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The Prosperity Gospel - Is It The Gospel?
"God wants you to be rich because He loves you and wants what is best for you."
Have you ever heard a statement like that before? I have, and from many different people. Some are pastors, some are members of a congregation, some are believers and some are non-believers, but all say that a sign of God's favor is wealth.
Joel Osteen's Opinion
In an interview on television, Joel Osteen said to Oprah Winfrey that Jesus came so that all may have life and have it abundantly. He was answering her question about the criticisms he often receives concerning preaching a prosperity Gospel. The preaching of this prosperity Gospel is what Osteen is famous for. Indeed his church is the largest in the United States of America and his television show is said to be watched by over ten million viewers (10,000,000). He is one of the many who teach that prosperity is a sign of God's favor and that God wants all of His children to have a great life here on earth.
The difference in praying for God to get you out of a terrible financial situation and believing that you should be rich because you believe in God must be pointed out here. It is one thing to believe in the Lord and trust in Him and His plan for your life. It is another thing to believe that His plan is the same for everybody's life and that you aren't prospering because you do not have enough faith or are not praying enough.
There are a few things about the idea that everyone who loves the Lord should be rich that just does not add up. If it were so, then why would Jesus say that the poor will always be with us? Did He mean that only non-believers would or should be poor? Is what Joel Osteen said - that poor believers remain in that state only because they don't pray enough or believe enough - true?
In the Bible there were many Godly men who were rich. Job was an excessively rich man and Solomon was so rich that the Bible says that there was no one whose wealth could compare to his. Abraham owned so much that the people around him were jealous of him, and Isaac and Jacob prospered as well. Then there was David and Saul and many of the other kings of Israel and Judah who all lived in luxury and who were all men of God.
Joel Osteen talking about his preaching prosperity to Oprah Winfrey
In the above video Joel Osteen states that he cannot be a blessing to others if he is poor and broke and depressed about himself.
Creflo Dollar's Need For An Airplane
Another popular preacher, Creflo Dollar, asked his congregation as well as those who watch and benefit from his ministry to support him by donating money so that he could purchase a plane. If I understand correctly, the plane was necessary for Creflo Dollar to be able to fly all over the world and spread the gospel. This plane cost about 65 million dollars.
Creflo Dollar Talking About His Dream For A Plane
He was able to purchase the plane and he believes that it is due to him because of what his job is. He believes that he uses the luxuries that he wants in order to spread the Gospel and that is why he gets these things that others do not have.
Many people were very disturbed to hear about this appeal for a plane (Which Creflo Dollar swears he did not ask his congregation for) and even more disturbed to hear that he got it. Their reasons for feeling this way boil down to the fact that there are many suffering people in the world and that since Creflo Dollar professes to be a Christian then he is held to a higher standard and should not be building his estate but rather helping others to build theirs. According to Creflo Dollar, there is no sin in asking God for something or for dreaming to have something. But is it dreaming or is it hankering? It seems as though these preachers get everything that they could possibly want and yet their followers do not.
Is Prosperity Proof That You Have A Good Relationship With God?
So is being prosperous some sort of proof that your relationship with God is solid? In the Bible Jesus said that a believer will be recognized by his fruits. Is prosperity one of the fruits spoken of in the Bible? And if you are a believer and lacking prosperity are you doing something wrong or is God somehow displeased with you?
I studied the Scriptures to see if all of the Godly men and women mentioned in the Bible were prosperous.
What I found out was that not all Godly men and women were prosperous. As a matter of fact some were poor.
This seemed to go against what Joel Osteen said and so I listened carefully to his words again. Osteen states that prosperity is not just about material things but also about health and peace of mind. In other words, prosperity is all round profit in body and mind. I suppose that could be interpreted in such a way that says prosperity can have to do with either material things or health or peace of mind but Joel Osteen used the word 'just ' on which the entire meaning of his statement hangs. What I interpreted Osteen to mean is that along with material gain, one who is prosperous also has good health and peace of mind.
What About Those Who Have All Of These Things And Are Not Right With God?
Prosperity preachers often claim that being prosperous is proof that God walks with you and that you are a mighty man or woman of God but what about those who are not Godly? What about those who are atheists? Who are idolaters? Who store up riches for themselves with no thought of God? Is their prosperity a sign that all is well with their souls? I think that based on the Scriptures the answer is a definite no.Otherwise Jesus would not have told the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.
Not all Godly men and women in the Bible were rich and filled with prosperity. Many of them were poor. What does this fact do to the theory of prosperity being a sign of being well with God?
Again, what the Bible says about certain men and women of God who had little or no material possessions, seems to be in direct contrast to what Joel Osteen said.
These men and women of God are recorded to have such close relationships with the Lord Almighty that they were revealed a great many truths and trusted with God's plans for His people.
