June 6, 2020

Prosperity Gospel: Yes or No?

Prosperity Gospel: Yes or No?

You decide. Here is a collection of statements, products, ministries, etc. Some of them are the Prosperity “Gospel” while some are not.

What do you think?

1. Christian financial ministries like Crown and Dave Ramsey.

2. The movie “Facing The Giants.”

3. If you tithe, God will pay all of your other bills.

4. The Prayer of Jabez. (Prayer the prayer and God will expand your territory.)

5. Joel Osteen. (Have a good attitude, think positive, be nice and God will show you favor.)

6. Jesus: Ask whatever you will in my name, and it will be done unto you. If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can move a mountain.

7. I don’t need health insurance. If I or my family has a health crisis, God will pay the bills.

8. That church just keeps growing. God is really blessing them.

9. If I use the “What Did Jesus Eat?” Diet, I will be less likely to get cancer.

10. Our family has 8 children and one on the way. I’m sorry you can’t seem to get pregnant. The scripture says that God blesses the obedient with many children.

11. We only do business with Christian companies. That keeps the money in the kingdom of God.

12. The mass intention today is for Mr. Smith’s grandmother, Lois Grant.

13. God isn’t going to bless your church till you start a 24 hour a day prayer room and show him you really want revival.

14. Proverbs: He who rises early will be wealthy, etc.

15. Your suggestion….

Comments

  1. …im wondering how many of your commenters here still buy into the tithing doctrine…i bet most.

  2. Matthew Peak says

    I like Ecclesiastes 3:12, 14:

    “And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.”

    “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.”

    Life is simple and Prosperity Gospel complicates things.

  3. 1. Dave Ramsey: No. I have no perspective on Crown.

    2. Never saw it.

    3. Sounds more like living hand-to-mouth.

    4. Yes

    5. Joel Osteen. Definitely PG.

    6. Only if taken out of context.

    7. No, that’s just relying on God. I’ve been reading +Fulton Sheen’s autobiography “Treasure in Clay” and he gives at least one instance where he relied on God to take care of financial matters, and a person came along and paid his bill. Yes, Mary was involved. Mother Angelica of EWTN tells of how a distressed sinner on a cruiseship was the absolute last minute answer to her prayer for a large sum of money to pay for the radio equipment. I’m talking “delivery truck is here, where’s the money” last minute. Of course, you have to reference number 6.

    8. Maybe.

    9. If I use the “What Did Jesus Eat?” Diet, I will be less likely to get cancer.

    10. PG, and bad theology. “… for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:45

    11. Not strictly PG.

    12. No, that’s strictly spiritual.

    13. Not unless there’s some financial tie-in.

    14. PG

  4. When we begin to believe that if we do “A” then God will do “B” we have crossed the line from religion to magic.

    As far as prosperity, if we believe that God made us rich we also have to give him credit for making our neighbor poor.

    It’s like someone surviving an accident and attributing it to God. The implication is that God killed the other fellow, or at least decided not to do anything.

    When we give God the credit for our touchdowns, we also have to give him the blame for the fumbles.

  5. GratefulForGraces says

    15. Using the prosperity gospel in multi-level marketing companies. (This relates to #s 4, 5, 6 and 14). I have seen over and over again the claims that these companies “put God first, family second and career third.” It’s not a coincidence that you’re hearing about this business today – God really wants to bless you through it. Right now. Sign here.

    God first means the Prayer of Jabez, random Bible verses taken out of context, “vision-casting” for more sales and recruits, and the virtual worship of people like Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer.

  6. Bob Brague says

    This is not about the prosperity gospel, but in response to Anna A’s comment. One Mother’s Day our pastor’s sermon was almost exclusively about fathers.

    After the service, my wife said to him, “Pastor, are you going to talk about mothers on Father’s Day?” and his response was, “Well, [name], you have to realize that a lot of fathers have to be mothers as well.”

    My wife said, “Yes, Pastor, and you have to realize that a lot of mothers have to be fathers as well.”

    Blank stare. Deer in the headlights look.

