“Because thou sayest, ‘I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing;’ and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” ~Revelation 3:17
The goal of this four-part blog series on finances is to promote God over money. Many people have their priorities backwards in this area, and that is a very dangerous thing. We must esteem money and possessions very lightly; for we are pilgrims on this earth who are only passing through. Our home is with our Lord. “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1st Pet. 2:11). With that being stated, we will also be focusing on the so-called, “Prosperity Gospel”, and why it is entirely unbiblical.
The late Pastor of Times Square Church, David Wilkerson, stated it accurately. He once said, “Riches and the things that are necessary in life are not evil in themselves… The sin comes in the time and energy we spend in pursuing these things, at the expense of neglecting Christ.” Pastor Wilkerson also said that he once went to a meeting but was horrified to find how the leaders were teaching modern methods to get money from people. He said that they told them not to mail out envelopes from their ministries that were “moody” colors like blue or green. The people at this meeting were also marketing a machine that could stamp the pastor’s name on his letters (so he didn’t have to sign each one) in order to do mass mailings to get donations. Furthermore, they were telling the pastors that they might need to create a “crisis” in order to increase the people’s giving. Needless to say, this grieved him deeply. The enemy is only trying to create discord and distrust; but if we stay close to Jesus and rely upon Him, He will keep us from being deceived. God still has a people. He still has dedicated, truthful, and honest laborers. He still has a church – the Bride – and she is beautiful!
“Why is it that people are flocking to prosperity preachers? Why is it when you preach prosperity you can draw a crowd? Simply because it suits the lifestyles of those who gather. They flock to these teachers because they feel comfortable with them because of their world of materialism. They’re in no mood to give up anything, or to sacrifice, or to hear about crosses or losses.” ~David Wilkerson
Thank God, there are wonderful, truthful teachers and preachers of the Gospel still left out there. However, there are also those that teach an unbiblical doctrine. Not all televangelists, but many, are leading many astray with this false doctrine called the “Prosperity Gospel”. They treat our holy God as nothing more than a slot machine in order to obtain what they really want. They don’t want God – they want money, riches, honor, and self-gain.
You’ve seen them – the con artists on stage, preaching about how to use God to become rich – while gullible listeners are throwing their “seed” money on the steps of the stage during the sermon. When Jesus was on earth, he was displeased at the money-changers outside of the Temple and drove them away; but oh – what must He think of those inside the “church” who proclaim such sinister doctrines?! In Matthew21:13, Jesus said, “…It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.” Those who know they are guilty of such a sin (or those who support others doing such sin) will try everything to defend their stance. But, the Bible plainly states in 1st Timothy 3:3 that anybody in a leadership position is not to be greedy of filthy money.
In such prosperity meetings, the created thing (money, material things) is exalted above the Creator God. Jesus said, “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” It is heartbreaking that the masses are on a trajectory toward Hell and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, salvation, and holiness is scarcely preached or lived; yet, money is exalted non-stop in such meetings. In death, money and the material gain we have accrued won’t matter – the only thing that will matter is if we are right with Jesus. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:34).
What Are They Teaching?
“Teachers of the modern prosperity message have put stumbling blocks before thousands of believers, urging them to seek all the goodness and blessing of a caring Father – but saying nothing of the obligation of a disciple.” ~David Wilkerson
Proponents of the Prosperity Gospel typically teach that if you believe in God, tithe 10% of your income to their “ministry”, sow “seed money”, and have enough faith that you will:
1.) Always be well-off financially and in material riches; lacking nothing you want.
2.) Receive a “return on your investment” when you give.
3.) Be able to “claim” or “command” material things to gravitate toward you.
4.) Be physically healed IF you “sow” a financial seed to their ministry.
All of it sounds appealing to our human minds – right? And yes, it is true that the Lord blesses, heals, and mercifully helps us in this life. And, it is more blessed to give than to receive. But, when all else is stripped away – is it Jesus that we want or do we only want His gifts? We must remember it is God who determines what is good and perfect for us. If our desires don’t align with His plan for us, then we must know that our Heavenly Father knows best. Zac Poonen, a wise Bible teacher in India once said, “It is a foolish father who gives his children all that they want.”
