The Promise of Prosperity

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, November 13, 2015 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

I recently had a rather intense conversation on Facebook regarding the so-called “Prosperity Gospel,” but I will say that this conversation was different than most who support such doctrines. There are numerous examples of promises throughout Scripture of prosperity and in a number of cases, increase in wealth. These are the standard examples cited by those who preach this message. But there is something hidden in such a message that needs to be addressed.

First, we need to understand something. What does it mean to prosper? In American culture, it often means successful business and increase of wealth and provision. It means bigger homes and bigger toys. But does this really reflect what the Bible describes? Not every Biblical hero was wealthy, and a number lost wealth for following God’s directions. Does prosperity mean financial wealth? Yes and no. It can reference wealth but wealth is not necessarily involved. Joseph was a slave and then imprisoned and yet God prospered him despite that. His status actually got worse for being obedient because he would not lie with Potiphar’s wife. But later, Joseph became the #2 person in all of Egypt. So did he become wealthy because he was obedient? The answer is something that might surprise people: it is no. Because he was obedient, God was able to place him where needed to be. Did wealth come as a result? In this case, yes, but that was a secondary point, not the primary.

We have several other cases where Biblical heroes started not so well off and God gave them earthly riches (among other things). David and Solomon are examples. Abraham was already rich (agriculturally speaking). But there is a huge difference between these heroes and what the Prosperity Gospel preaches. And here it is: the heroes of the Bible who acquired riches did not seek them out. They came with the package, but that was not why they pursued God.

This is what lies at the center of the Prosperity Gospel and their preachers. It is not actually about God or his kingdom. It is about self. ME ME ME ME ME ME ME. What can I get out of following God? What are my rewards for suffering for Christ? Did you know Paul talks about knowing the rewards encouraged him to press forward? So is this all Biblical? Was Paul wrong to put that into Scripture? I will emphasize that the key is the motive, not the result.

Is God the end of the means or he is a means to an end? Paris Reidhead in his powerful sermon “Ten Shekels and a Shirt” talks about the influence of Humanism into Christianity. In part because of this sermon and in others things I’ve been studying and learned, I have quasi-coined a term that I call Religious Humanism. I wrote about this a little while ago and this is precisely what the Prosperity Gospel carries out.

Religious Humanism is the use of religion and God for selfish and man-centered desires. It is using God for your benefit or seeking God for what you can get out of it. This position claims many different Scripture verses but often will misapply them. Religious Humanism has many different faces, but I am just going to focus on the Prosperity Gospel and how it is a false teacher.

The two people I engaged with on Facebook about this talked fervently about all the benefits and riches we get as believers. These promises are true. God is going to bless us with a lot of stuff for those who endure to the end. Paul often talked often talked about how the sufferings of this world now pale in comparison to the riches to come. But there is a big difference between Paul’s approach and the Prosperity Gospel’s approach. Paul was reminding himself and his readers that there is much more to the story than the current sufferings (which brings up a whole separate topic in itself). But he was never focused on getting those rewards. That was not his drive, his purpose. His drive was the Gospel and Christ and him alone. The rewards and benefits were secondary issues, not the primary issue. The Prosperity Gospel focuses on the benefits. And these two people did that. They often claimed they were in favor of the Gospel and God’s Kingdom, but the whole time they were going after the benefits that come with the package, not the giver of the package.

Now, to be very clear, there is NOTHING wrong with being wealthy in itself. Nowhere in the Bible does it say it is wrong to be wealthy. But with great resources comes great responsibility. The great dangers of wealth include getting comfortable. If you get comfortable, your trust tends to dwell on your wealth not the one who allowed you to get wealthy to begin with. The rich young ruler thought he had it all sorted out by keeping the law but Jesus knew his heart: he loved his money. And this is the root of the problem with the Prosperity Gospel. It is the love of the riches, the love of the benefits.

If you listen to those who preach this Prosperity Gospel, they may not say it outright, but they say that if you are not rich and becoming wealthy, then it is because you do not have enough faith, because you have not given enough money to THEM, or because you are in sin. They will say, “sow so you can reap.” This is a Biblical principle: give and it will be given back to you. But Scripture also teaches us to give and not expect a return. They will reference how the widow gave Elijah the last cake she had and then how her oil and flour never ran out. But they miss the context. Not everyone who gave to the prophet received that miracle. Let me warn you: anyone can quote Scripture citing promise after promise. Satan did that with Jesus. But Jesus knew better than to try to put God to the test.

Let us remember that God is God and we are not. God is not our servant. We are not his master. He will give us what we need and sometimes that includes REMOVING our pleasures. I heard a story of one rich woman who had it all and went completely bankrupt. She lost EVERYTHING and she later said, “If God did not make me lose everything, I never would have found him.” That was necessary for her, but not for everyone.

Too many of these false preachers are after the miracles and the blessings and only using God as a means to an end. The reward should not be our focus. I challenge us to serve and obey God for no other reason other than he is worthy to be served and obeyed. Would we serve God even if in the end he will send us to hell anyway? The Prosperity Gospel will never take that mindset. Keep your focus on God and who he is and what he did and do not focus on what you can get out of it. It never is and never was about you. Let us take the mindset of, “We are but unworthy servants. We have only done what we ought.

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