    I guess it was a stand-off.

  7. Scott Eaton says

    Yes to all of it. Everything on that list is prosperity gospel. As much as I like Ramsey (we use his stuff in our church) and Crown they mix a little PG into what they teach (especially related to tithing).

    And “Facing the Giants” is undoubtedly the most prosperity gospel oriented thing I have ever seen. I really dislike that movie.

    I think the comments reflect how deeply engrained the propsperity gospel has become into our faith.

  8. I believe every prosperity Gospel — as long as Jesus is the riches, Jesus is the sustenance, Jesus is the goal —

    And all else is as garbage ….

  9. How many coats did He say were too many, again …?

  10. Random answers here:
    Facing the Giants… Predictable preachy movie yes.

    Osteen – yup.

    12. Mass Intention. No.

    8 and 13. Yes. Absolutely. I’ve heard that from the pulpit and in fellowship.

    15. “God does nothing on earth except in answer to prayer…”
    This was taught by a paid (non pastoral) staff member at my church.

    We believe/practice this PG junk because we want to see rewards, tangible like idols type rewards.
    Bread and fish not manna.

  11. 1. Christian financial ministries like Crown and Dave Ramsey. Yes

    2. The movie “Facing The Giants.” No

    3. If you tithe, God will pay all of your other bills. Ha! No

    4. The Prayer of Jabez. (Prayer the prayer and God will expand your territory.) Uh…no

    5. Joel Osteen. (Have a good attitude, think positive, be nice and God will show you favor.) Nope

    6. Jesus: Ask whatever you will in my name, and it will be done unto you. If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can move a mountain. According to God’s will…yes

    7. I don’t need health insurance. If I or my family has a health crisis, God will pay the bills. Nope

    8. That church just keeps growing. God is really blessing them. Not necessarily…

    9. If I use the “What Did Jesus Eat?” Diet, I will be less likely to get cancer. Yea, and get your genetic code modified….

    10. Our family has 8 children and one on the way. I’m sorry you can’t seem to get pregnant. The scripture says that God blesses the obedient with many children. Yea, whatever…

    11. We only do business with Christian companies. That keeps the money in the kingdom of God. Riiigghhhttttt

    12. The mass intention today is for Mr. Smith’s grandmother, Lois Grant. The wha….????

    13. God isn’t going to bless your church till you start a 24 hour a day prayer room and show him you really want revival. ‘cuz He can’t, like read your mind already and stuff….ya know.

    14. Proverbs: He who rises early will be wealthy, etc. Bull Hockey, I rise at 5am but that’s not keeping my company from laying us off in two weeks.

    15. Your suggestion…. Be born into a rich family.

  12. Someone above mentioned Joyce Meyer, and I know iMonk has been disparaging of her before. May I confess to a guilty pleasure? I like Joyce Meyer, and believe her ministry is geniune. I also have read Battlefield of the Mind, and it was a liberating experience.

    I agree that the prosperity gospel is wrong, and false. But I don’t think it’s wrong to encourage people to expect good things from God, or to realize that God is a God of blessing. Many Christians seem to have an anti-prosperity perspeective, as if God delights in their suffering and asceticism. Both are wrong. We may go through suffering, and we may go through prosperity, but our focus should be on God (Christ), who is faithful to bring us to Himself.

    Joyce Meyer was sexually abused by her father. Eventually through her love for the Lord and her study of the Word she was able to leave the past behind. What she teaches has helped me find the Lord again in a fresh way. Many wounded people need her message.

  13. Something I recently wrote that seems to tie in somewhat:

    Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 (NIV)

    Too often I hear this verse used as some sort of a “magic key.” Just delight in the Lord, and He’ll give you whatever your heart desires. Want a 52-inch plasma HDTV? Just spend time in prayer and worship. Want a new car? Study God’s Word more, and He’ll reward you for it with a new ride. Hoping that “special someone” will ask you out/agree to go out with you? Volunteer to help with the homeless outreach, and God will pay you back. It often borders on the pagan practice of manipulating their gods by performing certain rituals or spells that are prescribed to achieve certain ends.