Such prosperity doctrines are said to be backed by scripture; but, the scriptures loosely applied are not studied out nor used within the proper framework. For example, let’s say that I said the following sentence: “Some people say there is no God, but I know there is.” Okay – what if someone just pulled out the part of the sentence where I said, “…there is no God” but didn’t show the context in which I said it? Indeed, I did speak the words, “…there is no God”, but I followed it up with another part of the sentence where I denied that. Do you see how it could be misconstrued and I could be quoted as saying that “there is no God”?? The same confusion applies to Prosperity Gospel teachers. Such people twist certain scriptures out of their proper context and put their own spin on it. This is a dangerous thing and God will hold them accountable.
We Will Always Be Rich?
In today’s blog, we will cover point #1 (of the 4 points listed above). Please see future blogs where the other points will be covered. So, let us review point #1.
1.) According to the Prosperity Gospel, you will always be well-off financially and abounding in material riches, lacking nothing you want (if you give money or possessions to such preachers).
It is a biblical fact that true Believers in Christ will be blessed to abide in a city He has prepared for us (see John 14:2). In Revelation 21, the Bible speaks of gates made of pearl, walls made out of precious stones… a city of pure gold! But, prosperity teachers believe that we should be entitled to all of those luxuries in this life, as well!
They reason by quoting the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:10, “…Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done in earth as it is in Heaven.” Here is their reasoning: Since the Heavenly Kingdom will be filled with riches, we should partake of wealth on earth, also; in essence, bringing Heaven down to earth. Prosperity teachers read more into the text than what is actually stated. By doing this, they cheapen its accurate meaning. I could expound for hours on how slyly this is done by such teachers. But, for the sake of time and space, I will briefly summarize what this verse actually means.
The word, “Kingdom“, used in The Lord’s Prayer is defined in the original Greek as His “kingship, sovereignty, authority, rule, especially of God, both in the world, and in the hearts of men; hence: kingdom, in the concrete sense.” When we pray, “Thy Kingdom come…” we are, in essence, praying for His Will to be done. We are praying for God’s authority, kingship, and rule over us who are here on earth; just as He has authority, kingship, and rule in Heaven. Ultimately, we are longing for Jesus’ return – for the time when He will establish His eternal Kingdom and will reign forever.
When prosperity teachers utilize this scripture, they add their own human reasoning. They say, “Is there poverty in Heaven? No. Then we shouldn’t live in poverty on earth!” They continue, “Is there sickness in Heaven? No. Then we should all walk in divine health here on earth!” What they fail to mention is one other question… “Is there death in Heaven?” Well… no. But, according to their reasoning – there shouldn’t be death on earth either! However, there IS death on earth. This deflates their human reasoning that earth should be exactly like Heaven, right now. It’s not. That is a fact. We are living in a fallen world. Christian author, Max Lucado stated it very well. He said, “Lower your expectations of earth. This isn’t Heaven, so don’t expect it to be.” Expecting Heaven on earth, in this life, only sets us up for disappointment and disillusionment.
In fact, the Bible teaches that there will be troubles in this life (see John 16:33). Several verses speak of Christians enduring persecution, tribulation, suffering, afflictions, peril, infirmities, distresses, hardships, etc. – but we are also offered comfort, hope, peace, and grace to persevere through Christ. We have a hope that the sinner does not have. Does it mean that He no longer loves us if we should have to endure hardships? No! On the contrary, we were foretold of these things so that we wouldn’t be taken off-guard when the hard times of life come.
Needless to say, prosperity teachers ignore such verses on suffering, hard times, and scarcity. By this, they are not preparing the people for the reality of hard times. In turn, when hard/scarce times come – many people who have been taught a feel-good “gospel” of continual pleasure and wealth believe that God no longer loves them. They fear that He is displeased with them somehow since they are going through hardship. It is foreseeable that this could cause many, who believe such heresies as the prosperity gospel, to be angered at God. In turn, they end up confused and disheartened. This is a serious and tragic possibility.
