“The great tragedy of prosperity preaching is that a person does not have to be spiritually awakened in order to embrace it; one needs only to be greedy.” ~John Piper
NOTE: This is Part 3 (of 4) in the blog series on finances. To review the first two blogs in this series, please click the appropriate link below:
As stated before, the goal of this four-part blog series on finances is to promote God over money. While we utilize money in this world, it should never be esteemed above God Almighty. This series is primarily focusing on various aspects and beliefs built upon the so-called “Prosperity Gospel” – and examining these beliefs to see if they are true.
In his book, The Prosperity Gospel Exposed, author Michael D. Fortner says, “The truth is in the Bible, but because it does not fit with what people want to be true, they cannot see what it actually says.” He continues, “Given its departure from the historical, orthodox message of the church, one would think that most Bible-believing Christians would reject the prosperity gospel. However, this is not the case… A recent survey found that in the United States, 46% of self-proclaimed Christians agree with the idea that God will grant material riches to all believers who have enough faith.” He says, “… the Bible specifically speaks out against the desire for wealth, calling it idolatry… Christianity used to battle paganism, it now battles materialism.”
A False “Gospel”
“Don’t preach a gospel that obscures the biblical truth that God himself is the greatest treasure.” ~John Piper
Proponents of the Prosperity Gospel typically teach that if you believe in God, tithe 10% of your gross 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.
Of the points listed above, we will cover point #3 in this blog entry, as the other topics were covered previously. Prosperity Gospel preachers teach that, as we give money to their ministries, that we have the right to command things to gravitate toward us; things such as money, favor, success, prosperity, or even a good parking spot at the mall. Additionally, such teachers are really infatuated by “positive professions.” In fact, I’ve heard some Prosperity teachers instruct people to speak wealth to their billfold! They embolden listeners by instructing them – “speak to your money!”
New Age Beliefs
“Although prosperity teachers claim that their message is found in Scripture, there is little proof to substantiate this claim. As will become clear, the prosperity gospel has more in common with New Thought than with the New Testament.” ~ David Jones, Russell Woodbridge
The belief system (of making positive professions) is taught unashamedly by many prosperity preachers. This type of belief system so closely parallels with the New Thought belief system and with the New Age belief in the ‘Law of Attraction’. Such beliefs are based on a combination of pagan philosophies.
In their book, Health, Wealth & Happiness, authors David W. Jones and Russell S. Woodbridge take a closer look at the Prosperity Gospel and its origins. They write, “You may feel uneasy when a loved one becomes enamored with the prosperity gospel or financially supports these ministries, though you may not know why you feel this way. Perhaps you need to know more about the prosperity gospel to articulate your concerns.”
They continue, “Few people realize that the prosperity gospel has its philosophical roots in a nineteeth-century movement known as New Thought. This movement, in some ways, is a forerunner to the modern New Age movement, as it rejects the orthodox teachings of Christianity in favor of a self-generated type of mysticism.”
Prosperity teachers/preachers will encourage people to make positive professions over their finances and thereby have the (self-reliant) ability to prosper. Such teachers will also claim the ability to “speak a financial blessing” over others. Sure, they will throw in an occasional scripture (incidentally, taken out of context), but their real aim is not God nor the scriptures; their real aim is the idol of wealth.
Positive confession is slowly taking the place of prayer! There is nothing wrong with speaking positive, uplifting words to others; and we should never be careless with our words. However, the idea of making positive professions over mere coins and paper money is taking things to an unhealthy extreme. Many prosperity preachers teach us to “name our seed” when we give an offering and to “claim” a financial harvest of money and/or material possessions. This type of belief is not founded upon scripture.
But, the madness doesn’t stop there. Prosperity teachers forbid people from speaking any sort of negative words which would keep one under a “generational curse” or a “spirit of poverty”. Without going into a lengthy explanation, suffice it to say that any and all generational curses are null and void in the true Christian’s life. This is according to Galatians 3:13 which states: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.”
No reputable Christian would accuse the Apostles of being displeasing to God. They were God’s ambassadors and they were willing to die for His name. However, many of them were poor and even homeless, as stated in 1st Corinthians 4:10-14. But, if held to the false standard of the prosperity preachers – they would falsely accuse these Apostles of being under a “spirit of poverty.”
In hours of deep study, I find no such scriptural validation to the idea that being poor is due a “spirit of poverty”. Many of the saintliest men and women (in the Bible and throughout history) have been very poor, financially-speaking. But, whether rich or poor, the gift of salvation is open to all who will come to Jesus; and this coming to Jesus does not guarantee that we will be financially well-off in this life. But we are promised eternal life and a Savior. As the hymn says, “I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold; I’d rather be His than have riches untold; I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands; I’d rather be led by his nail-pierced hands – than to be a king of a vast domain…”
Speaking Money Into Existence?
“Oh Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself. It is not in man that walketh to direct his [own] steps.” ~Jeremiah 10:23
Oftentimes, the scripture that is utilized to justify “speaking to your billfold” is found in Mark 11:23. In this scripture, Jesus states: “For verily I say unto you, That whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith.” Let us take note that a mountain was not “spoken into existence”, rather, a mountain (an obstacle) was removed, by faith in God’s power. God is the Creator and by His words, the entire universe was created; for we know that with God, all things are possible.
