Seven Problems with the Prosperity Gospel

August 30, 2011 at 12:14 pm | Posted in False teaching | 10 Comments

In Sunday’s sermon, I mentioned seven problems with the “prosperity gospel.”  Since these points were not in the notes we handed out, I said I would try to post them here this week.  So here are:

Seven Problems with the Prosperity Gospel

1)  The gospel taught by prosperity preachers (PPs for short) robs God of his sovereignty and puts us in his place.  First, this is done by substituting a false definition of prosperity for the real one.  The Bible does teach prosperity for those who meditate on and apply God’s word to their lives (Psalm 1, Joshua 1:8), but as Sovereign, he defines what prosperity for any given person looks like – we don’t.  PPs use a Madison Avenue/Wall Street definition of prosperity and read that into the biblical passages, but that is not God’s definition.  Genuine prosperity is being where God wants you to be and doing what God wants you to do.  When people fulfill God’s purposes for them, they are as prosperous as they can be.

2)  The prosperity gospel ignores a lot of scripture.  There are passages which help us understand that trials and suffering sometimes come into our lives to build our character (James 1:2, Rom 5: 1-5), or to achieve eternal goals (2 Cor 4:16-18), or to give us an eternal perspective (2 Cor 5:1-10).  The PP would lead us to believe that we can overcome all our troubles by seeing them removed, but the scriptural teaching is that we can overcome our trials by God sustaining us through them.  Sometimes God gets more glory when his people are triumphant through trials and afflictions than he would if those were taken away.  Paul prayed for the removal of his “thorn in the flesh,” but God wouldn’t take it away; it was there to demonstrate the sufficiency of God’s grace in his life.  Which brings up the next point.

3)  The prosperity gospel ignores numerous biblical examples to the contrary.  Consider the lives of Job, Hosea, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joseph, Elijah;  these men were anything but successful by a worldly measure for most of their lives.  Yet they were each a huge success by the measure of God’s Kingdom.  And of course, by the standard of the PPs, Jesus himself was an ultimate failure.  Yet his “failure” accomplished salvation for us.  This thought shows the ridiculous hypocrisy of the prosperity teaching; we are to be like Jesus, but he was not “successful” as the PPs define success.

4) The prosperity gospel confuses our sinful and selfish desires with God’s will.  James 3 & 4 show us how our selfish ambition is opposed to God, how it causes division in the church and is easily confused with God’s will.  Such confusion is not good preaching; it is called boasting and bragging.  In the parable of the Sower and the Soils, Jesus tells us that his word can be choked in our lives by thorns; those thorns are the deceitfulness of wealth and the desire for other things.  In other words, the things PPs tells us to pray for are the very things that can thwart God’s working in our lives!

5)  The prosperity gospel is a denial of grace, because it lifts our works and our faith to a place of prominence, but biblically God’s grace and glory should have that place.

6) The prosperity gospel hurts those who are not quickly healed or quickly rewarded by telling them they don’t have enough faith; that’s the only reason PPs can give to unanswered prayer.  But the Bible often emphasizes how God honors those with very little faith.  The parable of  the mustard seed demonstrates this as does the man who said to Jesus, “Help my unbelief!”  At the same time he seems to give the biggest trials to those with the most faith:  Consider Joseph who spent about 20 years in prison and slavery, or Ezekiel who lost his beloved wife, or Hosea who was asked to love an impossible and unfaithful wife, or the apostles who died terrible deaths because of their testimonies.

7)  The prosperity gospel only works in our materialistic Western culture and fails outside of it where the majority of Christ’s followers are poor and persecuted.  It is an absolute affront to believers in places like Somalia to imply they have a lesser faith because they are not “prosperous.”  Christians in places like that have a far greater faith than you and I can probably even imagine.


