There is a false gospel that has been gaining momentum and causing great deception across the world for decades and it started right here in America. That false gospel is the “prosperity gospel.”
People who follow prosperity theology believe and teach that financial or material blessing is the will of God for all Christians, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to Christian ministries will increase one's material wealth. Based on non-traditional interpretations of the Bible, often with emphasis on the Book of Malachi, the doctrine views the Bible as a contract between God and humans: if humans have faith in God, he will deliver his promises of security and prosperity. Confessing these promises to be true is perceived as an act of faith, which God will honor. This is believed to be achieved through visualization and positive confession, and is often taught in mechanical and contractual terms. The prosperity teaching later figured prominently in the Word of Faith movement and 1980s televangelism. In the 1990s and 2000s, it was adopted by influential leaders in the Charismatic Movement and promoted by Christian missionaries throughout the world, sometimes leading to the establishment of mega-churches. From Wikipedia article Prosperity theology
In his letter to Timothy, Paul warns him about false teachers and urged him and the Christians in Ephesus to avoid men who thought these kinds of things. He was referring to some of the sects that had infiltrated the early church.
1 Timothy 6:3-5 (NKJV) If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, revealing, evil suspicions, useless wrangling of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.
The prosperity gospel closely resembles some of the destructive sects that infiltrated the early church. Paul and the other apostles identified them as dangerous false teachers and urged Christians to avoid them.
1 Timothy 6:9-11 (NKJV) But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.
If riches was the goal for the godly, why didn’t Jesus pursue it and teach His disciples to do likewise? Remember, the only disciple concerned with wealth was Judas.
The prosperity gospel is a far cry from the gospel of Jesus because its roots are not grounded in the message of the Cross that gives new us new life in Christ. It originates from New Age philosophy, which focuses on using your thoughts, declaration of specific words, and visualizations to attract what you want to happen in your life. The prosperity theology distorts the message of the finished work of the Cross by proclaiming that Jesus didn’t just die for the forgiveness of your sins and to give you new abundant life;
John 10:10 NKJV The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
But to also give you anything that you asked as long as you used words from the Bible and spoke them in His name. They believe that by using your faith, this new life in Him will bring about perfect health and abundant wealth in material possessions and relationships.
This message appeals to every natural human desire and it is absolutely untrue. When you add anything to the gospel, it becomes a false one.
This post is for those people, like me, who have been told or heard that our words have power and all we have to do is speak them in faith and God’s words backs you up.
When you take the words that you like, even when taken out of context, and the things you speak don’t happen what do you do? Do you question your faith or God?
If that's ever happened to you or someone you know that spoke to cancer, or a financial crises. or whatever, and nothing changed and now you're looking for an answer, this post is for you.
1. Do I believe faith is merely a force to be used for my own personal gain?
As I said before, the prosperity gospel has its roots in New Age philosophy, so its message that health and wealth through the finished work of Christ on the cross is obtained by using positive and declarative words and actions, through the law of attraction and visualization (New Age principles).
This theology believes faith is then a force to receive whatever you want to attract to you, believing God will give you whatever you are asking for, and using the name of Jesus as your authority to do so.
Faith is not something you use to get material possessions or temporary pleasures. Faith is the gift God fills our heart with to believe upon the Lord Jesus, to have a relationship with Him where we trust that He is good and faithful no matter what we are experiencing in life. Our faith in Christ is what gives us the hope that we have eternal life in Him.
2. Am I truly giving out of a heart of generosity, or am I giving to get something in return?
If your faith is to be used as a force to get something from God, as it is in the prosperity gospel, then you must give something away to get what you want in return. This act of giving stems from the law of reciprocity:
- If you sow time, you get time.
- If you sow money, you get money.
Sowing seeds is at the core of this false gospel, but when addressed in the Bible this seed is the Word of God, not money.
Luke 8:4-8, 11-15 NKJV And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.” When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.
Another scripture used in the prospect gospel that results in an increase of money or material possessions is.
II Corinthians 9:6-15 NKJV But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work. As it is written: “He has dispersed abroad, He has given to the poor; His righteousness endures forever.” Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God. For the administration of this service not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also is abounding through many thanksgivings to God, while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men, and by their prayer for you, who long for you because of the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
In this scripture used by proponents of the prosperity theology the point is to bless others and you will be blessed in return. This is not a promise for accumulating wealth. The person who sows on the principle of blessings will reap on the principle of blessings. Sowing money or other material things may just as soon result in reaping peace or healing and not money. Paul is talking here about being generous to the saints in need in Jerusalem.
II Corinthians 9:1-5 NKJV Now concerning the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you; for I know your willingness, about which I boast of you to the Macedonians, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal has stirred up the majority. Yet I have sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this respect, that, as I said, you may be ready; lest if some Macedonians come with me and find you unprepared, we (not to mention you!) should be ashamed of this confident boasting. Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation.
