Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Prosperity Gospel - The LIE

Nineteenth-century pastor and author E.M. Bounds, who is well known for his writings on the subject of prayer, said it best, “Prayer honors God; it dishonors self” (Purpose in Prayer [Chicago: Moody, n.d.], 43). The scribes and Pharisees never understood that truth, and I fear the same is true for much of today’s church.
The waves of our indulgent, selfish, materialistic society have washed ashore on Christian theology in many forms, including the prosperity gospel. Although the Bible teaches that God is sovereign and man is His servant, the prosperity gospel implies the opposite. Teaching that claims we can demand things of God is spiritual justification for self-indulgence. It perverts prayer and takes the Lord’s name in vain. It is unbiblical, ungodly, and is not directed by the Holy Spirit.

Prayer begins and ends not with the needs of man but with the glory of God (John 14:13). It should be concerned primarily with who God is, what He wants, and how He can be glorified. Those who teach otherwise are not preoccupied with the extension of Christ’s kingdom or the glory of God’s name but with the enlargement of their own empire and the fulfillment of their own selfish desires. Such teaching attacks the heart of Christian truth—the very character of God.

It is a reality that the prosperity Gospel, described as “Jesus has your solution to all your financial problems. In Faith you will all be rich because God wants to bless everyone in abundance.” is very present in our church today. We have all come across those scripture verses that tell about the great blessings that come with faith and live under the reign of God.

The very poor (financially) non-believer, the struggling one or even the one who wants his life to be a success is easily attracted to this claim, that coming to Jesus, all his needs will be met and much more, he will live in abundance. Who on earth, will not be willing to have that? After all, it’s just asking to become a Christian!
While very popular in the African region, we have heard this teaching so many times on the biggest Christian TV channels, by the most popular and influential teachers and pastors. It is true also that so many small churches have turned into mega-money rich churches, and the Leaders of those are really wealthy, much to the blessings of the Lord as they say.

Most of the Pentecostal churches boast that message; and indeed many people have come to church with that idea, that somehow, their financial problem will be solved.
The outcome is that some (not a majority) are indeed saved (talking about their financial burden), but most people still struggle to get out. It is not a surprise to see that some people then change denomination, some after several tries, just abandon the “faith” (can we call that faith here then?) I have heard some time that the blame falls on the believer, as their faith is not strong enough to “create” the miracle.
A well-known saying is that you will receive as per your faith. I have some serious questions about this.
  • Is the reason here to become Christian is based on faith? More, are those people really saved?
  • Are those people aware of the sacrificial life of Jesus Are they aware of the judgment of God for those who still stay in SIN?
  • Are they aware of the true gospel?
  • Why do some succeed and why some fail?
  • Is the prosperity gospel right or wrong?
  • Is this a real doctrine? Do we need to be saved or to know Jesus to be financially at ease or blessed?
I personally don’t think that it is right for it to become a doctrine, if we really understand what a biblical doctrine is, and then I am sure you will agree with me. Is prosperity or financial blessings a reality in the bible and is it biblical? Yes it is there, no doubt about that! Abraham, Job, Jacob, Isaac and some more were financially blessed.
BUT, the financial blessings were not the most important part of the blessings, nor did it come as THE reward for walking with God.

If we do a real study of those people, we will see that though they were financially at ease (Blessed) (at those time, they were wealthy, not necessarily having a lot of cash but in terms of herds etc. they were very rich), this was not their pleasure. They all preferred their sacred and trustful relationship with their creator GOD. Their main pleasure was to be able to dwell with God, to be able to stand in his presence, to be able to hear his voice and to ‘talk” to God. Being rich was not as important as being with God, as being faithful to God, as being obedient to the word of God. This is what their treasure was!

What then is so wrong with the Prosperity Gospel?
  1. It implies that every Christian MUST be financially blessed, proof of a blessed and saved life.
  2. It implies that every Christian must me having the best of what the world has to offer. (Best food, best car, best house, and best jobs, best everything!)
  3. It implies that every poor should once converted to Christianity, become rich and no longer be in need.
  4. It implies that we will be so rich that we will be living in great abundance.
  5. It carries the rule that to be blessed, one has to be giving and will be receiving more that he is sowing.
  6. It implies that if we are not giving (tithing), we will not be blessed as we are not respecting the rule of“giving to be blessed”
  7. It implies that only Christian must be rich, for God blesses all his sons.
1. For this to be a biblical doctrine it has to be a sort of rule that is very true in all aspect from the bible, that is, every single Christian MUST be financially at ease. It is not the case in the real world, we can choose: - Africa – India – China – Mauritius – Madagascar. There are many Christian in those countries; good, strong of faith, happy but poor Christian. They are still struggling financially, but they are at peace and in love with God. Then what should we say about them? Are they not saved and blessed?