    But is that what “delight yourself in the Lord” really means? To “delight in” means to draw one’s pleasure and satisfaction from, to find one’s joy in. When I delight in the Lord, I make Him the source of my fulfillment, joy, satisfaction, happiness, etc. The more I delight in Him, the less important other things become. Christ Himself becomes my passion — the desire of my heart.

    So when I truly delight myself in the Lord, He is the desire of my heart, and He will not withhold Himself from me, but will reveal Himself to me (John 14:21).

  14. ProdigalSarah says

    Luke 18: 18-25 The story of the rich ruler.

    I find it interesting that this story is often used by unscrupulous preachers to pry more cash from the flock.

    I read the exact opposite.

    I believe that anytime The Good News is taught as what you can store up in earthly goods, health or prosperity, you are saying “Follow the rich ruler, not Christ.”

    By the way, Jesus doesn’t tell the rich ruler to give what he has to the church. He says to give what he has to those who have nothing.

    When Christians talk like Job’s friends, they are not sharing the Good News of Christ. They are saying, “If you were a better Christian, you would have what I have.” The are saying that Grace is earned.

    God’s Grace is sufficient. The rest of it will rust or wither or crumble or be taken by thieves.

  15. Okay, here’s a #15: If I am a good Christian girl, God won’t let horrible things happen to me. My husband will not leave me, my family won’t get sick, I won’t lose my job, my car won’t break down on the highway…. etc. I think that’s the bargain a lot of us have subconsciously struck with God, and we aren’t even aware of it. This is a major struggle for me as I try to put a context around my relationship with God.

  16. FRISCOSAN says

    God’s eternal principles bless the unselfish and curse the self seeking. Notice that it is not God who chooses to do this, but His eternal principles that apply to all. God does not buy followers of His truth. Doesn’t have to. In any case, prosperity in material things is deadly to spiritual growth. True prosperity is spiritual wealth. I learned this from the Judeo-Christian scriptures. Always look for the motives of those who preach to you.

  17. YES.

    To every single one of them.

    I thought Dave Ramsey was just about being clever, though.

  18. Joyce Meyer makes over 50 million a year and lives in fabulous wealth.

    Please consider this when evaluating her.

  19. I’m not looking for a fight on tithing, and I know it can devolve into legalism, but in my ministry experience 99 percent of the folks opposed to tithing tend to be doing so just out of cheapness.

    I’m not ready to lay it as a burden on folks legaly, but it is certainly a good standard. Church costs money people. And I’m not talking about large buildings and staff. I’m talking about keeping lights on, having SS literature etc.

    I just don’t get how folks react so negatively to tithing. But then I come from a family that tithed faithfully even when we had little.

    And I don’t think it is PG to say that if you honor God with the things he blesses you with that He will in turn care for you. Not a new car or a brand new house, or a European vacation, but He will look after us. I think that is pretty much just simple teaching.

    Likewise if we do not honor Him with the things He blesses us with be it money or anything we should not expect to recieve more when we are unfaithful.

    But you all new that already.

  20. We’re not cheap and I give a lot more than 10%.

    It’s not taught in the New Testament. It’s Judaism. Book of Leviticus. If you want to do it, fine. But you have to separate it from the New Covenant and be clear that God isn’t running that kind of operation anymore.

    ms

  21. treebeard says

    And you would rather her make how much? And you would rather her live where? Not everyone is called to be a Mother Teresa.

    I get your point, iMonk, and I am not an apologist for Meyer. I’m not really comfortable with ostentatious wealth either. But where does the Bible say, in evaluating a person’s ministry, that you should look at how much money he or she makes?

    My impression (and it is only an impression) is that she gives a lot of money away. I have heard that in Africa she is a big influence, and my guess is that you would consider that a negative. But if there are women who would otherwise become prostitutes, who are now living in Christian women’s homes founded by Meyer, that to me is more important than her wealth (and the money has to come from somewhere). It is possible, just possible, that the Lord doesn’t hold her wealth against her. Maybe He’s even happy with it.

