Christianity and theology

What is Wrong with ‘Prosperity Gospel’?

On the onset let me say that I know some true and sincere believers who have bought into ‘prosperity gospel’ for various reasons.  Some of these are personal friends and I know that this post will break them. I, strongly,  do pray that it breaks you not because I have written it, but because the Word of God contained in it, powered by the Holy Spirit, has come with full force in your life  to break you and thereafter mold you according to God’s will revealed to us in Scripture alone. Now here we go:

What is wrong with ‘prosperity gospel’? Before answering the question, it is good to put the record straight that ‘prosperity gospel’ is no gospel at all. The Bible is clear that there is only one Gospel (Galatians 1:6-8)and if I were to take at least one verse that summarizes this Gospel, I would go for John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” This is the Gospel. Anything that adds or subtracts from it is no gospel at all.

In light of this, Apostle Paul warns us of ‘other gospels.’  His words in Galatians 1:8, 9 echo with great emphasis: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (ESV)

Now, what is wrong with ‘prosperity gospel?’ First, it misses the mark on God’s chief plan for a sinner. It emphasizes that one should come to Christ in order to get material blessings not what is big in God’s plan of salvation namely eternal life.

God gave his Son, Jesus Christ, to live a perfect life on behalf of a sinner like me and die on behalf of a sinner as me and later rose from the dead so that every believer should have eternal life. Therefore, God’s chief plan in redemption is that man should be saved from sin and death and not to prosper materially. If that was the case John 3:16 would read: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should be healthy and wealthy.”

Secondly, ‘prosperity gospel’ robs God of his Godhood and renders Him as a vending machine. If one takes a closer look at ‘prosperity gospel,’ they will notice that it emphasizes on faith as means of obtaining blessings from God. So, God becomes a vending machine and the currency for buying on this vending machine is faith. You put faith in this vending machine and out comes a very big mansion. You slot in faith, and boom you have a top-notch job.  You push faith in and the machine gives you an ‘all-eyes-on-me’ car.  The moment you slot in faith, the vending machine spits out good health. If you a bachelor or spinster, you just have to put in faith, and the vending machine will give you a beautiful wife or handsome husband and a happiest marriage as a bonus.

So, people become followers of God because He is like a vending machine that gives them their wants and not because they have experienced His true and amazing love and grace in their lives.  It is similar to what Christ experienced while on earth. In John 6:1-71 we read that after Jesus miraculously fed 5000 men, He withdrew to a lonely place and later at night walked on the sea and joined His disciples as they crossed over to the other side of the lake.

The next day, when some people noticed that Christ was not among them, they got into boats and followed Jesus to the other side of the sea.  Upon meeting them, Jesus rebuked the people because their motive for seeking Him was wrong. He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.  Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you” (26, 27 ESV).

In other words, Jesus is telling these people and us today that we should not follow Him because we want to prosper. Doing that is missing the mark. Rather we should follow Him because He is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:16). Jesus is not the vending machine that dispenses out material blessings at our will. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

Material possessions, not matter how huge, cannot satisfy us. It is God who satisfies.  King Solomon explains this outstanding truth very well in the book of Ecclesiastes. King Solomon was a very prosperous man in every way (1 Kings 10:14-29).  However, despite having all those riches, Solomon still felt that life was useless and was like chasing after the wind because he did not allow God to satisfy him.

Eventually,  God enabled him to realize that  silver and gold cannot satisfy but only God and Solomon confessed and said: “All has been heard, here is the conclusion of the matter: fear God and keep his commandments for that’s the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13 NIV). We should realize that only Christ and not the riches of this world can satisfy us. For sure, “Our hearts will remain restless until they find rest in Christ” (St Augustine).

Thirdly, ‘prosperity gospel’ robs God of his sovereignty.  By God’s sovereignty, we basically mean that God is in full control of what happens in heaven and on earth. He carries out all that he wills and nothing can stop His plans. In other words, when we say that God is sovereign, we mean that God is God.

Now do proponents of ‘prosperity gospel’ recognize God’s sovereignty in the lives of his people? No, they don’t because they teach that if you are a Christian you should prosper and be rich.  By such emphasis, they usurp the place of God and start determining the destiny of God’s people. They teach that it is God’s will for you to be rich.

Now, is it true to say that it is the will of God that every believer should be rich and prosper materially? Turning to the Bible, which by the way is a final rule of faith and practice for Christians, we find so many examples of believers who were very dedicated to God but were not materially rich including  Jesus himself who reminds us : “The poor you shall always have,” (Mark 14:7).

Does this mean that Christians should always be poor? No, that’s another extreme which the Bible does not teach. Instead the Bible calls on Christians to work hard and trust God for their both spiritual and physical needs. In the model prayer which Christ taught His disciples and is also commonly known as the Lord’s prayer, Jesus teaches us to trust God to provide for us and He encourages us to ask: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Luke 11:3 ESV). God knows our needs; we should trust him to meet such needs one day at a time.

Jesus also warns us of focusing our eyes so much on riches that we are  blinded to the fact that God is the sole provider  and sustainer when he says: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist  in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).

Another warning comes to us through the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 6:6-10:

“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desire that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (ESV).

Apostle Paul continues with the word of admonition regarding focus more attention on riches than God  in 2 Timothy 6:17: “As for the rich in this present age, charge then not be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (ESV).

And what is this ‘everything to enjoy’? Is it big mansions, expensive cars, and excellent jobs? No, it is Jesus! Jesus is everything that a Christian needs to enjoy. Jesus is the greatest provision that God has made for his children far richer than material blessings which are temporal.  That’s why a Christian should echo the words of the Psalmist and say, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25, 26, NIV).