He tells them that their generosity in blessings them will result in others being generous when they have a a need. If they are willing to bless others God will give them the ability to bless others, while having all they need.
An Example of Reciprocity in the Prosperity Gospel:
Most often, a seed in prosperity theology is a financial gift that has a condition attached. As you sow your financial seed, using the tithe as the key to open the windows of heaven, the Sovereign God is then required to multiple that seed (as if He were subject to the law of reciprocity) and pour out a blessing so big that you can’t contain it.
Malachi 3:10 NKJV Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try 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 such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.
This “prosperity gospel” promises a 30, 60, or 100-fold return
Matthew 13:8 NKJV But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
However in context that seed is the Word;
Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23 NKJV Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” “Therefore hear the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
3. Do I use prayer as a means to tell God or to ask God?
Along with New Age philosophy, the prosperity gospel is founded in Word of Faith theology, which proclaims that our words have the power to create our reality. It says that we are able to call things that are not as though they are.
In my blog post, “Can We Really Call Those Things Which Be Not As Though They Were” I point out that we should read that scripture in context. The full verse is;
Romans 4:17 (NKJV) (as it is written, "I have made you a father of many nations") in the presence of Him whom he believed--God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did; (Emphasis mine).
It is crystal clear, to me at least, that Paul said that it is God who calls those things which do not exist as though they did;. He is not writing that the Christians in Rome or anywhere else can call things into existence.
Another scripture used by “prosperity gospel” and “Word of Faith” theology is
Mark 11:22-24 (NKJV) 22 So Jesus answered and said to them, "Have faith in God. 23 For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.
This scripture does not show that we have the power to change reality according to what we say. It shows that God has the power to change reality according to his will. Jesus is not to teaching us to have faith in ourselves, or in our words, but to have faith in God. His promise is not that we will receive whatever you speak but, but, that we will receive “whatever you ask for in prayer.” We know from the rest of Scripture that this is not a blanket promise that God will answer every prayer by giving us what we want but is, instead, a promise that God will answer our prayer in accordance with his will. This does not suggest that our words have power to make miracles happen or grant us material things. It is clear from the in context of the statement that the emphasis is on belief, not “speaking” it into existence.
This false teaching completely changes the purpose behind prayer.
Instead of prayer as a way to connect to our Father and cultivate relationship, prayer is viewed as a way to tell God what He is supposed to do for you through declarative statements and thanking Him that He is already making a way, even if it is not His will. You cannot bargain with God (read God’s Will Versus My Will - Can You Change God's Mind)
The belief that it will happen has more to do with the person’s faith in the power of their words than faith in God Himself.”Even if the person praying is asking God that He move in their situation, the belief that it will happen has more to do with the person’s faith in the power of their words than faith in God Himself.
Matthew 21:21-22 NKJV So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
We have faith in God that He hears us when we come to Him. As His child, we can ask Him for what is on our heart, but we also must remember that His ways are higher than our own, therefore, we must trust that His will for our life is perfect.
Isaiah 55:8-9 NKJV “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord . “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.
4. Do I believe that as a Christian that I should not suffer?
The prosperity gospel proclaims that because Jesus suffered on the Cross:
- As His followers, we should not have to suffer.
- And if we do suffer, it is because somehow, we opened the door to the enemy to wreak havoc on our lives.
But Job was “blameless and upright,” and he suffered greatly. And who do you think gave Satan permission to wreck Job’s life?
Job 1:12, 2:6 NKJV And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person. ” So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord .And the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life.”
The Apostles were thrown in jail, martyred, and tortured for their faith in Christ. Suffering is one of the highest honors as a follower of Christ. Peter tells us that we should rejoice and praise God when we suffer.
I Peter 4:1-2, 12-13 NKJV Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
Jesus never promised us that we would not have to suffer. In fact, He promised that we would be persecuted and that we would face many trials and tribulations. But He also promised that He overcame the world for us.
John 16:33 NKJV These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
5. What is my definition of a blessed life?This question is the most reflective one because I believe it deals with contentment. In a culture where “blessed” is a literal hashtag on social media, it’s important to define this word for ourselves. What's more important to you; material things, or salvation, wisdom, or spiritual gifts?
Sometimes blessings come wrapped up in suffering;
I Peter 4:12-14 NKJV Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.
Think about these questions and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal areas of your heart where you might have been influenced by the prosperity gospel instead of the true gospel. The true gospel is that Jesus came to rescue sinners from the wrath of God by taking our punishment upon Himself through the Cross and to give us eternal life as well as a new life right now that should be lived to glorify Him always. Life found in Christ alone will always be enough.
Some content excerpted from “Are You Living Out a Prosperity Gospel? 5 Questions to Ask Yourself” by Emily Rose Massey on Crosswalk.com