    Meyer is coming to my city soon, and she is using a large arena. Her talks are free and open to the public. If she were in it for the money I don’t think she would do this.

  22. I’m not going to argue with you. Read the St. Louis paper’s coverage of her and her family.

    We know that Jesus wouldn’t wear a Rolex. We just don’t know why we shouldn’t.

    That’s our problem.

  23. Kenny Johnson says

    Why would Joyce Meyer’s bank account disqualify her in any way?

    Dave Ramsey isn’t PG. Much of what he says is just common sense financial advice. He does tie some things to the Bible (like that debt is bad), but he doesn’t promise or promote blessings from God for doing things his way.

  24. $50 million a year. Mansions. Servants. Helicopters. Jewelry. All from asking for offerings and selling books. It shouldn’t make a difference?

    Like I said, if it doesn’t make a difference to you folks, don’t let me bother you. Seriously. You’re all literate. You can read what Jesus said about money for yourselves.

  25. Find your favorite mission sending agency and ask them what they can do with $25 million tomorrow. Call Gospel for Asia with that one and get back to me.

  26. Bob Brague says

    Isn’t the New Testament model for giving 2 Cor 9:7 — “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (with the emphasis on “cheerful” which in the original Greek is hilaros which looks a lot like our English word hilarious but may or may not mean the same thing???

    In other words, don’t give till it hurts, give till you’re hysterical??? I have heard sermons saying this. So whether it’s 2% or 90% shouldn’t matter as long as you’re having a good time.

    What do you think, iMonk?

  27. Kenny Johnson says

    But aren’t we rich by world standards? I don’t need 2 cars. I don’t need a tv. I don’t need cable. Couldn’t Gospel for Asia use my $100/mo I spend on my FIOS package?

    Do we know that Joyce hasn’t donated $25m?

    At what point am I considered too rich? To who do I compare myself? With an Afghan or my neighbor? With Bill Gates or with the median income of an America? or a Indian? Or an Iraqi?

  28. That’s a new covenant text on giving. Amen.

  29. If JMeyer has given that amount to GA, I’ll be wrong.

    Yes, you’re rich.

    Yes, you should give away some of your stuff.

    No, you didn’t need me to tell you this. You already knew it.

    Yes, it’s between you and God, but if you’re a teacher of the church and love money, are greedy, take money from the poor to live like the rich, you aren’t fit to be a teacher.

  30. I feel like I’m in a Southern Baptist Sunday School class and someone just read something Jesus said about money.

  31. Kenny Johnson says

    And when do I stop? How poor do I need to make myself to meet your standards to be a good teacher?

  32. Kenny:

    My standards aren’t your problem, and unless you are appealing to a church where I am a member, I have nothing to say about “enough.”

    I read scripture and I have a conscience on these matters. You don’t have to conform to my conscience. If you bring up JMeyer, I’ll speak up, but she is free to do what she wants, and you are free to do what you want with her, with your money and with your Bible.

    I’m not your problem.

    The words and example of Jesus are your problem and my problem.

    We want to be rich Americans and wealthy evangelicals in a world of starving people and starving missionaries.

    You don’t ask me what to give. You ask God what to give.

    His his day of judgement where we account for this. I’m not going to be your judge nor you mine.

    ms

  33. Dave Ramsey’s PG tendency is subtle. A lot of his advice is good and I think that if his advice could be separated from the underlying PG ickiness, it would help a lot of people. A lot of what he tells people is just “don’t be egregiously stupid,” and it’s rather sad that in this prosperous culture, people need to be told such basic stuff about stewardship. But they do, so it’s good that he does it.

    But here’s why I think he’s PG: ask yourself if you could imagine him doing what he does, saying what he says, in the way he does it and says it, and then remind every caller and make it a major theme of his books that if God calls Christians to struggle against poverty and financial insecurity throughout their earthly lives, that is one of His good gifts also. I can’t imagine him doing that, though I could imagine him repenting and doing that, because I think his heart’s in the right place. He’s just too much of a reflection of our modern American Christianity that can’t even begin to fathom that God would expect us to put up with the things that our brothers elsewhere in the world and throughout history considered “normal life,” let alone “trials.”

