The Gospel and Prosperity

The Prosperity Gospel

There are many bible believing, Jesus loving Christians who believe in, and attend a church that teaches, the prosperity gospel. I pray that this post in no way, shape, or form serves to further drive a wedge between these dear brothers and sisters and other denominations within the greater Church as a whole. It also should be mentioned that there is nothing wrong with prosperity in and of itself. With that being said, the prosperity gospel is a slippery slope whose trajectory only serves to carry one farther from the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Below is an email forwarded to me by a friend who receives daily motivational emails from a prominent prosperity gospel pastor. I believe it to be a perfect example of the misrepresentation of the Gospel that is perpetuated by prosperity gospel teachers.

*TODAY’S SCRIPTURE*

*“…His favor is for a lifetime…”*

*(Psalm 30:5, AMP)*

 *TODAY’S WORD*

One definition of the word “favor” is an advantage for success. When you put God first, when you obey His commands, you open the door for His favor — you have the advantage for success! Even if someone has wronged you and it looks like they have the upper hand, even if it looks like things are never going to change, you need to keep reminding yourself, “I have an advantage. God is in control of my destiny. He’s fighting my battles for me. He is my vindicator, and it’s just a matter of time before things change in my favor.”

 I love the scripture in Hebrews that says, “Don’t cast away your confidence.” One translation says, “…for payday is coming.” In the difficult times, you have to remind yourself that payday is on its way! God is a faithful God. If you’ll keep doing the right thing, honoring Him and expecting His favor, God has promised He will pay you back. He will restore everything in your life that the enemy has stolen so you can live the abundant life He has promised to you.

The primary problem with the prosperity gospel is that it removes Jesus from the center of our focus as the ultimate prize. The glory of the gospel isn’t that we are saved from hell. It isn’t that we get eternal life with all of our believing family and friends. It doesn’t have anything to do with the “treasure” that we are storing up for ourselves in heaven. The glory of the gospel is that we get God! God isn’t a means to an end. His purpose isn’t to bless us and prosper us and make sure that we never suffer in this life. If that were the case, then God would just be the vehicle by which we get temporal “stuff”.  The stuff becomes our end goal or, effectively, our God. We become Idolaters.  God is not a means to an end. God is the means and the end! God is not here to give us an “advantage for success.” Jesus has already succeeded where we have failed. It is not about what we do, it’s about what He has already done. When our focus is skewed and our priorities shift to worldly gain and success, we ruin our witness and we put God on display as being less than holy, less desirable, and less than the ultimate prize. When our priorities become worldly gain, two things happen.

The first thing that happens is that we water down the gospel. To a watching world, we look like we are hoping in all of the same things that they are hoping in. Christians often wonder why more people don’t ask them to “give an account for the hope that is within [them]” (1 Peter 3:15). The reason is that our hope looks no different than their hope. We look like we are hoping in all of the same things that they are hoping in. Our witness is ruined. If the rare opportunity to present the gospel to an unbeliever presents itself, and they accept it, what are they building their foundation on? Instead of their understanding of Christ’s call to discipleship being “pick up your cross and follow me” (Luke 9:23), which is a foundation built on the promise of suffering, their understanding of right discipleship is based on an expectation of worldly prosperity. Which leads me to the second thing that happens as a result of the prosperity gospel. What happens when things don’t pan out as we had hoped?

The second problem with the prosperity gospel is that the gauge of the validity of the truth of God is measured by success and not by intimacy. The new believer accepts the Lord with the expectation of a, as the above email puts it, “payday [that] is coming.” What happens when that payday never materializes? What happens when it takes a little longer than expected to come? Or, what happens when instead of a payday, the believer is struck by tragedy? When tragedy strikes their faith is shaken because their faith had its foundation in worldly prosperity instead of in an intimate relationship with the One who laid down His life for them, and is calling them to follow His example. Christ didn’t live a life of prosperity. He suffered and was murdered by those He came to save and at His lowest moment while nailed to the cross, the Father, who Jesus had been in relationship with for all of eternity, turned His face away. Christ suffered monetarily, physically, emotionally, and suffered for the first time a separation from the Father with whom He had previously existed in constant loving fellowship and community with for all of eternity past. What was the point of all of this? It wasn’t for a future payday. It wasn’t even for a heavenly payday. After all, all things were created by Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16). There is nothing that Jesus lacked that could have been presented to Him in the form of a payday at the end of His suffering. What was the goal of the cross then? Restoration of intimacy. Intimacy with God is the end of all things. It is what we were created for. Jesus, describing eternal life says, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). The very definition of eternal life is intimacy with God.

Two biblical men to look to for answers as to how prosperity should be viewed are Job and the Apostle Paul. Job loses everything, including his children, his wealth, his health, and yet in the midst of it all he still praises the Lord. In the end the Lord restores his prosperity, but notice that Job worshiped while he was still destitute.  He worshipped before there was any promise or guarantee from the God that there would be any future improvement to his current state. The Apostle Paul suffered much in the work of the ministry, so much so that he says that “If we have hoped in Christ for this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19). Why would Paul say that? The Christian life isn’t necessarily the “good life.” Paul’s life ended with years of imprisonment and eventual beheading. Is that the good life? Where was Paul’s prosperity? Those that adhere to the prosperity gospel would say that if you aren’t seeing the prosperity that you thought you would see, or if your prayers aren’t always being answered as you had hoped, there must be an inadequacy in your faith. Are we to believe that the reasons for the suffering of Paul were based upon an inadequacy of his faith? No. The truth of the matter is that Christ is most glorified in us when we rejoice in Him in the midst of our suffering, not in the midst of our prosperity.

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About Brandon Cantello

Husband to Nicole, Lover of God, Dependent on the Spirit, Passion for His Church. My name is Brandon. I love Jesus. For more visit My Blog

View all posts by Brandon Cantello

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