“I believe that it is anti-Christian and unholy for any Christian to live with the object of accumulating wealth. You will say, “Are we not to strive all we can to get all the money we can?” You may do so. I cannot doubt but what, in so doing, you may do service to the cause of God. But what I said was that to live with the object of accumulating wealth is anti-Christian.” — Charles Spurgeon
Does God want his people rich? If one would watch any popular Christian ministry on television at any given time, not only would they hear that God wants his people rich, he demands it. Some who adhere to this teaching would even go so far as to suggest that it’s a sin to be anything other than rich. Yet the question must be asked; Does God really want his people rich or wealthy?
One of the more sinister doctrinal messages which has come out of the Charismatic movement that has done more harm to the body of Christ, and has literally ruined not only the countless lives in the process, but as well has harmed, even destroyed the finances of many a person who has bought into the lie is in fact the Prosperity gospel. This other type of gospel message took hold back in the late 80’s and throughout the 90’s. By the early part of the 21st century, the modern church had not only been seduced by the prosperity gospel, it had adopted its teachings to such a degree that the prosperity gospel was the central focus of every mega church in the nation, regulating the message of grace and the cross to the sidelines of other scriptural doctrines which once were held to high esteem. In other words, the modern church found something better than the cross, something better than grace, something better than the demand for holiness, or the admonition against sin in the life of a believer.
So where do those who teach that God expects his people to be rich or extremely wealthy? It can be directly traced to the Abrahamic covenant. The belief is this, when God told Abraham he would bless him and make his seed great, (this includes the church (Gal. 3:7-9)) that all the promises given to Abraham are by right been given to the church as well. This includes the blessings as well. (Gen. 12:1-3, Deut. 28) The problem? The old covenant has been relegated to the new covenant and one which we, who are now children of the promise thru Christ, have a better covenant because of the cross and not Abraham. (Hebrews 8:6)
While it is most certainly true that God does indeed bless his children, the problem with the so called ‘Prosperity gospel‘ is that it makes God more or less a bell hop, who has to pay out for our paying in to a system of giving and/or works. The teaching goes like this, if someone gives $100 God is obligated to give $1,000. If someone gives $100,000 dollars to a particular ministry, then God is then obligated to give up to 1 million in return. That is the prosperity message in a nut shell. The reality is, this sort of teaching is nothing but a ‘give to get’ gospel. Yet today, over a decade later, this same belief is blinding hundreds of thousands of believers, robbing them of not only their spirit by teaching them a lie, it is in fact robbing them of their finances while the only ones who are reaping the harvest of their ill-gotten gain is those teachers who are fleecing the flock.
The truth is, the prosperity gospel (which is no gospel at all) is actually something far more worse than realized, and it is directly rooted or taken from one of the most secular ideas to date – the American Dream. That’s right, the prosperity gospel is in fact just another version of the American Dream by which attaining wealth and having homes, cars, the 401K and stocks and bonds, are the rewards of serving Christ. But only to those who can pay to participate. It is not only dangerous to believe this, it is a doctrine of demons. This is where the teaching of the prosperity gospel is flawed, because it shuts out those who cannot afford to participate due to their economic standing, and only accepts those who are able to pay into its scheme. In other words, if one is poor, destitute and/or facing financial hardship, this teaching and all its benefits are not for them. This again settles the argument which says God is only for the rich or for those who are able to pay, it makes God a player of favorites and not one of love of all men who diligently seek and serve him.
To believe the prosperity gospel is in essence to believe a false gospel, it is a manipulative message that is a combination of both new age teachings (law of attraction/positive thinking) and materialism. So whose getting rich from this type of “gospel” message? If we look at the yearly income tax returns (that we know of) it is obvious to see that the ones who are generally reaping from this deception is in fact the preachers and teachers themselves and none other. Currently, the top leading proponents of this so called ‘gospel’ message are abundantly wealthy, yet one of more startling facts of the result of the prosperity gospel is that as of 2013, 33% of those who are born again believers are in financial debt and are unable to get out. (George Barna, Barna Research Archives: Money, Barna Research Group.) If the gospel of wealth and financial return is actually true, then why are so many Christians falling into bankruptcy? Because it is based on greed, the single most inward problem with man – his desire for gain.
The fact is, when we look at the prosperity gospel in its entirety, we begin to see that the only ones getting rich are the ones preaching the lie, the rest are suckers. Strong words, but even stronger are those found in the word of God concerning those who would fleece the flock for gain, “And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” (2 Peter 2:3)
The question reprised: Does God want us to be rich? The answer is not does God want us to be rich, but instead, he desires us to follow him thru his son, to believe upon Christ and be saved. (John 3:16) The truth is, Jesus never once told us that the benefits to serving him would be material, nor did he tells us throughout his word that those who serve him would gain wealth or riches, actually, Jesus had a great deal to say about riches and those who follow that path, and it wasn’t nice.
The words of Christ concerning wealth and riches:
- “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth” (Matthew 6:19)
- “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matthew 19:21)
- What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit His life? (Mark 8:36; Luke 9:25)
- Foolish is storing treasure for self; not being rich toward God (Luke 12:21); do not store up treasure on earth (Matthew 6:19-21)
- Cares of the world, delight in riches and desire for things, choke the word (Mark 4:19, Luke 8:14)
- Where your treasure is your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21)
- We cannot serve God and money (Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13)
- What is exalted by men (wealth), is an abomination before God (Luke 16:14-15)
- Wealth is tied to faith and worry. People who are concerned about earthly possessions and money are not depending on God’s provision (Luke 12:22-34)
- It’s difficult for the rich to enter heaven (Mark 10:23-25)
- In extreme cases where wealth is a god, sell all you have, give to the poor and follow Jesus (Matthew 19:21, Luke 12:33). Sell all and give to the poor to have treasure in heaven (Luke 18:18-23)
- It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to have eternal life (Luke 18:24-27)
Yet how many today will hear this truth taught or preached in most of the popular pulpits across America or on Christian television? Still, many of these preachers and teachers who advocate the prosperity gospel will link money to faith, give to get, and worse, cause fear thru condemnation and a penalty to anyone who doesn’t give to their particular ministry. Do you find it ironic that with all of the leading proponents of this gospel (and it’s not a true gospel) message that God will only bless those who give to their specific financial need? Is God playing favorites? It seems so. Yet people will believe a lie to such a degree that they will allow their money to leave their hand in order to receive some type of financial windfall. That my friend is manipulation to the highest degree.
Yes, God will bless us. Yes, God will take care of us. Yes, following Christ is a blessing, but that is in fact what the word tells us to begin with, that Christ is our greatest blessing – salvation and not financial wealth. The problem I go back to with the prosperity gospel is that it denigrates the cross to nothing more than a token of a past truth. In other words, the prosperity gospel is yet another attempt to replace the cross, replace the real truth and that truth is in this life we are not promised that our days will be filled with contentment and financial ease, actually, the gospel message is one of sacrifice, suffering and endurance. Notice what Paul said in Romans 5:3 “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance.” We are not called to serve our own desires, but to come to the cross and deny ourselves, deny our wants and what our flesh would seek, actually, ours is a faith of sacrifice, submitting our will to his perfect will. The problem with the prosperity gospel is that it focuses on self and not on denial of self. Let us continue to weigh every teaching and every doctrine so that we too shall not become deceived in these last days.
This makes the prosperity gospel a dangerous doctrine.