Blog #43 – Why I Don’t Believe in the “Prosperity Gospel”

By John Cline

I really don’t intend to throw stones. After all, by the world’s standards, on what leg do I have to stand to criticize the most popular and influential movement in the North American church? I pastor a church that averages 100 people a Sunday (and I feel blessed to be doing so) but I don’t have a tv show or a radio ministry or a newspaper column that I write (although, to be honest, I did do all three of those things 30 years ago when I pastored in Vernon, B.C.). So, compared to the Prosperity Gospel preachers who are millionaires, live in mansions, preach to tens of thousands weekly, and have vibrant tv, radio, or print media ministries, I am a nothing (at least by their standards). I have even met one or two of them who have let me know the low opinion they think of me and my ministry.
But, before I tell you why I do not believe in the Prosperity Gospel, let me tell you that I do believe in the value of prosperity and that God wants us to be prosperous in all things in life. However, I also believe that the prosperity He gives to us is so that we, in turn, will be generous with that money for the sake of others and for God’s Kingdom. “Of those to whom God has given much, much is required” teaches Jesus Christ. So, I have nothing against money, nothing against making lots of money, and nothing against millionaires having lots of money. Just don’t make it your idol, is all that I – and the Lord – would ask. Money is morally-neutral and can be used selfishly or for good. It should be used for good! And, that is something I find to be at odds with the teachings of too many Prosperity Gospel preachers who, in their own lives, have become very, very wealthy from the money that their followers and supporters give to them. Ironically, most of their followers are not wealthy, a fact that proves that the message of the Prosperity Gospel is fraudulent.
In any case, here are the three biggest reasons why I don’t believe in the “Prosperity Gospel”:
First, the Prosperity Gospel seems like a watered-down gospel message tailored to challenge no one about the things they are doing or thinking, offend no one, and make everyone happy. By contrast, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is offensive. It a message that teaches that people are saved only through Jesus Christ, that through dying on the cross Jesus obtained forgiveness for our sins from God, and that it was through his resurrection from the grave that Jesus proved he is above all other “gods” and religious systems. This is an offensive message. I understand that. The Prosperity Gospel message, though, in rarely mentioning those biblical truths and of promising financial prosperity to anyone who “prepares themselves for the blessing” by encouraging them to give generously to that particular ministry leads to great hatred of the biblical gospel message which I just outlined. And, when the promised financial prosperity does not come about, the Prosperity Gospel also leads ultimately to a hatred for those who preach it, and against God Himself.
Second, it is a very self-centered message which encourages selfish behaviour and results in heartache. As writer Matt Walsh stated it, “This is the lesson we learn from prosperity preachers, though it is certainly not the lesson they’re trying to teach: Our adulterous affair with the world will always result in heartbreak. Traitors are betrayed. Cheaters are cheated on. The man who leaves his wife for his mistress is then left by his mistress. It always ends the same way. Whatever we were looking for, we don’t find. Whatever validation we hoped to earn, we don’t receive. Whatever fulfillment we thought we’d achieve, we are left emptier than we were before. We flee into the arms of the world, but the world ultimately rejects us. We are left alone and homeless in our million dollar homes.”
The self-centredness of the Prosperity Gospel is not biblical in the sense that we are not saved by works…. we are products of the saving grace of Christ. Its all about Jesus. The message of the bible is to love Jesus, and thus the teaching that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” addresses a fundamental question as to loyalty and who/what do you love more? Jesus or financial riches?
Third, the actual gospel message is that the good life is the one that is given away. Generosity, and focusing on others, is what God commands. Jesus’ gospel message is not about ourselves but about God and others. Jesus wants us to put others before ourselves, and, most of all, to give our lives over to God, living for His glory.God’s desire is to see us prosper and have life in abundance but it’s not the main thing (John 10:10). The main thing is knowing Jesus and allowing him to transform our lives (Romans 12:2). Jesus asked, “What does it profit a person to gain the whole world yet lose his or her soul?” Also, Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” Salvation if never found in acquiring money or things, but only through putting one’s faith solely in Jesus. I encourage you to do that today. Then, your life will be “abundant” and you will be able to live it “to the full”.
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