2. Putting aside the “poor” Christians, we consider those who are not poor, but those who the society will classify as middle range; they do not have the best car, nor eat the best food, nor wear the best clothing, nor have the best jobs etc. But still they are very happy with what they have and have a true relationship with their Lord and Saviour Jesus. What should we say about them? Are their faith better that those above but still not strong enough?

3.Now we can also consider all the poor in every type of society, those who work hard every day, those who struggle to make a living; when they meet the Christ and start going to church, they still live in the same condition but are now anchored in God’s word. What do we make of them? What went wrong in their faith for they are still poor, and still in need?

4. This is the most common promise! What do we make of converted Christian who get only what is necessary to live, they are not in need, but not in excess to be taking pleasure of holidays, travelling, having big houses, no car, not even a bicycle! Where is the abundance promised? Are they also not enough strong of faith? Is their faith too small to “open the flood gates of heaven”?

5. Again, we need to turn to the poor; they do not have anything for themselves. Does that mean that they will not be blessed because they are not giving (tithing)? Are they out of the financial blessings because they are not tithing? Should they then from the little that they have (sometime not even enough to pay their food, or house rental) and give in hope to receive more? IS that the rule? Is that a lack of faith for not doing so, that is keeping them from being blessed?

6. What about those Christians who are involved in supporting the poor from all over the world? What about those Christian who do struggle but still find it possible to help the needy neighbor (even non-Christian – which is a very good thing) They readily give whatever they have to the needy, but because of so much issues inside the church, as they know that the money is wrongly utilized, they do not give to the church. Are they also doing wrong? Are they also not financially blessed because of that? Many Christian falls into that category, some might be giving to the church, but unable to give the 10%, for their salary is just enough to cover their basic needs. They give what they can. What about them? Have they also done something wrong for not being blessed? And what about those who make it a must to give 10 % of their earning every month but do not see any growth or any abundance? They do not get poorer, but they are “stagnant” if we can say so (financially speaking)

7. Lastly, why is it that so many non-Christians are so rich and wealthy? Why is it that so many people who we know have very bad moral, who are very active in sins, who have no respect for God, who despise our Christian faith, why are they so “blessed”? SO it seems that being a Christian is not a requirement to become rich, to be blessed. IS that not a blessing not to have money problems? Is that not a blessing to have abundance? Is that not a blessing to have the best of what the world has to offer?

The Bible has other views of Prosperity and Suffering!

One of the reasons it consider the “Prosperity Gospel” as being false is because there are so many places in the Bible where it is mentioned that suffering, poverty, hardship and other kind of struggling are part of our life. Poverty is not a sign of lack of faith; moreover, faith in such setting is even blessed by God. God ask of us to show faith, patience and faithfulness in whatever situation we are; giving thanks and praises to the Lord in Heaven. I want to walk you through some of these verses that talks about faith, blessings, faithfulness, without financial blessings, but where suffering (in whatever condition) is better.
Let’s consider the following biblical verses
1 Peter 3
“Whose adorning -- let it not be that which is outward, of plaiting of hair, and of putting around of things of gold, or of putting on of garments, but -- the hidden man of the heart, in the incorruptible thing of the meek and quiet spirit, which is, before God, of great price, For `he who is willing to love life, and to see good days, let him guard his tongue from evil, and his lips -- not to speak guile;”
“Let him turn aside from evil, and do good, let him seek peace and pursue it; because the eyes of the Lord [are] upon the righteous, and His ears -- to their supplication, and the face of the Lord [is] upon those doing evil;' and who [is] he who will be doing you evil, if of Him who is good ye may become imitators? But if ye also should suffer because of righteousness, happy [are ye]! And of their fear be not afraid, nor be troubled, and the Lord God sanctify in your hearts. And [be] ready always for defense to every one who is asking of you an account concerning the hope that [is] in you, with meekness and fear”
Here, Peter is talking about what is best toward God, notice that he mention that it is not what is outward (mention of gold, best garments etc.) that will make us better, or that will prove to be a good living for God. It is our meekness, our inside heart, our quiet spirit and our dedication to turn from evil. He even mention that if we are suffering, because of righteousness (an example could be refusing to pay to get more business, refusing to work unethically even if that means not getting better business), we should be happy and neither afraid nor troubled because the Lord is with us!
The way of the Lord is one of purity, love and holiness. We live in a world where everyone is running after happiness, and many think that money will bring happiness. Doing so, they run after money. Many will do anything to get more and more, forgetting about the real value of life, forgetting about moral values, forgetting about what The Lord really requires from us. In their fight to get the best, in their quest to achieve
the highest point, they will “survive” at all cost. There are illicit business practices and everyone does that. BUT it is not because everyone is doing it that it is good! As Christian, we have a rule: Whatever we do, we do it in the name of Jesus for the Lord. If the Lord takes pleasure in what we do, then it is okay. We should not be doing as the world is doing. We should win business in clean ways.