Prosperity and “Word of Faith” preachers teach that our words hold creative power. If this were true, why can none of them create a world with their words as God did? Plain and simple – because they aren’t teaching the truth. God challenges Job in a similar matter in (Job) chapter 38. In verse 12, God asks Job, “Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, or made the dawn know its place?” And God asks (in Job 39:27), “Is it at your command that the eagle mounts up and makes his nest on high?”
Humans have limitations. This is why we must look to God and have faith in Him. The above-mentioned scripture (about speaking to the mountain) is merely teaching the power of total reliance on God through prayer and faith. It is not meant to deify man whatsoever nor to justify greed.
Author, D.R. McConnell states: “… the concept of creative faith denigrates the entire Trinity: the Father’s exclusive role as the source of creation, the Son’s exclusive role as the agent of creation, and the Spirit’s exclusive role as executer of creation. The creation is from the Father, through the Son, and by the Holy Spirit. Man is a creature, and no creature in the Bible is ever accorded creative power: no man, no angel, no devil, no animal. The closest that the Bible comes to investing man with creative powers is God’s command to be fruitful and multiply.”
Again, God is the Creator and nothing is impossible to Him. Therefore, we can have absolute trust in Him. Mark 11:23 (and the topic of speaking to the mountain) is best explained in the Pulpit Commentary which states: “…implying that if such a removal as he mentioned was ever expedient and in accordance with God’s will, it would be effected by the power of faith; not that he hereby sanctioned an arbitrary and wanton display of miraculous power, but he gives an assurance that, were such a measure rendered necessary for the cause of religion, it would be performable at the call of one whose whole trust was centered on God, and whose will was one with God’s will.”
A Word of Comfort to the Poor
Prosperity gospel teachers do not have a complete, working knowledge of scripture or of God’s heart. Perhaps, a very small percentage of them mean well – but are simply misinformed. However, the vast majority of prosperity teachers purposely ignore many scriptures in order to embrace their flawed theology of continual riches. Many even have the audacity to condemn others who aren’t wealthy; as if something is flawed in their faith. It is tragic that so many are being condemned over something that won’t matter in eternity. It matters not whether we are rich or poor in this life. Our finances have no bearing upon our walk with God and will not prevent us from being saved by Jesus’ blood (which is a free gift extended to all who will believe and be saved).
An exhaustive list of scriptures, taken out of their proper framework, are being abused by prosperity teachers so often that the true meaning often gets buried in our minds. This is a great tragedy and a huge offense perpetrated by such teachers. When indoctrinated with this false prosperity gospel, one has to (almost always) start back at the beginning of the Bible and allow the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth of the scriptures. Personally, I have had to do this myself and it has been such a breath of fresh air. The politics, self-reliance, and rules of the false prosperity gospel smothers out the love of God, the compassion of God upon the less fortunate, and the true heart of a Savior whose wisdom and dealings with us are always just and honorable. There’s always finger-pointing and blaming by prosperity teachers as to why you aren’t rich… They blame you with, “You don’t have enough faith,” and “You must have sin in your life,” or “You’re not giving large enough offerings.” On and on – the unmerited guilt is heaped upon others by the wealthy preacher who thinks it’s God’s Will for everyone to drive a BMW or a Rolls Royce. It is so refreshing to come away from such sinister teachings and into the healing light of a deep, meaningful relationship with God. It is a comfort to focus on God rather than money. It is freeing.
When pulling away from the false “prosperity gospel” it is helpful to find all the scriptures used by such teachers and read them in their entirety. It is important to always read the scriptures leading up to, and following, the key text. It is eye-opening and heartbreaking to see how deceptive these prosperity teachers really are. They have a form of Godliness and even appear as good people, but beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” ~Matthew 7:15
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” ~2nd Timothy 3:1-5
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” ~2nd Corinthians 11:13-14
Take heart, God will protect His own. Psalm 12:5 says, “For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.”
Run From False Prophets!
The Bible instructs us to withdraw from those who would reject the truth by teaching false doctrines. In 1st Timothy 6:5, scripture states: “…Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.” Again, in verse 11, we are instructed to flee such things. “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.”
In regards to associating with false teachers, a very sobering scripture is stated in Ezekiel 14:10. “And they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity: the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him…” In other words, the one who seeks the false prophet’s guidance will be just as guilty as the false prophet himself! This is why it is important to reject any and all doctrines that do not completely align with scripture. The Bible is given to instruct us and also to protect us from error. Remember, deception is subtle. Just because a false teacher speaks intelligently and logically does not negate the fact that they are leading the masses away from the God of the Bible.
As the pastor of Times Square Church, Carter Conlon, once preached: “This is not just about an opposing theology or conflicting viewpoint on Jesus; this is about your life… Run from gospels that focus only on success and prosperity – Run! Run from those who use the name of Christ only for personal gain. Run from those that are picking your pocket in the name of Jesus – Run! Run from gospels that only focus on self-improvement – Run! Run from churches where men and not Christ are glorified – Run! Run! Body of Christ – Run! Get out! Don’t touch the unclean thing.”
In closing, I urge all readers of this blog to reflect upon your own personal beliefs to see if they align with the Holy Bible. If not – run away from false beliefs and false teachings and embrace Jesus Christ in His fullness and majesty!
“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.” ~1 Peter 1:18-21
“Labour not to be rich…” ~Proverbs 23:4
“Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich.” ~Proverbs 28:6
“And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness; for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” ~Luke 12:15
“For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre.” ~Titus 1:7
“He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live.” ~Proverbs 15:27