What Does The Prosperity Gospel Teach?
What is the “prosperity gospel” and what does this doctrine really teach? The prosperity gospel is also known as the “health and wealth” gospel or “name it and claim it” gospel.
Internationally some of the most popular prosperity gospel preachers include the likes of Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Mike Murdock, Creflo Dollar, Jesse Duplantis, TD Jakes, Paula White and Joyce Meyer just to name a few.
These and other televangelists have managed to spread this teaching into every continent on the planet with Africa being the most affected.
This popular but false doctrine survives & grows by taking advantage of the financially desperate, the self-ambitious, the greedy, and the spiritually deceived with the promise that those who obey its subtle but twisted doctrines will one day amass material riches, material wealth and self-fulfilment in life.
However, Scripture is clear that money does not satisfy and fulfillment cannot be found by the pursuit of money or wealth.
Ecclesiastes 5:10 says: He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity
It’s also important note is that: just because the prosperity gospel heresy has been made popular by charismatic and influential preachers, it does not mean that this doctrine is true and sound.
The Bible warns of preachers who will make merchandise or customers out of their followers. Therefore they will create lies and deceptions in order to make money from religion.
2 Peter 2:3 NLT warns of false teachers who “In their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money. But God condemned them long ago, and their destruction will not be delayed.”
Prosperity gospel teachings have managed to have a worldwide impact for years and it has distorted the meaning and purpose of true Biblical Christianity.
We are warned in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 which says: 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, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
The Bible warns that many people will be deceived by many false prophets and that many people will not endure sound teaching
In Matthew 24:11 Jesus says: “And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.”
Furthermore many preachers who preach the prosperity gospel also subscribe to the false teachings of the Word of Faith movement and New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) theology.
The prosperity gospel movement and its false theology have been undoubtedly popular mainly because of its appeal to the flesh or the basic natural desires of every human being whether they are saved or not.
Prosperity gospel preachers are notorious for taking Scripture out of context and misapplying it. The whole aim is to extract money from their followers through scripture twisting and coercion so that they may enrich themselves.
The truth is – a person does not have to be born again in order to accept the prosperity gospel. This false gospel does not save souls or lead to a genuine relationship with God.
Instead, the focus of the prosperity gospel is more about how a person can use God to his/her own advantage for money, rather than how the individual can be humbly used by God whether he/she is rich or poor.
Matthew 6:24 Jesus said: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Prosperity gospel preachers preach the opposite of what Jesus preached about the pursuit of money and earthly riches. While Jesus encouraged the pursuit of heavenly treasure (Matthew 6:19-21; Luke 12:15) – in contrast false teachers encourage the pursuit of worldly wealth and riches on this earth.
In 1 Timothy 6:5,9-11 Paul warned Timothy about such men like prosperity gospel preachers. Paul said that these men who were of “corrupt mind” supposed godliness was a means of (material) gain and their desire for riches was a trap that brought them “into ruin and destruction” (vs 9).
The problem with the prosperity gospel is not only that it is heretic – but that this false gospel is so dangerous to the point that it can send deceived people straight to the fires of hell. What’s worse also is that prosperity preachers have twisted scriptures in the Bible to justify covetousness, greed, self ambition and the desire to pursue worldly riches instead of pursuing eternal blessings and eternal rewards.
In Matthew 19:23-24 Jesus says the following: “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
The most important issues to learn about the prosperity gospel are the following:
a) What is the prosperity gospel and what does the prosperity gospel really teach?
b) Does the fact that the prosperity gospel is popular and preached by well-known charismatic & articulate preachers mean that the prosperity gospel is true?
c) What are the dangers of believing and following the prosperity gospel?
d) Who benefits from the prosperity gospel?
WHAT DOES THE FALSE PROSPERITY GOSPEL TEACH?
