11.06.2008

The American Heresy - Prosperity Gospel

I want to address something that I've been getting a lot of questions about recently. Does God want me to be rich or have nice things?

The New Testament writers spend a great deal of time addressing the heresy of legalism and gnosticism because those were the primary heresies of their day. Incidentally they were heresies that arose within the church.  The big heresy that today's American church needs to teach against and guard itself against is "prosperity gospel".  A heresy that has also arisen from within the American church.

Prosperity gospel teaches that it is God's will for you to have wealth and to bless you with all the desires of your heart.  God desires for us to be happy.  Big houses, nice cars, promotions, trips, and other such things will make us happy.  Therefore, God's will is for us to have all those things. All we need to do is have faith that God will bless us materialistically, name those things or list those things we desire, focus our prayers and positive affirmations on those things, and wait for God to give them to us. They proof-text and use verses such as Deuteronomy 8:18, Malachi 3:10, John 10:10, and 3 John 2-4 to support their claims.

This all sounds really good and fires us up to claim God's "promises" for ourselves and get in on some of the "available wealth" that we can have if only "our faith is strong enough" or we "want it bad enough".  There's just a couple of problems I have with this line of thought.

1) The USA is not the only country with Christians on the planet.  There are Christians all over our world (many with much stronger faith than we'll ever have) who live in places where the whole concept of prosperity gospel is completely and utterly ridiculous.  There are completely sold-out disciples of Jesus Christ that live in an environment of poverty where the most prosperity they could possibly hope for is "give us this day our daily bread".  They could claim blessings and write lists until their pens ran out of ink and most likely will still die never having owned a car, slept in a comfortable bed, lived in a house with air conditioning, made more money in a year than we make in a week, vacationed in Europe, or even had the luxury of indoor plumbing.  My point is this false "gospel" can only be a reality in the U.S. or a few other developed countries.  So if it is not a gospel for everyone, then it is no gospel at all.

2) I've read the rest of the Bible. Does God bless some with wealth and cool experiences? Sure. He also curses some with wealth and cool experiences. To read the Bible and come to a belief that prosperity theology is accurate is to only read the parts of the Bible that tickle your ears and your greed. Try these verses on for size:
  • 1 Timothy 6:3-10(ESV) - If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and depraved of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. (emphasis mine)
  • And check out these passages: Matthew 6:19-24, Luke 16:13, Luke 18:22-25, 1 John 2:15, Matthew 19:21
3) This kind of teaching turns God into some kind of genie in a bottle.  Prosperity gospel is so "me-centered", but the Bible is clear that we are to be "God-centered".  It's not about us, not even a little bit. The purpose of our lives is to GLORIFY GOD! Prosperity theology says just the opposite; that the purpose of a relationship with God is for Him to bless us.  This is wrong and honestly, just sick. If you're serving God to see what you can get out of Him, you have to be one of the most self-centered, ungrateful, disgusting people to ever walk the planet. Seriously! Think about it - God sent his only, beloved, special Son to this planet for the primary purpose of dying a horrific, painful, humiliating death. He did this because He loves you so much that He didn't want you to have to go through that punishment.  Through that ultimate, incomprehensible act of love He has erased your sin record and taken the penalty of that sin upon Himself.  But He didn't stop there! He sent His Holy Spirit to live inside of us so that we can be guided to righteousness and feel His presence and love. But He didn't stop there either! He is currently preparing an eternal home for us where we WILL experience eternal prosperity and truly live in His presence!  ...and some of us have the attitude of "Well, that's great and all, but really God, I need to be driving a HUMMER."  Give me a freakin' break!!!

Properity gospel is not just mis-leading and inaccurate...it's disgusting and evil.

(to be continued tomorrow...)

7 comments:

Mookie said...

Very Interesting Post, Jeff! I have heard many preach the idea of the prosperity gospel. I guess, in my life and turbulent journey when it comes to religion and God, I have seen, heard, and experienced a rather odd asortment of ideas in my life. I believe in God and Jesus as the Savior. But when it comes to these more earthly ideas, I don't see so much of God's hand in it, as I do man's. Sure, I think god sets forth blessings, curses and obstacles, but for the most part it is us, as humans who are here to do as we see fit. Where the multiple paths may lead us is pre-ordained, and we can always shift direction on a whim.
God doesn't care about money, the football game, what have you. He only cares about you, and that you discover His Truth. Everything else is otherwise meaningless details. Our path on Earth is our own determination. I dunno, maybe I'm wrong here?

DeadMule said...

Good post. Another sad thing about the "prosperity gospel" is that when it comes true for some people and doesn't for others, it "proves" who God loves best. NOT!!!

God is no respecter of persons. But I do think he wants all of us to eat.

Caron said...

Hey,

I think you will really appreciate the work of Justin Peters. Check out the video on his site where he is giving an overview of the seminar to Southwestern Baptist Seminary:

http://www.justinpeters.org

He gave the full length seminar at my church and comes highly recommended by my pastor, Dr. John MacArthur.

Phil said...

Jeff,
You forgot to site the point that if "prosperity doctine" worked, you wouldn't be driving around in that old beater car of yours:)

Russell Earl Kelly, PHD said...

