A Simple Response to the Lies of the Prosperity Gospel
The prosperity gospel is garbage. Yes, I said garbage, trash, refuse..all of the synonyms. It is an abomination of a doctrine used to steal money from people. I know this is a strong description but it is true. The health and wellness doctrine or “name it and claim it” gospel is poison to the people who believe it. It also undermines the cause of the church. Joel Osteen is often the only pastor some people know…and they hold that against Jesus. Paula White is splashed across every news channel. The result is they create large obstacles to reaching people with the real Gospel. This is particularly true due to the nature of the deception involved. The prosperity gospel is the type of false teaching that uses scriptures to exploit people. The verses are twisted in order to do it’s dirty work. These type of false teachers will quote the Bible with apparent certainty to try to deceive us…but so did Satan. It can be very confusing.
Our jobs as Christians is to try to rescue those caught in this deception. We are also called to contend for the faith. Yet, it is easy to get bogged down when responding to prosperity gospel claims. It is great know all the Bible verses that refute a claim. The Bible is our weapon to defeat false teachers. Yet, we can miss the simplicity of the greater context. The Lord gave us both the specific verses of the Bible and the life stories they record for our benefit.
Jesus is Our Example
The lives of Jesus and the disciples in the Scriptures are there for a reason. They are concrete examples of how to live a Godly life. Their lives are very effective in freeing people from the grips of false teachers. There are times when these simple patterns from the Word are great ammunition against the lies of Satan. We can use them to test and discard the claims of the Creflo Dollar’s and Kenneth Copeland’s of the world. Jesus’ life reveals their claims to be anti-Christ, against Jesus. They are garbage wrapped in a expensive presentation.
The test goes like this:
Jesus’ life is recorded for our benefit and for an example to us. The same goes for the disciples of the early church. If Jesus and the early church did something as a regular practice, we likely should be doing it too.
If Jesus and the early church did not do something, it is a big flashing warning sign that we should not be doing it either.
Obviously, this has to be adjusted for historical context as Jesus did not drive a car or fly in airplane. But the simple application of the lives of these great saints as a standard to the doctrine known as the prosperity gospel reveals its utter depravity.
Test Every Spirit
Want to try the test with me? We are told to test every teacher so don’t be shy.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
The prosperity gospel is touted by many of the big televangelists on TV. It has infiltrated many local congregations. There is good reason for its popularity. It is appealing. It is also a money maker. Call it the “health and wellness doctrine” or “name it or claim it”, it tells us what we want to hear – God will give you stuff and you are in control of your life. It demands very little from us in return – all you need to give is money. Things like personal holiness, humility, and service to Jesus as Lord are not part of the deal.
Honestly, who doesn’t want to hear life is easy and all about us? The problem is God must be fundamentally altered to get there. Christian life is either all about man or all about God. It cannot be both.
The doctrine presents God as a sort of super wealthy grandfather in the sky. His greatest desire is for His people to be materially rich. He wants to buy us that toy train set or Barbie doll at Christmas. He just has a secret formula we need to follow in order to please Him enough and get it. It requires us to be a “good” Christian according to their made up standards. This includes believing we Christians became little gods upon salvation. The power to create with speech comes with this minor godhood. Christians just need to speak in faith and things like cars, houses, and good health come into our lives. We just have to have enough faith and we will be rich like the preacher on TV.
You too can have $2,000 suits and drive expensive cars and not ever get sick!! You just need to believe it enough!!!
All they ask in return is we give them money “in faith”. The call it “seed money” to get the money tree growing in our lives. This is not at all what the Bible says. Jesus specifically promises we will have pain, trouble and sorrow in our lives. He simply also assures us it will be worth it. His spiritual and eternal treasure is better than the fleeting pleasures of the world.
Do you want to know what is even more disgusting? These false teachers are not satisfied with twisting God’s nature. They then blame the sheep they are meant to care for when their sleazy promises don’t come true. They claim it is the person’s fault if they are not materially blessed in this life. They are weak in our faith. They have sin in their lives. They need to pray harder, give more money, declare more, and really, really speak it into existence. They trick the sheep with lies and then make them think their misery is their fault. We can clearly see the work of a wolf in the church. They devour the sheep.
