READY TO GIVE AN ANSWER (PROSPERITY GOSPEL)
Passages that will help you respond when people say…
Prosperity theology teaches that believers are entitled to financial blessing and physical well-being. Followers are taught that faith, positive speech, and donations will increase wealth. Conversely, if you aren’t rich and prosperous, your faith must be weak and incomplete.
Some of the most “successful” televangelists, including Joel Osteen, proclaim a prosperity gospel. On his website, Osteen writes, “There are many things that money cannot buy . . . but having monetary provision is also a part of prosperity. You’ll never find one place in the Scripture where we are supposed to drag around . . . not able to afford what we want. . . . Jesus came that we might live an abundant life!”
The message of a prosperity gospel can be very appealing. Its preachers are engaging. It is served in a bowl of positive thinking, sprinkled with feel-good self-empowerment, along with a side of good works, and a main course of guaranteed prosperity as long as you can believe.
In reality, this so-called gospel is spiritual junk food that appeals to the worldly appetite of the flesh. “Even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8)
If you speak to those influenced by the prosperity gospel, share true spiritual food. Start with a clear presentation of the genuine Gospel such as John 3:16. It’s familiar to you, but will be new and refreshing to them. Share God’s truth about prosperity and material wealth. Offer Bible passages and let Christ—the Bread of Life—fill their hungry souls.
“One’s life does not consist in the abundance
of the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15)
Jesus said this after He was asked to be an arbitrator in an inheritance dispute. Jesus did not come to provide material prosperity to his followers; rather, He warned of covetousness. Prosperity preachers define life in terms of material gain. Want wealth? Have enough faith. Goal of faith? Earthly wealth. This is not what Jesus preached.
“[Men of corrupt minds] suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself. Now godliness with contentment is great gain. . . . But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare.” (1 Timothy 6:5-9)
Corrupt minds view godliness as a means of gain. In contrast, godliness with contentment actually is great gain.
Prosperity preachers are fond of saying there is no passage in Scripture that tells us to go through life without material blessings. Such a comment presupposes that God commands us to live with or without wealth. God commands neither. Rather, He seeks a content and humble submission to His will whether He gives wealth or allows poverty.
Instead of promising wealth, God warns against spiritual difficulties that wealth can create (Matthew 19:24) and the real danger of love for the world and all that it seductively offers (1 John 2:15).
Prosperity preachers encourage giving with the “Law of Compensation,” teaching that Christians should give generously because when they do, God will give back more in return.
A number of churches have begun offering money-back guarantees for those who give 10% of their income but, in a three-month period, don’t feel that God has prospered them. Supposedly, this takes away the fear of giving. Truthfully, it takes away the love of giving and a proper concept of Christian stewardship.
God does offer a promise in Malachi, but it’s not a promise to encourage giving for the sake of more getting. It is a promise to tentative hearts to reassure them that when they follow God’s Word, He will not forsake them, but will bless them abundantly according to His will and in the way He chooses.
“‘Bring all the tithes into the storehouse . . . And try
Me now in this,’ Says the Lord of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough
to receive it.’” (Malachi 3:10)
A prosperity gospel replaces spiritual life and abundance with material gain. It makes the Bible into a contract. It lures the sinner’s heart with a strong sense of self and earthly blessing couched in words from Scripture. But in the end, it is shallow, empty, and life-destroying. What a blessing it is to share instead the genuine Word of Life!
Wayne Eichstadt is pastor of Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Spokane Valley, Washington.