Driving the best cars, having the best brand garments will not be a proof that God is blessings us. Even the ungodly have those riches, what really counts is what our relationship is growing, how much we are putting into practice what we have learned from Jesus, hoe much we are obeying his commandments! This is the true sign that we are pleasing God

1Peter 4

“Christ, then, having suffered for us in the flesh, ye also with the same mind arm yourselves, because he who did suffer in the flesh hath done with sin, no more in the desires of men, but in the will of God, to live the rest of the time in the flesh;”
Beloved think it not strange at the fiery suffering among you that is coming to try you, as if a strange thing were happening to you,
“But, according as ye have fellowship with the sufferings of the Christ, rejoice ye, that also in the revelation of his glory ye may rejoice -- exulting; if ye be reproached in the name of Christ -- happy [are ye], because the Spirit of glory and of God upon you doth rest; in regard, indeed, to them, he is evil-spoken of, and in regard to you, he is glorified; or let none of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evil-doer, or as an inspector into other men's matters; and if as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; and let him glorify God in this respect; because it is the time of the beginning of the judgment from the house of God, and if first from us, what the end of those disobedient to the good news of God? And if the righteous man is scarcely saved, the ungodly and sinner -- where shall he appear? So that also those suffering according to the will of god, as to a steadfast Creator, let them commit their own souls in good doing.”

Peter is talking about how Jesus endured a hard time paying our debts of SIN. Then he urges us all to have the same mind and be ready to suffer. It is a very deep call. What does that really mean? What is Peter talking about here? I think that the key word here is “same mind”, it refers to have the same mindset as Jesus had. Jesus came to save the sinners, so should we (though we cannot save them but we can share the Gospel to them).

Jesus came to heal the poor, to attend to the needy and to take care of others, most of all, Jesus came to make a gift of Himself and not seek his won pleasures, not seek to gain pleasure but rather to take the suffering of others and relieve them. This is exactly what Peter is calling us to do. This is the essential message that Jesus has been giving; Do not seek to gain, but seek to Give.

Again Peter mentions that suffering is part of our Christian life, and again, we should suffer everything except for the worn reasons (being condemned for some wrong doings). Verse 19 mentions that if we are suffering according to the Will of God, let us do it gladly. We should be rejoicing and happy in our suffering for we know that the Spirit of God is upon us, that is all that we need! Nothing more nothing less! His Grace is enough and we should be thankful and full of praise in every second of our lives because we KNOW that God is in Control and that our life is in his hands.

Matthew 5 – The Sermon on the Mount – The Beatitudes

“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they, which do hunger, and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they, which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.”

Reading the passage above, I do not see any mention of financial blessings, and we all know that those are the blessings that Jesus himself is proclaiming to all of us. I will not write a lot on this, please do consult my other article “ The Beatitudes – A Study of Christ Blessings” for more detailed insight.
Mark 10:20-25

“And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

In those Days, it was common that the Jews were very rich people, their were some who were devout followers of the laws and were really doing there best to be admitted in the circle of “God’s People”. While Jesus was preaching one day, there came a man who asked him how to get to heaven. Now this is a very important passage because it deals with our dealing with money and things from the earth. The first thing that Jesus asks of him is to go and sell all his possession (on earth) so that he can get a treasure in heaven (eternal life). This is to show that we should not be attached to whatever material things we have, they are not important; God is, and should be the one thing we are attached to.

Unfortunately the young man was very attached to his great possessions and he went away grieved, meaning that he could not get this part done. He has worked so hard to get to this position but now he needs to turn away from that. Then follows this great remark from Jesus: “It will be hard for them that trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God” and again “It is easier for a camel... than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God”. I have some questions about this; why did Jesus ask this young man to give away his riches? Remember that Jesus knew he was a good man (Jesus Loved him). I see that Jesus is here making a point about the riches that the world can give, and pointing to the riches that Heaven provides! We should understand from here that the priority is not to get rich in this world, but to be rich in heaven (in our faith). Jesus is certainly not telling that Prosperity is a sign of blessings, rather giving up everything is what is asked of us (or minimum, we should have a heart ready to do so)

Would Jesus ask this from that man if his gospel were about Prosperity Blessings? Why would Jesus wants us to have so much money if he requires us to be willing to give all these away and follow him?
Some might argue that Jesus is talking to those who like money in a metaphor, but no, he is talking about the money and financial ease we are dwelling in. There is a reality, those who have money do not think they have any needs; they rarely go to God, it is not same for all people, but most are like that. But those who are poor, those people constantly turn to God and cry out to God to come to them and save them. They are the one that always give praise and thanks for whatever they receive and always see the grace of God in everything they receive. This is the heart that God is looking for.