    But in reality, what he teaches isn’t just “don’t use your money in stupid, unbiblical ways,” but “if you do the right biblical things with your money, a comfortable material prosperity is owed to you, at least under ordinary circumstances.” And that’s a shame.

  34. Obviously, having $50 million a year from widows in her bank account doesn’t stop Joyce from being an expert on Jesus.

    You probably should listen to her.

  35. Kenny Johnson says

    But you’re the one passing the judgments. Even telling me that I need to sell my stuff — I don’t know your financial situation either, but I’d assume I’m poorer than you. I live in a 2bd apartment in a working-class neighborhood, with 1 television that was a hand-me-down from my Grandfather-in-law. The car I drive to work is 8 years old.

    I’m not the one judging your wealth or Joyce Meyer’s though.

  36. I listened to Ramsey in person and on radio a lot in years past. I heard:

    Get out of debt

    If you weren’t greedy and stupid, you’d have some money

    If you made some good decisions for a long time, you’d have enough money to take care of your family and do good things for others, the community, scholarships, medical clinics, etc.

    The in person event I attended had a lot of that: Save to get to give.

  37. Kenny:

    I’m poorer than you. You really don’t want to play that game with my life. Trust me.

    I’m “passing” judgment? No, I’m making the judgement scripture says make when it says a teacher isn’t to love money.

    And I didn’t tell you to sell your stuff. Jesus told us to sell our stuff. (I assume that means your unnecessary stuff.) So yes, if I were more serious about Jesus, I might decide he wants me to sell this computer.

    But that’s between me and God.

    But if I have 50 million I got from widows and a palatial lifestyle, the issue is a bit clearer.

    I’m done with this Kenny. I’ve said all there is to say. Just be ticked at me and let it go.

    ms

  38. Kenny Johnson says

    I’m not mad at you. I love your blog. I just disagreed and that’s cool.

  39. Well I’m cool too. Peace.

  40. treebeard says

    I’m cool with you too, iMonk. I guess what confused me is that you were focusing on Meyer’s wealth, and thus consider her PG, but I’ve never heard her give a prosperity message. That is, if I were to quote her and not tell you the source, I believe you might think the content is genuine Biblical teaching.

    Concerning “We want to be rich Americans and wealthy evangelicals in a world of starving people and starving missionaries,” I’m not sure what that means. I don’t really want to be rich, but I’m thankful that I live in America. Wasn’t that God’s doing? Either you’re poor or you’re not. If we’re against poverty, why be troubled that some are not in poverty? To be concerned about poverty and yet angry that we are wealthy people doesn’t make much sense to me – isn’t it good that the wealthy are not in poverty? Would you rather them be poor?

    A few more points, to muddy the waters, based on the above comments:
    1) What about JC Penney and other Christian businessmen who became extremely wealthy and then supported Christian causes?
    2) John Wesley: “Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”
    3) “‘Honor your father and mother’ – which is the first commandment with a promise — ‘that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.'” Definitely an if-then statement, from the New Testament. Isn’t that part of the Gospel?
    4) The end of the book of Job, after all his suffering, was he had greater prosperity than before. I know that’s not necessarily our destiny, but it can’t be ignored either.
    5) One time Watchman Nee was asked by a potential convert, “If I believe in your Christ, will he fill my rice bowl?” Nee responded, “If you believe in Jesus Christ, your bowl will be broken.” So there’s a nice anti-PG statement to finish my rant with.

  41. Jesus said it was almost impossible for the rich to enter the Kingdom because no one can serve God and money.

    Rich people have to work that out just like I do.

  42. treebeard says

    That might be an important point: What does it mean to “enter the Kingdom”? If someone is poor, becomes born again, and then eventually becomes wealthy, does the Lord’s word still apply? Haven’t they already “entered the Kingdom,” if the Christian church is the kingdom of God?