TITHING IN A NUTSHELL
by Russell Earl Kelly, Ph. D.
(see web site for all texts)
November 6, 2008

1. Post-Calvary Christian giving principles in Second Corinthians are superior to tithing. (1) Giving is a "grace.” (2) Give yourself to God first. (3) Give yourself to knowing God’s will. (4) Give in response to Christ’s gift. (5) Give out of a sincere desire. (6) Do not give because of any commandment (8:8, 10; 9:7). (7) Give beyond your ability. (8) Give to produce equality. (9) Give joyfully (8:2). (10) Give because you are growing spiritually. (11) Give to continue growing spiritually. (12) Give because you are hearing the gospel preached.

2. Abraham's tithed in Genesis 14 in obedience to pagan tradition. (1) He did not "freely" give. (2) His was NOT a holy tithe from God’s holy land by God’s holy people under God’s holy Covenant. (3) His was only from pagan spoils of war required in many nations. (4) In Num. 31, God required 1% of spoils. (5) His tithe to his priest-king was a one-time event. (6) Not from his personal property. (7) Kept nothing for himself. (8) Is not quoted to endorse tithing. (9) Most commentaries explain 14:21 as pagan Arab tradition, it is contradictory to explain the 90% of 14:21 as pagan, while insisting the 10% of 14:20 was obedience to God’s will. (10) If Abraham were an example for Christians to give 10%, he should also be an example for Christians to give the other 90% to Satan, or to the king of Sodom! (11) As priests, neither Abraham nor Jacob had a Levitical priesthood to support; they probably left food for the poor at their altars.

3. Although money was common and essential for worship for over 1500 years, biblical tithes were always only food increased by God from inside Israel (Lev. 27:30, 32; see site for all 16 texts).

4. Since only farmers and herdsmen tithed, there
was no minimum standard requirement for most. Tradesmen such as carpenters (Jesus), Peter (fishermen) and Paul (tentmakers) did not qualify as tithe-payers. The poor and Gentiles did not tithe.

5. Tithing was only commanded to national Israel under the terms of the Old Covenant. Tithing was never commanded to the Church after Calvary (Ex 19:5-6; Lev 27:34; Mal 4:4; Mt 23:23 matters of the law).

6. Those who received the first whole tithe did not minister atonement (Num. 18:21-24; Neh10:37b). Priests only received 1% (a tenth of the tithe) (Num 18:25-28; Neh 10:38).

7. In exchange for receiving tithes, both Levites and priests forfeited all rights to permanent land inheritance inside Israel (Num. 18:20-26).

8. Firstfruits are not the same as tithes. Firstfruits were a very small token offering (Deu 26:1-4; Neh 10:35-37; Num 18:13-17). Tithes were the tenth and not the best; only 1% of the tithes included the best (Lev. 27:32, 33).

9. There were 4 O.T. tithes: (1) Government taxes (1 Sam 8:14-17). (2) Levitical (Num. 18:21-28; Neh. 10:37-39). (3) Festival (Deu 12:1-19; 14:22-26). (3) Poor tithe every 3rd year (Deu 14:28-29; 26:12-13).

10. Tithes were often taxes used to support Levite [politicians (1 Chron, chap 23 to 26; esp 23:2-5; 26:29-32; 27:5). Tithes never supported mission work (Ex 23:32; Heb 7:12-18).

11. OT Levitical tithes were brought first to the Levitical cities and not to the Temple (Num 18; Neh 10:37-39; 2 Chron 31:15-19). Most Levites required tithes in their Levitical cities where 98% stayed (Num 35, Josh 20, 21).

12. Malachi 3 is the most abused tithing text in the Bible. (1) Malachi is OT and is never quoted in the New Covenant to validate tithing. (2) Tithes are still only food. (3) His audience reaffirmed the OT curses (Neh.10:28-29). (4) The blessings and curses of tithing are identical to and inseparable from those of the entire Mosaic Law (Deu 28:12, 23-24; Gal 3:10/Deu 27:26). (5) “You” in Malachi refers to the dishonest priests and not the people (1:6-14; 2:1-10; 2:13 to 3:1-5). (6) The “whole” tithe never went to the Temple! (Neh 10:37b). (7) The Levitical cities must be included in a correct interpretation. (8) The 24 courses of Levites and priests must be included. (9) The “storehouse” in the Temple was only several rooms (Neh 13:5, 9). (9) “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse” only makes contextual sense if it is only commanding dishonest priests to replace the tithes they had removed from it or had failed to bring to it.

13. The OT Temple and priesthood have been replaced by the priesthood of every believer. NT elders and pastors more closely resemble OT prophets who were not supported by tithes.

14. Tithing was not legalized as a church law until AD 777. If was not introduced as a local regional law until the 6th century. See any reputable encyclopedia.

15. NT giving principles are: freewill, sacrificial, generous, joyful, not by commandment or percentage and motivated by love for God and lost souls.

From the book, Should the Church Teach Tithing?
www.tithing-russkelly.com russell-kelly@att.net

Jeff Myers said...

Russell,

I'm not sure what your comment has to do with my post, but I don't know if I've ever seen someone take so much time and preparation to build an argument against giving financially to God. Tithing is a Biblical principle (both OT and NT). Honestly, the lack of regard you have for the OT Scriptures is dangerous. I would encourage you to study the issue more carefully, with a more open mind, and ask yourself why you're so resistant to giving God a fixed amount of your income. God bless.
Jeff

Anonymous said...

The prosperity gospel is utter rubbish & is near heresy! The main problems have to do with hermeneutics. It grew out of the charismatic movement which grew out of the pentecostal movement. The pentecostal movement started amongst the poorly educated who were actually greatly anointed by God. But because they were anointed, they thought that theological education was not necessary. Coupled with unscrupulous tele-evangelists, we have what we have today.