29 May The Plague of “The Prosperity Gospel”
plague: a disease that causes death and that spreads quickly to a large number of people.
I’ve included Webster’s definition of a plague to help adequately explain my reasoning behind the title of this entry as well the comparison that I am making. The big difference between a literal plague and the prosperity gospel is that if a person has been infected by a real plague, that person would have no doubt to the degree of their sickness. The symptoms that they would exhibit would be undeniable. When someone is infected by the prosperity gospel they have no idea just how sick they are AND live under the delusion that they are well. Even when the individuals who have fallen victim to this disease are presented with the true gospel and scriptures which directly call out the false teaching; they will plug their ears and shake their heads in defiance of what the word of God is really trying to tell them. It’s the equivalent of being offered medicine that will cure you when you are dying, and slapping the medicine from your caregiver’s hand. The prosperity gospel, just like a plague, has spread rapidly on an extremely large scale; damning everyone who is duped by this cheap imitation of the real gospel. It is damning because it takes the glorious, finished work of Christ and what He accomplished on the cross, and reduces it to a self-centered formula to feed the sinful desires of our hearts. It meshes the desires of the world with Christianity, thus making the lusts and idols of man not only acceptable, but “Christian.” Since the line is blurred and what is of the world and what is of Christ becomes muddled, people who may have an earnest desire to know Christ easily become confused and run to this fake Jesus who is okay with man’s lustful, selfish, sinful desires. People want a Jesus who will be okay with their idolatry, which is why this false teaching is so popular. They don’t want a Jesus who tells them to deny themselves, to pick up their cross daily and follow Him. Many people don’t want to hear that they are sinful, even though; ironically, that is the precise reason we all need a savior to begin with. That is one of the reasons why biblical Christianity is unpopular, even amongst people who profess to be Christian. Sanctification is a hard and difficult process. Allowing God to kill the things that need to be killed in us involves facing our sin and letting the Spirit do a work in us. Knowing and worshiping Jesus doesn’t make our lives easier, in fact knowing Him makes life harder. Living life the way He calls us to means we live our lives according to His desires and ultimately to His glory, not for our own glory. Often that means letting go of things that our flesh says we should cling to.
Matthew 6:19-21 Lay Up Treasures in Heaven “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Colossians 3:2-3 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
There are so many passages of scripture which speak directly to the falseness of the prosperity gospel as well as the false teachers who help import this disease to other parts of the globe (they will be included at the end of this entry), which leads to the reason why this subject is being brought up in the context of global missions. We have realized that part of the work that God has called us to do in Africa will include lovingly calling out this false teaching to a minority of the hungry and hurting people of Swaziland who so desperately want this false version of Christianity to be the real thing. Many won’t have to be reminded of God’s goodness in ALL of the trials of life, and that true joy is not dictated by circumstances when you are a new creation in Christ Jesus. We know this because we witnessed first hand a people group who know that even when the first world would tell them that they have nothing, they can boldly say that they have everything because they have Jesus.
In an article by Brian Wingard published in New Horizons in October 2012, he stated “The “prosperity gospel” has made inroads throughout the Christian world; in Africa, however, it’s influence is greater because it’s false promises appeal especially to those who perceive themselves as hopelessly poor. Great numbers of people here have been promised prosperity in the name of Christ, and, when the prosperity does not materialize, they fall away from the church.”(1) We can not continue to carry on in the American church as if the “prosperity gospel” is no different from biblical Christianity, as if it’s just a slight variation of the same message. It is teaching a different Jesus, therefore it is proclaiming a different gospel than the one of the Bible. The false teachers that spread this disease do nothing more than take scriptures completely out of context, reducing the gospel to a childish, self-seeking, lust-driven formula. All to make their glory known and all to fill their pockets. Surely the money that they use to gratify their extreme narcissism is blood money. It’s blood money because of all of the people that they are leading away from the cross and straight to eternal separation from Christ, and all in the name of “Christianity.”
Galatians 1:6-10 No Other Gospel “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Father, I pray that you give me a heart that does not judge anyone who has fallen victim to this heresy. Help me to lovingly direct them to the cross. Please be with the people of Swaziland and protect them from any wolves who may present themselves as sheep. Remind me that I can’t save anyone from anything, only you have that power, Father. Thank you for saving my wife from this destructive teaching and for reminding us that your goodness and love is greater than all things and is never measured by our possessions, social status, or physical well being.
Here are more Bible verses which speak directly to the “prosperity gospel” and it’s false teachers: Matthew 6:24, Matthew 7:15-20, Matthew 19:16-30, Luke 12:15, I Timothy 6:3-10, I Timothy 6:17-19, II Timothy 4:3-5, II Peter 2:1-22, James 3:13-18, James 5:1-5, Hebrews 13:5, Colossians 2:8, I John 2:15-17, Philippians 4:11-13.
For more in depth study into the “prosperity gospel” check out the book A Different Gospel by D.R. McConnell and the DVD set Clouds Without Water By Justin Peters available at justinpeters.org
Source (1) New Horizons Magazine, October 2012