  43. General pronouncements- like everything in Proverbs- do not prove false when there are exceptions.

    It’s not up to me to defend or parse Jesus’ words. It’s my job to deal with them. We’re the richest nation on the planet. Everyone reading these comments has world changing potential in the use of our resources. Jesus spoke plainly to his disciples about money. You have to work it out, and if possible, we all need communities and leaders to help us.

    Palatially rich Bible teachers don’t help me follow Jesus.

    Read the Didache folks.

  44. I could come up with examples like TBN pastors and prophets flying around the country in private jets, dining at expensive restaurants, buying the best clothing, vacationing in places like Tahiti and Europe that most of us will visit only in Google Maps.

    But what I am wondering is how the prosperity gospel – and the Christian television industry that has helped propagate it – has influenced the body of Christ at large.

    Do you ever see any ugly preachers on TV?

    Any ugly CCM singers or bands?

    Any ugly Christian personalities?

    On Christian TV, do you ever see a program, or interview with, or church pastored by, people who live in the hood or in a lower class part of town?

    When public christian personalities look like they hold down nice jobs, make enough money to at least put them in nice homes in nice suburban neighborhoods and clothe them from places like Nordstrom’s and Old Navy, and put their kids in nice, suburban public or private schools…and it’s implied that this is to be the norm for all Christians…is that the legacy of the prosperity gospel?

  45. I’ve hit up against this attitude before, and I’d love an explanation of where it came from, that material prosperity = proof of God’s favour.

    The corollary then, whether overtly stated or no, is that lack of success = proof of God’s displeasure.

    There is nothing saying that you can’t work hard and enjoy the fruits of your labours, and if in a spirit of gratitude you say “God has blessed me” that is well, but to have the attitude that “God wants me to be rich” or “I deserve the good life” or “There is no such thing as excessive wealth if I am doing the Lord’s work” – that bothers me.

  46. Bob Brague says

    Not meaning to sound anti-Semitic here (I am, after all half-Jewish), but regarding Martha’s question about the origin of the thought that material prosperity = proof of God’s favor, it seems very Jewish (that is, Old Testament) to me.

    Don’t ask me to quote chapter and verse.

  47. Imonk,

    You already know the facts better than I b/c your education and a great deal of your livelihood sp? had come from little old SBC ladies writing their 10 percent checks for decades and giving to their churches who in turn give to the co-operative program. It seems the SBC and others were fairly successful and blessed for generations encouraging their folks to give a biblical tithe.

    I know success doesn’t always mean right. I get that. I pastor a small church that is probably more faithful with the gospel and ministering to the needy than most around, but is still small, but there is somethign to say about a long continued blessing of God on a group.
    They must be doing something right. I”m sure the tithe wasn’t all of it, but our institutions, agencies and missionaries have been more blessed and live a more comfortable life than almost any others due to an emphasis on giving that almost certainly always starts with the teaching of the goal of the tithe.

    I always tell folks that althought the tithe may not be “New Covenant” that I dont’ think they want to go there. I see in the New Covenant folks having all things common and giving a lot more than 10 percent.

  48. Great discussion, iMonk! Thanks for challenging us in this area.

    I have a dream. Here in Indianapolis area where I live, I dream that every suburban church around the city would raise up and commission 2-3 families or single adults to give up the comfortable suburban lifestyle and move into the inner city, into poor neighborhoods, in order to live intentionally as generous, helpful, permanent neighbors, friends, and witnesses to those around them.

    I don’t think this kind of calling is for everyone, but why do we hear about such things so infrequently? Why do we see church after church after church in the suburbs that continues to run the same tired programs for those who are already saturated with opportunity, that has such lack of concern for the poor, and such limited imagination when it comes to actually doing something radical and sacrificial in Jesus’ name for others?

    Not only are Christians not giving much, where I live they are mostly giving simply to make the rich richer.

  49. Prosperity gospel? All yes except 1, 12, and possibly 6.

  50. Austin,

    A pragmatic argument doesn’t rise to the level of a scriptural command.

    God can and does bless tithers and non-tithers.

    No one suggested that tithing was bad or God punished it.

    ms