Prosperity Theology

The strain of false teaching known as prosperity theology or the “health and wealth” gospel is a distortion of a few proof texts on God’s willingness to bless His children. While God does bless His children, most of His blessings are internal, those that form Christ in us (see Gal. 4:19).

One often misunderstood passage is Mark 10:29–30:

“I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.”

The promise that the disciples would receive a hundredfold cannot be meant materially—how can one receive a hundred mothers, except figuratively? The idea is that leaving worldly wealth behind is rewarded in this life by the fact that, while having nothing, he yet possesses everything (see 2 Cor. 6:10). Prosperity theology is an attempt to justify greed.6

Abraham Promise: Gen 12:1-3
“And Jehovah had said to Abram, Go out of thy land, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, to the land that I will shew thee. 2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing. 3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee; and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”

The same thing can be said of the promises made to Abraham, that he was to be very prosperous and that trough him all the nation will be prosperous. This promise has been taken out of context by people who has not done a proper bible study (with the Holy-Spirit); They have just been reading and placing their faith on very old teachings that have been passed down up to now. There is a very strong reason why God has blessed Abraham and those that followed that much. His plan was to show to other people or nations; all of them were Pagan and did not “Know” God; that those who walked with him, that those who obeyed him will be blessed by him. Abraham was called from Sumerian paganism to faith in the living God.

IN doing so, God’s plan was to show to everyone that he holds blessings and that HE was the REAL and ONLY God. He had to establish a nation, and he had to build his temple. He was to bless his nation so that they could become strong and rich enough to be able to grow into a strong nation. The blessings came in various ways (intelligence, wisdom, financial- large flock of animals etc.). God was in motion to create out of nothing a strong nation that will carry his name.

Joseph Blessings to become the richest man Gen 39:1-41:57
“And Pharaoh said to Joseph, Since God has made all this known to thee, there is none so discreet and wise as thou. Thou shalt be over my house, and according to thy commandment shall all my people regulate themselves; only concerning the throne will I be greater than thou. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it on Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in clothes of byssus, and put a gold chain on his neck. And he caused him to ride in the second chariot that he had; and they cried before him, Bow the knee! And he set him over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, I am Pharaoh; and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or his foot in all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnath-paaneah, and gave him as wife Asnath the daughter of Potipherah the priest in On. And Joseph went out over the land of Egypt.”
What can we say or learn from Joseph’s life? He was blessed; he became the richest man of the World and had every man (except pharaoh) kneel before him. But we need to read the whole context to understand the real plan of God. There was much more that just simple blessing Joseph. God’s plan was to save the People of Jacob and he was at work again to show that he is the Great One.

He demonstrated through Joseph that he was the one TRUE God who could give the explanation to the dreams (remember that none of the priest could do it). He also blessed Joseph to show that HE alone provides wisdoms and that no man can make up to God’s wisdom. Do note that Joseph had to endure a very long moment of suffering and hard time. But he just maintained his faith in God.

From my study on that matter, from some small-group study we had, from some proper bible study and reading, I can say with certainty that the “Prosperity Gospel” is a wrong one. I even can say that this is a perversion of what the Bible teaches on prosperity and blessings.

Indeed God brings material blessings (this can be anything staring from crops – to animals etc.), God do provide financial blessings, but it is not an automatic stuff. Not everyone is blessed financially. We need to remember the teachings of our Lord Jesus against money, not that money is bad. Remember the parables of the rich man, how he was asked to leave all his wealth. Remember that we are to seek for things of the kingdom and not those of the world. Remember the Sermon on the Mount.

Most of all, the blessings came surely to those who has been very faithful to the lord and to whom God had great plan to show his greatness. Though some time required, it is not a necessity, and we cannot make a doctrine out of this.

For, the truth is that it’s not an automatic thing to be materially blessed; it is not a certainty or an obligation to God that everyone will be financially in abundance and having the best that the world has to offer.
There is no place where it is mentioned that financial blessings will be a sign to all believers that God is with them. In so doing, the “prosperity Gospel” teachers are making Christians worshipper of money, for they give birth to the “need” or “will” to be financially blessed. This develops in certain individual the sin of envy, and we know that with envy, we can fall into all sorts of traps, thinking that God is behind any opportunities that can bring financial growth.

We lose our sense of discernment and we leave place for greed and cupidity.

It is a lie indeed or a perversion, to put forward the financial gain in trusting Jesus. Because, we are “selling” faith, we are coming back to the "indulgences” once sold by the Catholics to reserve a place in heaven.
The impact of this gospel is very deep, it has tremendous implications in church administration and level, it has tremendous implication in the way we believe, in the way we see ourselves, and in the way we see others.
The saddest part is that this kind of gospel is being preached by most of our churches nowadays, and it practically a SIN now, if you talk against that!

No comments:

Post a Comment