1. God Wants You To Be Rich
Whenever Jesus brought up the issue of earthly money & riches, Jesus always spoke against the idea of people pursuing material wealth & earthly riches. He was against it so much that He warned His followers by saying “it is HARD for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:23,24)
So does God want you to be rich? Does God desire that you seek after money & things? As you live on this earth, is it God’s desire and purpose for you to seek after the expensive cars; to wear the best looking clothes and to live in an expensive posh house? Does having such type of material possessions and wealth reflect that God’s blessings are truly on you and that you have a right relationship with God?
The answer to the above questions is found in 1 Timothy 6:6-10, Hebrews 13:5 and Philippians 4:11-12.
Philippians 4:11-12 – Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
If God doesn’t want you to be rich, then does He want you to be poor? The truth is God wants you to be CONTENT in whatever situation you are in. 1 Timothy 6:6 says “godliness with CONTENTMENT is GREAT gain”.
Hebrews 13:5 says: Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you”
So we find from Hebrews 13:5 that God’s desire is that Christian believers be “free from the love of money” by being content with what He has given us at any given time. No matter our financial status we are to be thankful and trust that He will always provide and He will never leave us or forsake us.
So rather than trusting in our riches or money – we are to put our trust in Him alone.
Therefore life is not about whether you are rich or whether you’re poor; or whether you have or whether you don’t have – “life does not consist in the abundance of things” (Luke 12:15)
What does God say about people who want to be rich? Here are a few out of many scriptures where God speaks against people having a desire to pursue material riches.
Luke 12:15 NKJV – And He (Jesus) said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”
Matthew 6:19-21 – “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
1 Timothy 6:6-10 NKJV – Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
Ecclesiastes 5:10 – He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity.
From the scriptures above, it is clear that God does not promote the pursuit of material wealth or riches. God desires CONTENTMENT in whatever situation. Most of all, God desires that you seek His kingdom & His righteousness FIRST (Matthew 6:33). God knows the temptations and distractions that come with pursuing after material riches. He therefore discourages it because the pursuit of riches actually prevents us from pursuing God, and the more riches we have, the greedy we become because money does not satisfy.
2. “Seeding” or “Sowing” Your Money Will Compel God to Reward You
The seed-faith teaching is very popular with prosperity gospel preachers. The popular term that prosperity preachers use whenever they want people’s money is the word “seed” or “seeding” / “sowing”. Therefore when a prosperity preacher asks you to “seed” or “sow”, he is really asking you to give either him or to give his ministry some money with a promise that the “seed money” will “harvest” a double blessing or a “reward” from God.
Matthew 7:7-11 – “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”
Imagine you have a son. And your son told you that he was going to “seed” $10 to you as his father, because he wants you to one day buy him a car. Or imagine you have a daughter, and your daughter told you that she is “seeding” $20 to you because she will be expecting you to buy her a house. What kind of child-father relationship would this be? Is it not somehow a manipulative and strange relationship? Would you really want your own child to “seed” money to you so that you can do good things for your child? Would such a relationship be a GENUINE relationship?
Jesus did not teach any formulas for getting God to do something for us. Jesus did not teach that there is a get-rich formula for life. Jesus taught that if you wanted something from God, you should simply ASK – pray, believe and let God do the rest. Matthew 7:11 says how much more will your Father in Heaven give good things to those who ASK Him.
The problem is not with the concept of giving, but the problem is that we think God should respond because we “seeded” money.
The prosperity gospel has indoctrinated its followers that God responds to our giving of money to the church or to the preacher. For example, one might expect that if he “seeds” $100, he must expect God to give him a double portion of $200 or a possession he desires. Therefore should the concept of giving become a tool to force God to grant somebody personal prosperity? Would such motives be pure and good?
2 Corinthians 9:7-8 – Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Whenever you read the gospels and study the ministry of Jesus & His apostles you will discover something very interesting about Jesus’ ministry and the ministry of His apostles that is very different from what you see from the prosperity churches and the prosperity preachers.
Jesus did not ever ask for so-called “seed” money from any person who needed His help. Unlike the false prosperity preachers, Jesus did not teach that God will materialistically reward those who “seed” money into the church or into the pockets of preachers. Jesus did not ever teach that “seeding” money is a pre-requisite for experiencing God’s answer to prayer or God’s deliverance.