Prosperity teachers reason that you shouldn’t be poor because you are a “Kingdom Kid”. As we previously covered, the accurate, Biblical definition of being under a Godly “Kingdom” is to be under the kingship, rule, and authority of God. His Kingdom is of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (see Rom. 14:17). When a prosperity teacher gives his pep talk, he will boost your ego by telling you how wonderful you are and that you are a Kingdom Kid who doesn’t have to be poor. Such a teacher doesn’t define his terminology in an accurate, Biblical manner – he only stands on the “authority” of his own human reasoning.
Again, such a one teaches that you should be entitled to riches in this life because you are God’s own child. Well – wasn’t Jesus God’s own Son? And wasn’t Jesus poor while He was living on earth? Yes – He was very poor, financially-speaking. There are several scriptures to support this fact. Wasn’t Peter, a disciple of Jesus, a child of God (a.k.a. “A King’s Kid”)? And (according to Acts 3:6) wasn’t he poor? What about the Apostle Paul? He had times in his life when he had plenty; but he also had times in his life when he suffered need. In Philippians 4:12, he states: “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” He wrote a large portion of the New Testament – I’d say that he was definitely a “King’s Kid”, yet, he had times when he suffered need. Throughout the Bible, some of God’s followers were financially rich; however, many were financially poor. Because they were poor, did this mean that they were no longer God’s child? Certainly not!
Revivalist, Leonard Ravenhill, once stated: “Ninety-five percent of us are spiritual cripples! Spiritual infants. Spiritual babes. Children, full of self-pity, self-interest, self-seeking, self-concerned… ‘me first’. And some people love God because He gives! We’ve got this wretched prosperity stunt. Paul’s very clear, isn’t he? Doesn’t he say (writing to Timothy there) ‘There’ll come a day when people will think that gain is godliness’? Some of God’s choicest saints don’t have another shirt to change. Paul never glamorized the gospel. It’s a very gory gospel, it’s a bloody gospel, it’s a sacrificial gospel! I believe the cardinal ethic of Christianity is sacrifice – not success! Sacrifice!”
For Richer or Poorer
“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” ~Habakkuk 3:17-18
The prosperity teacher will quote scriptures to substantiate his claims. He will say, “Yes, Jesus was poor; but He was poor so that we might become rich!” The scripture being referenced is found in 2nd Corinthians 8:9 which states: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” Taking that scripture at face-value, it would seem that the prosperity teacher was on to something. However, let’s take a closer look at this scripture.
Allow me to preface this with a side note. Incidentally, we read earlier in this chapter of the Bible where one of the churches were in extreme poverty. Yet, they were commended for giving generously to help other saints of God who were in need, also. But, this giving was not meant to cause a burden for this church while the other saints were eased. The giving was to be done in fairness so that both parties would take care of one another. It was a sort of “give and take” which made it fair. Furthermore, the giving was to be done joyfully and not out of a sense of obligation or duty (see 2nd Cor. 9:7).
But let’s get back to the question… what does this scripture mean in 2nd Corinthians 8:9? In the original Greek language, the word “rich” can be taken literally or figuratively. Let’s look at this scripture both ways. The verse begins by stating: “though he was rich…” In a literal way, this would mean Heavenly riches. In Psalm 50, we learn that God owns all of the animals, the cattle on a thousand hills, and the entire world; it is all His. Isaiah 66 proclaims that Heaven is His throne and the earth, His footstool. The literal place of Heaven is a rich place; a city of pure gold! So yes, Jesus was rich materially. But, if we look at this figuratively, Jesus was also rich with a fullness that comes from being with God in Heaven. He had the riches of abiding in a Heavenly condition and abounded in every good virtue. So, either way you look at it, it’s true – Jesus left the riches of Heaven to come to earth.
This scripture continues, “yet for your sakes, He became poor”… For our sakes, He left the riches and became poor. When Jesus took on human form and came to earth, He was born in a stable and placed in a lowly manger. In Matthew 8:20, Jesus said, “…the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath no where to lay his head.” There are other scriptures to support the fact that while He was here, Jesus was financially poor – in the literal sense. If taken figuratively, Jesus had to take on the poor condition of human flesh which is subject to pain and physical humiliations; which He so willingly experienced for us.
