Why the Prosperity Gospel is so poisonous

I’m sure you’ve heard the following:

“You are a King’s Kid as a Christian, you are royalty!  You shouldn’t settle for second best!”

 “God favour should overflow into your life as you walk in God’s anointing and enjoy health and financial prosperity!”

 “God hates poverty and illness, you should claim your victory!”

 “If you’re not walking in full victory of sin, illness and financial difficulty, you either lack faith or have unconfessed sin. Jesus came to give us abundant life!”

This is the Prosperity Gospel.  

The Prosperity Gospel (PG) is called so because it teaches that God desires all his people to be prosperous.  Physically prosperous.  Healthy and wealthy.

To put it simply, the PG is the belief that God grants health and wealth to those with the right kind of faith.

The PG movement (according to Kate Bowler1, an assistant professor of the history of Christianity in North America at Duke University) has its roots in the late 1800’s in American tradition of New Thought.  That is, that positive thoughts yield positive circumstances; and negative thoughts, negative circumstances.

The American New Thought movement took a Christian slant with a Pastor named EW Kenyon, who ministered in the US in the early 1900’s.

Christians, Kenyon said, should avoid words and ideas that create sickness and poverty; they should instead “speak life”.  

Christians should repeat to themselves, “God is in me. God’s strength is mine. God’s health is mine. I am a winner. I am a conqueror.”

This Christianized New Thought has grown into the PG we have today with proponents like Joel Osteen, who is famous for his book, “Your best life now!”

The PG is very popular in our city, country and continent.

It is very dangerous because it uses Christian words and therefore sounds Christian, but it is not Christian.  It destroys, damages and discourages.

Not only is the PG dangerous, it’s evil and poisonous – here are three reasons from Jesus’ temptation account (Matthew 4:1-11).

The Prosperity Gospel, like Satan, promotes discontentment and distrust in God’s sovereignty

And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” (Matthew 4:3)

Satan said to Jesus, “God has led you here, but look how hungry you are.  Surely God doesn’t know what’s best for you. Listen to me and you’ll get food, happiness and contentment.”

Satan tempted Jesus to be discontent with his present circumstances and therefore distrust God’s sovereign rule over all of life.  

But Jesus answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)

Jesus said that God will provide what we need for life. God’s words are like God, dependable and faithful.

God will give us what we need.

My security does not depend on my bank balance, my stock portfolio, the exchange rate or my retirement fund.

My security is based on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

The PG, however, tempts people to say, “I need more!”

It’s not wrong to pray for health, for a salary increase or a job promotion.  God may give us those things, but God does not promise them.

God is to be worshipped and honoured whether he gives those things or not.

The Prosperity Gospel, like Satan, promotes putting God to the test

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ And “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” (Matthew 4:5-6)

Satan wanted Jesus to bargain with God.

The PG does the same.

“Lord, here is my faith and my money.  If you are truly God, heal me. If you are truly God, grant me wealth.”

What they’re actually saying is, “Lord, you obviously don’t know what’s good for me, but do what I say and I’ll follow you.”

Christians are tempted to doubt the absolute goodness of God and doubt that God always acts for the good of his children.

We are tempted to distrust Romans 8:28.

Whether you are sick, suffering, rich, poor, disabled, or supremely able: the good God is working in that for your good and His glory.

Jesus said: “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matthew 4:7)

Christians accept and trust God’s goodness – whatever their circumstances.

The Prosperity Gospel, like Satan, promotes worship to get things

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”  (Matthew 4:8-9)

Satan always promises things he can’t deliver.

For example, Satan promises happiness and freedom in pornography, in affairs and in accumulating possessions.  But in the end, these things bring only hurt, pain and broken relationships.

Satan said to Jesus, “Worship me and I’ll give you things.”

The PG tempts people to worship God to get things.

“You want more money? Sow your financial seed.  You want to be healthy? Send your money as a sign of your faith.”  

People end up following God, not to get God, but to get things.

But, we don’t worship God to get his good gifts.  We worship God because God is infinitely worthy of our worship, whatever gifts he gives or doesn’t give us.

Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” (Matthew 4:10)

Profoundly unprepared

The PG is not just wrong, it is evil and poisonous.

I have friends who are missionaries. Their adult daughter was part of a PG church in the Northern Suburbs of Cape Town.

Sadly, their daughter was diagnosed with cancer.

She informed the church leadership of her diagnosis and the pastors “spoke life” over her and, by faith, claimed her healing.

After a while, she was told not to speak to her parents about her illness as her parents would “speak death” over her – when all her parents were doing was to ask how their daughter was coping and what the prognosis was.

Five years later, the cancer became much worse and she was again admitted to hospital.

She phoned her pastor to say that she had had enough of the promises of healing and that he should rather pray that God would take her home to heaven.

The pastor refused to pray for that as it was against his theology.

That night she died.

Thankfully, she is now at home in heaven.

Nevertheless, for the last five years of her life, the loving parents of a cancer-stricken and emotionally taxed daughter, could not talk to their child about her illness or comfort her – because they would have been “speaking death” over her.

The PG is evil and poisonous, but it’s very popular and prevalent.

Those caught up in the PG are profoundly unprepared for when suffering and hardship come their way.

 

  1. Kate Bowler is 35 years old, a wife, mother of a toddler, an assistant professor of the history of Christianity in North America at Duke University, and the author of “Blessed: The History of the American Prosperity Gospel.” Kate found out a few years ago she has stage 4 cancer.