Jesus even told His disciples when He sent them to minister into various towns to not request payment from those they had helped. Therefore the idea that “seed money” must be paid or given to get God to respond was never anything that Jesus taught.
Matthew 10:8,9 – (Jesus speaking) “ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. 9 Acquire no gold nor silver nor copper for your belts,”
Acts 3:6-7 – But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” 7 And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong”.
Jesus did not also teach that if anyone has a physical or spiritual need, then one must give “seed” money in order to activate God’s hand. God is not activated by money. God acts and responds out of His own sovereign will and NOT out of the will of man (Luke 22:42 and Matthew 6:10).
Often during Jesus’ ministry and even His apostles, the people who had need of God’s help were often poor, broke, desperate, sick, helpless and hopeless. Yet Jesus never requested for their money as a “seed” that He might deliver them. Neither did Jesus ever teach his disciples that God would respond to people’s “seed” money for them to receive their breakthrough or their deliverance or more wealth.
(see articles: Can A Man Bribe God? What Is The Seed-Faith Teaching?)
3. Jesus Was Rich or Wealthy
Was Jesus rich? Did He look rich and wear expensive clothes? The prosperity preachers would falsely like to have people believe that Jesus was wealthy whilst on earth. However, the truth is Jesus was not rich and wealthy during His earthly ministry as the prosperity preachers teach.
It was one of the reasons why such skeptics as the Pharisees were not convinced that Jesus was the Messiah. The reason is because even to the Pharisees, Jesus didn’t dress like a King; or move around with servants and an army like a king. Jesus was not the kind of King or Messiah that the materialistic Pharisees expected. Outwardly, Jesus looked like any ordinary person.
Jesus told an interested follower that “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head” (Luke 9:58).
Jesus and His disciples often relied on the hospitality of others during their ministry.
Jesus in humility took the form and life of a servant and not of a rich man when He came to earth
(Philippians 2:6-8 – Who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross).
Mark 10:45 – “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus also encouraged His disciples to become like servants (Mark 10:43-44 – But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.)
The life of a servant or slave of God is not to pursue after riches. The life of a servant of God is to serve and obey his Master. The purpose and pursuit of every Christian believer is to glorify God.
Jesus did not go around the earth preaching a prosperity gospel or giving His disciples a get-rich formula for life. Jesus preached repentance and the need for man to have a right relationship with God (Matthew 4:17). Jesus came as a living example of how we should serve God and live a life that is pleasing to Him. Jesus also came that we may pursue the prize of eternal life through Him and not the temporary monetary riches of this earth.
4. The Bible or Jesus Spoke More About Money Than Any Other Topic
Does the Bible speak more about money than any other topic? Several prosperity teachers have heretically claimed that God or Jesus or the Bible speaks more about money than any other topic. This claim is untrue and totally deceptive. The main message of God’s word is not about the accumulation of wealth and possessions. Material prosperity has never been at the heart of God’s concern in relation to man’s relationship with Him.
Therefore if material wealth & health is not at the top of God’s heart, then what has been God’s great desire concerning His creation?
Unlike the false theology of the prosperity gospel movement, the entire focus of the Bible is not money or the acquiring of material possessions. Instead the focus of the entire Bible is on the Gospel and God’s pursuit to reconcile with sinful man through the work and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Therefore the entire Bible is about Jesus Christ and God’s redemption plan for sinful man.
2 Peter 3:9-10 – The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.
Matthew 4:17 – From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
John 5:39 – (Jesus speaking) You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about Me,
John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
Matthew 28:19-20 – Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Contrary to the false teachings of prosperity teachers, the Bible was not inspired by God in order to supply man with a get-rich formula for life. God’s word exists because the entire Bible speaks & witnesses about Jesus (both in the Old & New Testament – John 5:39). The Bible also exists because it is necessary for every person to repent from sin and realize that salvation can only be found through faith in Jesus Christ whom God sent out of His love for the world. Jesus Christ is not concerned with material wealth but His primary concern has always been the souls of mankind which is why He came to earth – in order to save the world from sin.