Where is the sovereignty of God in this?
The Great Cloud of Witnesses
There are numerous verses that directly contradict this teaching. It is always fruitful to study the Word and apply those verses. But the lives of the great New Testament men and women of faith can be used to highlight the absurdity of the entire framework. An even halfway honest look at the people of Bible shows the prosperity gospel has nothing to do with faith in Jesus.
God’s blessing is based on His plan alone. He is King of Kings and doesn’t obey anyone. Our walk with Jesus should also never be based on our covetousness and greed.
Jesus did not live in a mansion. Jesus did not pray for money or a big house. Jesus did not ask for donations for a fancy donkey. Jesus had one set of clothing to His name. Material things were never His focus. The wisemen come to the opulent palace of Herod looking for Jesus. They were men and thinking like we do. They expected a King to live in riches at the center of power. They found a wicked man instead. Jesus chose not to be there.
Jesus says that money is an impediment to getting into the Kingdom of God. Wealth, power, and position are not bad in themselves. They do make it really hard to be saved and to walk after Jesus. The end goals of the prosperity gospel are depicted almost entirely as weights that drag us away from Jesus in the Bible.
Jesus chose to live in poverty instead. God could have been the earthly child of earthly royalty. He had all of the riches of heaven and earth at His fingertips. He chose to give all that up and picked out the path that involved rejection, more poverty, and humiliating death. He did that for us. Jesus then told us to follow His example. The prosperity gospel teachers who say to live like kings miss Jesus’ example entirely. Joel Osteen’ s best seller “Your Best Life Now” is entirely contrary to the life and teaching of Jesus. Our best life for now is wherever Jesus places us. Our real best life will be when we live daily with Jesus for eternity.
Jesus is the King of Kings. He lived entirely as a lowly servant. Was there something wrong with Jesus’ faith? Where did He go wrong that He is could not speak his dreams into existence?
Those Who Knew Jesus Best
His brother, James, did not miss Jesus’ clear example. James was murdered for his faith in Jesus. Paul, Peter, the other James, and the other Apostles clearly followed Jesus as well. They were all persecuted, jailed, and killed for their faith…and praised God all through it. Paul was beaten, stoned, shipwrecked on multiple occasions, beaten again, and rejected by his own people. Paul pointed to these terrible events as proof of his great faith. They faithfully followed Jesus and suffered. Paul then told his disciples to follow his example as he followed Jesus.
Jesus’ example included pain, physical loss, and death for God. Peter’s life mimicked Jesus’ and was filled with sacrifice, poverty, pain, and death. There are no records of the early church chasing prosperity….not one. They all willingly gave for the mission of the church…not for the personal wealth of the pastor. What was the problem with the faith of Peter, Paul, James, and the others that they lived lives of suffering?
Anyone who tells you the Apostles lived in luxury is deliberately lying.
Are we seeing the problems? Hebrews 11 is often called the Hall of Faith. It is God’s picking people throughout history as examples of great faith. This what God says of some of them:
Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.
If your smiling Televangelist tells you God wants you to be wealthy and God says these saints were poor and persecuted, how do you explain the contradiction? Peter knew Jesus better than the pastor who drives a $200,000 car. I am going with Peter’s version of Christianity. When someone tells you Jesus wants you to be fat, safe, and happy when the Bible says Jesus was flogged, naked, and crucified, who is lying to you?
The entire framework presented by the prosperity preachers is contradicted by Jesus. It is exposed as lunacy by the Apostles and the history of Christ’s church. They did not care about wealth. They did not seek after power. They lived as humble and content servants of God.
The greatest among the church are the servants according to Jesus….not celebrities and rich folks.
There is no way to justify the prosperity gospel if you look at Jesus’ life honestly. The is no reason to get the doctrine of the prosperity gospel from the patterns of the early church. Jesus gave up everything so that we could be saved. Our King did not die hung from a Cross just so we could have a fancy car.
If it is not from Jesus and not from the early church, who is it from?