as the health and wealth gospel. In the next we will begin to look at it more closely to see if it bears any resemblance to the message taught by our Lord and His apostles.
I. The Theological Basis for their Teaching
This theology emphasizes personal empowerment. They say that it is God's will that people be happy. According to them the atonement, or reconciliation with God, that Christ accomplished when he died and rose again includes the alleviation of sickness and poverty. These two things are seen as curses broken by faith.
The Bible is looked upon as a faith contract between God and believers. The Lord is faithful and just, so it is up to believers to fulfill their end of the contract in order to receive the promises of God. The teachers of this theology believe in positive confession. In other words, the believer can claim anything that they desire simply by speaking it. Since they believe that God has promised all believers prosperity, positive confession means that the believer is speaking in faith what God has already spoken about them. Speaking it brings it to reality.
It is maintained that believers have been given power over creation because they are created in the image of God. Positive confession allows the Christian to exercise dominion over their souls and material objects.
The theology of this movement is based upon some non-traditional understandings of the Bible and especially certain Scriptures. Here are a list of the often cited verses:
1. Malachi 3:10 - "Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and test me now in this, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows."
2. Matthew 25:14-30 - The parable of the talents.
3. John 10:10 - "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
4. Phillipians 4:19- "My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
5. 3 John 2- "Beloved, I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers."
II. Practices of Prosperity Churches.
Prosperity churches place a lot of importance on giving. Often there are two sermons. One emphasizes giving and prosperity. This usually includes biblical references to tithing. The second sermon on another topic, usually comes after the offering.
The people in the congregation are often asked to speak positive affirmations about aspects of their lives that they wish to be improved. These "positive confessions" are believed to be able to miraculously change the lives of those who speak them by faith. The followers are asked to "live without limits" and be optimistic about their lives.
One seeming positive thing about the prosperity movement is that many of the churches hold seminars on financial responsibility. However, mixed in with some real sound advice is the encouragement that those who attend the seminars should buy expensive things. Some have even suggested that this type of teaching helped cause the housing bubble which lead to the late 2000s financial crisis. Home ownership was emphasized by the prosperity churches, leading to some unwise choices in buying.
This kind of theolgy really appeals to many people in this capitalistic society in which we live. I heard one person say: "Why wouldn't God want His children to be happy, healthy and wealthy?" Well, from looking at Scripture, God's primary desire is to make us holy, and to prepare us for the wonderful life to come, rather than to spoil us and give us anything our greedy heart desires in this one.
In order to do justice to Scripture, we need to take a look at what the Lord and the apostles actually taught. And we have to answer such questions as: If God wants us all to be prosperous, then why didn't Jesus Himself have and display great wealth? Also, why didn't the twelve apostles and Paul become wealthy? Far from living a prosperous life, they were persecuted and most of them ultimately were martyred. And many of Christ's followers, even now are living in poverty in third world countries. Many today are suffering persecution for their faith. Are we to tell them that they need to name it and claim it, if they want things to change?
It is probably obvious what I believe from the things you have just read. It is my conclusion that the health and wealth gospel is not the gospel at all. And my hope is that we can expose it for the fraud that it truly is, so that the true good news of Jesus Christ will not be overshadowed by this false doctrine. May the Lord help us as we tear down this idol of prosperity, and put Jesus Christ back on the throne of our hearts where He belongs.