The False Prosperity Gospel
We all need hope. When hope slips away, we crumble. Yet, is the “prosperity gospel” giving us real hope, or just a mirage that can never quench one’s thirst? We have here a movement born out of the “New Thought Movement,” begun in the 19th century. Let us examine this worldwide popular movement of “the prosperity gospel.”
Is There Biblical Support?
We see that the “prosperity gospel” emerged from the foundations of the “New Thought Movement.” That movement was not based on a biblical foundation, but had the idea that all disease came from negative thinking. Hence, the exhortation to “think positively”! This then, was given a “spiritual coating.” Hence, if we have enough faith, or positive thinking, we will be healed of our ailments and live prosperously! For, it is espoused, that God wants all people to be rich and healthy when they are generous in giving. Faith is seen as a force in and of itself. Prayer is seen as a means to coerce God to make them rich and healthy!
I ask then, what of such men as John the Baptist? Of whom Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, among those born of woman there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.” (Matthew 11:11) Yet, we read, “Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey.” (Matthew 3:4) And what of Peter the apostle? He who said, “I have no silver and gold…” (Acts 3:6) Then also Jesus’s reply to the rich man, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor.” (Luke 18:22) And, what of Jesus Himself? “And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’” (Matthew 8:20)
Let us carry on to other texts. We read, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth.” (Matthew 6:19) Again, “The desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world.” (1 John 2:16) And what of the Lord’s words? “Blessed are you who are poor…Blessed are you who are hungry now…Blessed are you who weep…Blessed are you when people hate you…exclude you…revile you…spurn your name as evil…But woe to the rich…woe to you who are full now…Woe to you who laugh now…Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.” (Luke 6:20-26)
No, God’s Holy Word does not leave us in a gray zone, but cuts it black and white! Firstly we read, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” (James 4:3) Again, “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” (James 3:14-15)
Clearly, the prosperity gospel does not look to be holding up biblically! In fact, we need to be aware that false teachers have gone out to into the church to fleece the sheep! As we read of these people, whose thinking is, “godliness is a means of gain.” (1 Timothy 6:5)
It seems readily apparent that, the Scriptures teach the complete opposite of what is being so boldly proclaimed today!
So what do the Scriptures encourage us to? We read, “Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils.” (1 Timothy 6:6-10)
Does God truly heal all that have faith in Him to do so? I think the answer is plain. For, do we have any person still with us that is hundreds or thousands of years old? Did none have faith in God, not even those of the early church? For should not they not still be with us according to this logic? So what is the biblical record? “In the world you will have tribulation.” (John 16:33)
Does this mean that God never heals? No it doesn’t. However, God will heal when it is in accordance with His purposes. We are reminded in God’s Word that God does not always deliver. For we read that, some “Stopped mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire.” Yet, some were, “Tortured…were stoned…sawn in two…They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated – of whom the world was not worthy – wandering about in the deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” (Hebrews 11:33-38) Quite honestly, this does not sound prosperous to me! Could it not be that we are having the “wool pulled over our eyes”?
Listen now to these words from the lips of the apostle, “As poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.” (2 Corinthians 6:10) So what is meant here? Ah, we as Christians are often physically poor and in bad health, yet we are rich! How so? “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 1:3) Yes, we may be poor as to the standards of the world, yet so rich in Jesus spiritually! Even so it is written, “The unsearchable riches of Christ.” (Ephesians 3:8)
Have you counted your many blessings in Christ, oh believer in the Crucified One?! We are forgiven, have Christ living in us by His power, we have the guarantee of our inheritance to come, and so very much more! We are part of the “bride of Christ”! To think that we will spend eternity in the very presence of the Creator of this universe!
Notice carefully then the words of our God, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) With a certainty, Jesus, and not health and wealth, are the Christians mainstay! Let us then heed these words of God, “Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
However, today the church is in grave danger! I’m afraid that which is prophesied in 2 Timothy 4:3-4, has come true. We read, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”
Indeed, these false teachers that have come in, are not only “fleecing the sheep,” but are only preaching “warm and fuzzy” messages! We need some real Hell-fire preaching! We need to be told plainly the horrific consequences of our sin! The Word of God does not mince words, and neither does the godly person in Christ Jesus mince words! We need to be warned for our own good! Listen to the danger! “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)
Absolutely, the serpent, Satan, wants nothing more than to lull the church to sleep! Thus making true believers ineffective and those with an empty profession, slipping unawares toward the flames of the Lake of Fire! We’ve been deceived by the deceiver and need to come to our senses! Hear carefully! “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see.” (Revelation 3:17-18)
What we need is not more “positivity”! We don’t need more “motivational” speeches! We need more preaching on Hell, and that our sinning is greasing the road there! We need real gospel preaching! We need to be warned of the catastrophic end result of our sinfulness! We need to be told that our only answer is Jesus, and Him crucified! For He is risen and He is coming back, not only to gather the saints unto Himself, but to judge the unsaved of this planet! “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment on all and to convict all the ungodly of all their deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (Jude 14-15)
The cold truth is that, none of us can ever be holy enough to enter God’s Heaven! We all failed to hit the bull’s eye of the target – God’s absolute sinlessness! We need to conclude that we are helplessly lost sinners that are Hell-bound! We are on track to reap the consequences of our rebellious living! Yes, our very best efforts of obedience are calculated by God to be “Like filthy rags”! (~Isaiah 64:6) This, thankfully, is precisely the reason that Jesus came to Earth! He came to pay the penalty for our sin, which was death, on the cross of Calvary! There the wrath of God was exhausted upon our Lord instead of you and I! There, on the Lord, as He hung by nails on the cross, we read, “The LORD laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Yes, “He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquity.” (Isaiah 53:5-6) This ought to give us a real good idea of the hideousness of our sin!
Question is, do you believe that all the sin of your lifetime was heaped upon the Lord? That He took your place, and bore the wrath instead of you? If you say, “Yes,” you have become a child of God, and Christ’s righteousness is given you in order to make you forever holy in the sight of God! Indeed, it is called, “The free gift of righteousness.” (Romans 5:17)
Listen to God’s wondrous promise, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
I close with God’s Word, “He who has an ear to hear, let him hear.” (Matthew 11:15)
Victor J Reimer
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*Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (ESV), copyrighted © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Photo credit: “La La La La La La” by Bart
See more titles! “Raise a Little Cain,” “Worldwide Catastrophe,” and “How to be Saved.” Just click on the thumbnail!