5. The Rich Are Blessed and The Poor Are Either Doing Something Wrong OR They Lack God’s Favour OR They Are Cursed
Prosperity gospel theology teaches that if a person is rich or wealthy, then that person is “blessed”. However if a person is poor, average or struggling financially, then that person has either done something to anger God, such as not giving or “sowing” enough money – or the person is under a curse and lacks the favour of God.
Therefore there is pressure on followers to pursue material riches as an outward sign that God is indeed “blessing” them or “favouring” them.
There is also pressure to discover new ways and new techniques to get God to shower people with wealth or money. Therefore anyone who’s financial status is not favourable should never be satisfied or content, but should always be seeking more.
However, scriptures such as Matthew 19:23-24, Luke 12:15 and 1 Timothy 6:6-10 or the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) contradict the notion that blessings are connected to money or material wealth.
Our status as to whether we are blessed or not is linked to who we are in Christ. Having money is not an indicator of whether we are blessed or not. In fact, many of the richest people in the world are not Christian believers.
Every Christian believer, whether rich or poor has been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3).
The prosperity gospel teaches people to judge by outward appearances in relation to wealth and social status, while the true gospel is about the inward person and the fruit that the person bears through the leading of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
6. Jesus Became Poor So That You Could Be Rich
The irony is that the same prosperity preachers who teach that Jesus was wealthy are the same preachers who also preach that Jesus was poor so that we could become rich.
The prosperity movement falsely misinterprets 2 Corinthians 8:9 to mean that Jesus became poor so that we may have material wealth or money.
2 Corinthians 8:9 says: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.
Most Christians agree that when Paul says that Jesus was “rich,” he’s referring to Christ’s status as the Son of God. Jesus voluntarily and in humility left all the wealth of heaven and all the glory He had in heaven to take the form of a man and live in a fallen and imperfect world. This is what Paul meant when he said that Jesus became “poor”.
The Christian becoming “rich” as a result of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross refers to spiritual blessings and not the acquisition of material possessions or money. According to Ephesians 1:3 we have been given every spiritual blessing through Christ. Ultimately for the Christian believer, the true treasure is Jesus Christ Himself. Because no amount of earthly riches can replace God.
DANGERS OF THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL
The prosperity gospel is dangerous and should be avoided. It gives people a false concept of the character and nature of God. Furthermore it appeals to the basic carnal desire of every human being.
Rather than encouraging contentment according to 1 Timothy 6:6-10 or Hebrews 13:5, the prosperity gospel encourages covetousness and feeds on ones fleshly desire for materialism.
The prosperity gospel or health and wealth gospel appeals to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (1 John 2:16).
2 Corinthians 11:4 says: For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.
The real god of the prosperity gospel is the mammon god. It is a god that loves the sacrifices of money from its followers. It is a god that attempts to compete with the true God of the Bible. Hence Jesus saying that we cannot be loyal to God or money at the same time, because the love of money takes our loyalty away from God (Matthew 6:24). This false gospel speaks of a false god who is activated by money and not the heart.
Many preachers who preach this false gospel have become wealthy and rich by misinterpreting and misapplying God’s word for their own personal wealth and gain. Consistently like wolves they milk their followers of their money by teaching heresy. Ultimately the major beneficiaries of this false gospel are the prosperity preachers themselves as they survive on the deception of their followers.
Many prosperity gospel preachers are charlatans who have managed to commercialize Christianity and turn Christianity into a business and their ministries into false kingdoms and business empires. The Bible warns us to avoid such false teachers.
Many prosperity teachers have gone to the extent of selling anointing oil, holy water and all types of “anointed” objects with the promise that the purchaser will be blessed, protected and favoured by God for purchasing them.
The prosperity gospel is a false gospel which leads people away from the true gospel which pertains to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and therefore should be avoided completely.
RELATED ARTICLE: How To Detect A Prosperity Gospel Message
RECOMMENDED RESOURCE: God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel by Costi W Hinn