Jesus truly became poor – but, for what reason? So that “ye through his poverty might be rich.” You see, He left the riches of Heaven on a mission to die for our sins – not for our bank account! In Hebrews 9:22, the Bible says that the shedding of Jesus’ blood was for the remission of our sins – not for the reversal of our financial debt or for us to obtain an expensive sports car! In the literal sense of this scripture, the riches we obtain from Christ’s sacrifice would be the riches of Heaven, at last. The figurative meaning is highly relevant also; that while here on earth – we enjoy the riches of faith and a rich relationship with Him! In the original Greek language, this scripture is accurately stated that we might become ‘enriched‘ if we follow Him. In fact, James 2:5 says, “Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?”
We are also enriched with eternal, spiritual possessions that never get stolen or destroyed. “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:19-21).
So many wrongly think that the scripture in 2nd Corinthians 8:9 means that we are promised material riches in this life. However, if Christ intended for His earthly appearance to mean temporary material riches for us, why then, would He teach against laying up treasures on earth? Why would Jesus say that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God? Why then, would His holy Word teach us to live as pilgrims?
Christ’s blood was shed to pay a price for our sin. He didn’t shed His precious, sacred blood to pay for our three-car garage or to meet our every whim! He died for people – not for mere things! How distasteful for “Prosperity Gospel” proponents to suggest this! Sadly, so many would rather be rich financially than to be rich in faith. It shows who their true idol and “god” is… it is money and temporary material gain. Oh, what a tragedy – that the temporal is desired over the eternal God!
King Solomon’s Riches
Many who believe the fallacy of “all God’s people are financially rich” will use the example of King Solomon’s riches. Indeed, the Bible states that King Solomon was a very rich man, financially. It should be noted that King Solomon was made wealthy by God – not because he asked God for riches – but because he did NOT ask God for riches. King Solomon asked God for wisdom and knowledge. Then God said to Solomon, …”Because this was in thine heart, and thou hast not asked riches, wealth, or honour, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life; but hast asked wisdom and knowledge for thyself, that thou mayest judge my people, over whom I have made thee king: Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like” (2nd Chron. 1:11-12).
We must take into consideration that Solomon was the king over Israel, and used a large portion of his riches to build a Temple for God. This Temple was to house the Ark of the Covenant where God’s glory would fill the Temple. So many people want to presumptuously compare themselves with King Solomon. They feel entitled to the same riches that God gave him. However, there are some things to consider.
Firstly, Solomon was king over Israel… we are not. Secondly, we find that King Solomon proved that riches, honor, and mere “things” did not bring him lasting joy. There was nothing his eyes desired that he denied himself; yet, he found it was all meaningless, and even brought him to a point where he hated life. Ecclesiastes 4:6 says, “Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.” Later in that chapter, verse 13 says, “Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king…” And Ecclesiastes 5:10… “He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.”
Finally, we must also consider that King Solomon lived under the old covenant (Old Testament). You will find that most of the Old Testament blessings were given and displayed outwardly; such as riches, livestock, crops, rain, children, gold, silver, etc. However, under the new covenant (New Testament), blessings are more inward such as peace, joy, love, contentment, forgiveness, and the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us. That’s not to say that God does not also bless outwardly nowadays – but overall, we now enjoy internal and eternal blessings. God’s presence filled the Temple in the old testament times; but in the new testament times, His presence fills our hearts within. 1st Corinthians 6:19-20 states: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”
So, if God chooses bless us financially or outwardly, we joyfully praise Him. But, if God chooses to bless us in other ways or internally, we still joyfully praise Him. He knows what is best for us and we should desire His Will above all else. May our heart’s desires align with His desires.
Needs VS. Wants
In conclusion, we must know the difference between needs and wants. God’s Word never promises that all of our wants and whims will be met in this life; but it does promise that if we seek Him first, He will meet our needs. Jesus put it best… He said:
“Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:25-33).
What “things” will be added unto us as we seek Him first? As stated, the “things” referenced here are our needs – food, drink, and clothing. This truth is also echoed in 1st Timothy 6:8. “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”
There is enough material on this topic to write an entire book! This series will be continued and we will cover various other aspects of the false “Prosperity Gospel”. Again, the whole intent of doing so is to promote God over money. Let us close for now and meditate upon these scriptural truths stated. Let’s evaluate our motives and our hearts as we strive to please our Lord.