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  1. I have since added Problem #8 here:

  2. The damage from the preaching of a false gospel is huge. The prosperity gospel is a fraudulent use of the Jesus’ Church, an imitation Christian ministry, which defrauds both the congregation and those who preach it. Instead of the Good News of Jesus Christ centered on our love for the neighbor, we are told to focus on ourselves and our love for an easier life. Nothing about Jesus’ earthly ministry would tend to make us believe that Jesus had it easy: Why then should we believe that our life will not have suffering if God’s only begotten son suffered? Or do we think that Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion somehow re-created the world such as to end all suffering? Jesus promised eternal life, defined as knowing God, to his followers and those that would believe based on their words about him. Jesus did not prepay our mortgages and give us a worldly inheritance such that all suffering would be only our own fault. The sinfulness of society in general and ourselves in particular increases suffering, but it is not retributive justice ala the O.T. ideas, but the fact that we make life worse directly by our own actions and our failures to act for the needy neighbor whose wife is in labor and whose car just broke down on the Jericho Road as we race past busily concerned with our own life’s engagements.

  3. Over 30 years of the Prosperity Gospel with mega-churches like Oral Roberts and Kenneth Hagin Sr. now deceased, Fred Price, Kenneth Copeland Creflo Dollar and others teaching God wants you rich and healthy while the economy gets worst and worst and the blunt of it has had a negative affect on the poor who are not able to find work or when finding work are underemployed.

    One has only to read the bible where Jesus said things were going to get worst and persecution would be intense in the end times Too many Christians have not read their bible and are passing down second hand if it is a fact.

    A good example of this was the recent film called THE BIBLE on the History Channel. The Producers of the film said they consulted bible scholars when they should have just opened up the bible and read it. They changed scene after scene from what the bible depicted with little more than raise eyebrows from many bible illiterates. Time out for second hand information Christians need to open their bible start reading in Genesis and read it word for word till you end with the last word in the book of Revelation. Spoon fed Christians have always been easy prey for fraud cults leaders.

  4. Selling blessings in ten percent tithes and declaring a curse over those Christ redeemed from the curse is commonplace cause people have not read their entire bible or understand what Jesus meant by Paid in full! Jesus gift of salvation and daily blessings is not for sale no matter what heretic says so. The bible is clear the grace of God is an unmerited gift of favor paid in full by Jesus on the cross. If you are in Christ you already have God’s favor and access to his daily blessings just for the asking and cannot be cursed.
    Galatians 3:13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law….enough said.

    For those who think I’m judging read Galatians 2:11 and don’t be lazy go ahead and read Galatians 2:11 and the whole chapter while you are at it.

  5. Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

    Hey Prosperity teachers when did a cross and self denial turn into a truck load of material things or a tiptoe threw the tulips kind of life?

  6. Over 30 years of Prosperity name it and claim it teachings and the denominations who teach this have members who are now poorer than ever. The proof is in the pudding, this false teaching did not work, except the ones teaching it got rich.

  7. I have pastored for 24 years and just found out I’m a prosperity gospel teacher. I have planted 2 churches that cost me everything I have. I have pastored thousands of people in my time in ministry and have seen lifes changed and transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in their lives. Because I believe that God cares about peoples health and their everyday life ie. jobs, homes, marriage, friendships and connecting every part of our life to sharing the Gospel I am a prosperity Gospel evil preacher. It is hard for me to watch anti prosperity christians spend their time blogging from nice homes on Mac laptops often time going to multi million dollar churches and of course selling millions of books preach against the Prosperity Gospel. Most of the arguments are one sided with a case being built on false accusations. I live in the Dallas area and am willing any time you would like to set up a real mature debate.

  8. Fantastic comment Mike! My husband used to be a youth pastor for a church with over 3000 members. We were made feel guilty that we wanted to raise and support our family of three on more than $30,000 per year. I firmly believe that God supports our hard work and blesses our efforts. If we believe in Jesus Christ for our salvation, pay our tithes, support our local church, donate to missionary work around the world and go on missionary trips ourselves then it shouldn’t be considered a sin to make a lot of money. Being successful doesn’t make you any less of a Christian.

  9. prosperity preaching in the judgment phase is an abomination.

  10. Scott McKnight says:

    “The prosperity gospel (or the health and wealth gospel) teaches that God desires the material, spiritual, and physical prosperity of his people. To become prosperous, all one has to do is believe, receive, and act upon God’s promises.”

    I think that the following of the prosperity gospel correlates to the absence of persecution in the believers life.

    Individuals following the prosperity gospel principles – instead of the advice of the beatitude of Matthew 5:10 will find themselves safely secluded in conformity – where persecution cannot find them.”

    Excerpt From: Mike Stair. “Be Attitudinal.”

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