There were many prophets in the Old Testament and in the New Testament, who were poor and broke and yet they were able to bless entire nations with the word of God. There were many who did not live their best lives on earth but bore persecution, strife and difficulty and waited for eternity. They were imprisoned and beaten and scorned and mocked. They were reviled and hated and many sought to kill them. All these things happened to them when they were close to the Most High God. One cannot say that they were not favored by Him.
A few of these were:
- John the Baptist
He lived in the desert and ate only honey and locusts. He was a Nazarite and so that means he took a vow never to eat anything from the vine. He was persecuted because of the message he preached. This message was given to him by God himself. He was jailed and beheaded and he was the one who was given the honor of baptizing Jesus. He was the 'voice crying in the wilderness' and by all appearances he did not have much or any material wealth. Yet Jesus spoke of him, saying how great he was. (See the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John)
He lay on his side according to the Lord's command for three hundred and ninety days and then for forty days on his other side as a sign to Israel and Judah respectively. During that time he was bound by the Lord and could not move from one side to the next. Every day, he was only allowed a certain portion of food - the same food every day. At first the Lord told Ezekiel that he had to cook his food of lentils, barley, wheat, millet, and fitches using human dung as fuel. Ezekiel begged the Lord to allow him not to use human dung and the Lord had mercy and so Ezekiel cooked his daily meal with cow dung. (See Ezekiel Chapter 4) To anyone's point of view, what Ezekiel did at the command of the Lord was a difficult deed to do. To anyone looking on it may have appeared that Ezekiel was simply a poor man driven to madness through depression.
Stephen was killed because He followed Jesus Christ. Before that, he was one of the four who was chosen to work to help to provide the other disciples with funds so that they could go about their ministry. Stephen toiled and gave it all away so that the Gospel could be spread. He worked so that the Lord's work could prosper. The Bible says that he was full of faith and power and did great miracles. The fruit that came from this was the gift, yes gift, he received of testifying of the Lord Jesus Christ even with his last breath. He was chased and stoned and He saw the glory of God and Jesus on the right hand of God. (See Acts 6 and 7)
The minute the truth that Jesus is the Messiah was revealed to Paul he was stricken with blindness. How's that for good health? He could not see for three days and he could not eat or drink a thing during this time. Later he would be chased and would have to escape a city by hiding in a basket. He would be imprisoned for speaking about the Lord. He would travel tirelessly always looking behind his back for those who would kill him. He would witness to his persecutors relentlessly and face the consequences without apology. His great miracles were done for others and he worked as a tent maker so that he could go far and wide to spread the message. (See The Book of Acts)
Chased and threatened by a devil of a woman, Elijah once fasted for forty days and forty nights. He was afraid of her, this Jezebel, for she hated him because he told her of her and her husband's sin at the Lord's command. She vowed to kill him. Elijah felt desperation when he saw how bloodthirsty she was and he was sure that there were none in Israel left who believed in the living God. The Lord assured him that there were but nevertheless He granted Elijah's petition to take him and Elijah trained Elisha in his stead. (See 1 Kings 17 - 2 Kings 2 )
When he healed Naaman the leper, he refused any payment for it. Elisha could have been rich and yet he did not want it. This man, just as Elijah, was so close to God that he was able to raise the dead. Life would be restored and rivers parted when Elijah and Elisha were around. Yet they did not live in palaces. Yes, they roamed from place to place and stayed with those who knew that they were prophets of the Lord Almighty. (See 1 Kings 19 to 2 Kings 13 )
- James the son of Zebedee
James, along with his brother John, asked Jesus if He would give them the gift of sitting on His right and left hand in His kingdom. These two brothers were fondly called the sons of thunder by Jesus. Jesus replied that that honor could only be given by the Father. He then asked the brothers if they were willing to drink the cup that He drank and they said that they would. Later, James would be the first of Jesus disciples to be killed by Herod. He was killed by the sword. ( (See Acts 12 and Mark 10)
So is prosperity a valid part of the Gospel? You may be stunned to know that I think it is but it is not the prosperity that Joel Osteen or others like him preach. The prosperity that is part of the Gospel, the abundant life that Jesus so wants us to have, has to actually do with putting complete trust in Him and relying on Him.
In the dictionary prosperity is defined as:
The state of being prosperous; advance or gain in anything good or desirable; successful progress in any business or enterprise; attainment of the object desire; good fortune; success; as, commercial prosperity; national prosperity.
For the Christian then, prosperity concerns the advancement of God's kingdom and the desire to be pleasing to Him as He is good. It concerns the progress of the God's business and the object of desire that causes a Christian to be prosperous is a place in the kingdom of the Lord. This is good fortune to the believer. This is true success.