Posted by: Damon Whitsell | June 11, 2010

I’m a Christian and God Wants Me To Be Prosperous by Phil Duncalfe

I’m a Christian and God wants me to be prosperous

There is a lot of teaching around that says Christians should live prosperous, healthy, even wealthy lives. Just google Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar and Benny Hinn and you end up with several preachers preaching what is known as the “prosperity gospel”. There are many that defend this way of preaching as well, pointing to various good works these ministries do but I will go over a couple of typical defenses of the prosperity gospel later on.

What is the Prosperity Gospel?

The prosperity gospel is the teaching that Christians deserve blessing when they have faith in God. Not only are the faithful meant to be blessed, they are meant to claim that blessing from God. Blessing from God, according to the Prosperity Gospel, is most frequently financial but is also to do with health. As Joel Osteen says,  (block inserts are my own)

“Because of the price he [Jesus] paid [on the cross], we [those with faith] have a right to total victory … not a partial victory where we have a good family, we have good health but we constantly struggle with our finances. That is not total victory… if God did it for you in one area […not sure which ‘area’ Joel was talking about here because it isn’t sin or salvation…] he can do it in another area – Get a vision for it!”

The reason this is so wrong is a) Jesus didn’t die for our health and wealth; b) Jesus and his disciples weren’t wealthy and never taught wealth was good – in fact Jesus had lots of bad things to say about wealth; c) Jesus said we would suffer on this earth d) we don’t have any right to claim anything from God – he already gave us Jesus to save us from our sin (sin is not just bad stuff we do but our very nature which separates us from God – no man, not even Christians on earth can claim to be completely sinless. If they were, they would be God).

Some big names and what they preach…

For the benefit of this blog I watched several sermons and talks by the following preachers. The stuff I quote is stuff they have said themselves on their own broadcasts in their own contexts. I will try and put links to videos if possible.


Creflo Dollar

I’m not going to delve into Creflo’s teaching here, he incriminates himself easily enough, especially with the help of a few YouTube clips. Apologies for the text and the exclamations on this video, but Creflo’s message remains unchanged: Click for video. Creflo is one of the most obvious proponents of the prosperity gospel to the point of even trying to persuade people that Jesus was rich during His ministry as were all the apostles. If you think Jesus was rich, you need to read the gospels for yourself.

Kenneth Copeland

(Examples of scripture use from: Get Concepts, Ideas and Insights Into God’s Way of Thinking and Choose Life and THE BLESSING on Friday 4th June )

Kenneth Copeland is commonly linked with the prosperity gospel. I hadn’t heard anything from him so I watched a couple of his talks off of his website. It really worries me that people watch Copeland, and any other preacher for that matter, and take them to be bible scholars. Copeland likes to find one verse that he likes and then preach from that. Anyone who has prepared a sermon or done any sort of bible reading themselves realises the danger of taking a single verse out of the bible and then delving into what that one verse means. For those that have no idea what I am talking about – the Bible’s books were not originally written with verses and chapters. Those have been added for ease of reference. So, the problem with this sort of teaching is like picking a sentence at random from a novel and teaching what you think the moral of the story is from that one sentence.

In the sermon I watched, Kenneth Copeland uses Luke 12:15 and makes a 28 minute sermon out of it. He only uses one translation, takes the verse out of context and doesn’t touch Jesus’ punchline – that those who store up on earth will lose out in heaven. This whole chapter condemns the prosperity gospel, the very gospel that Copeland preaches. Kenneth Copeland, in his sermon, reads out the second half of Luke 12:15 (21st Century King James Translation), “for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” and then says, “this does not say it is wrong to have an abundance of possessions”. He is correct, it doesn’t say that, but the rest of the chapter is all about not worrying about possessions, food or clothing because, we are to seek God and His kingdom and he will provide what we need. It doesn’t say abundance or wealth, it just says what we need. Somehow Copeland then manipulates verse 21 to say that ‘being rich toward God’ means being healed, prospered and blessed by God.

Though Copeland uses Jesus’ teaching, he doesn’t preach Jesus. I heard nothing of the reason for Jesus death or pointing to riches in heaven rather than riches here on earth. Copeland manipulates scripture to get a message out that boosts his ministry.

Joel Osteen

(Examples of scripture use from #464 Its not too late to get started)

Joel Osteen has come onto the mega-church scene only in the last 6 or so years. Taking on his father’s church when he died, Osteen has become something of a celebrity in the states.

Joel’s message is all about having faith in God so he will bless you. Constantly, Joel reminds his listeners that God called us, not to a ‘mediocre’ life, but to a life in abundance. Joel’s definition of mediocre is poverty, depression, sickness and even boredom in the workplace. I have watched a few YouTube videos but also watched a couple of Joel’s broadcast messages on his website and they all are so obviously about earning prosperity through faith in Jesus.

Joel constantly misuses scripture. Almost every time he quotes the bible he uses only one verse out of context, and he even quotes verses that don’t even look anything like what the bible says. Joel has been on Larry King live and the YouTube clips of his appearance do nothing to change my opinion that he doesn’t preach the Jesus of history. Joel preaches a Jesus that can be manipulated to make Joel’s message true. Unfortunately, a lot of people think Joel’s messages are right and they cannot see through the twisted scripture.

Joel doesn’t quote much from scripture but the few times he does, they are badly misused, here are a couple of examples. The first verse he uses is of 2 Timothy 1:6 which says, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” Joel used this verse to enhance his point and his interpretation of the verse was basically, “Life is flying by, pursue your destiny”. The chapter of this verse is talking about the Holy Spirit within Timothy. It has nothing to do with ‘Pursuing your destiny’.

Joel also uses 1 Timothy 4:15 apparently says “Give yourself wholly to your gift”. According to Osteen, without context, this means pursue your destiny. With context of the whole passage we can see it is actually talking about staying close to good teaching.

Jesus teaches that mankind’s purpose is to live for, worship and glorify God. It is not to pursue our career or not live ‘mediocre’ lives. God is our purpose, not our family, not our relationships. God, through Jesus, is our life and we must focus on him not on ourselves.

The danger is that there are so many half truths in Osteen’s message. He pushes people to get out of their comfort zone, but he is pushing them in the wrong direction. He directs them to get out and pursue their dreams as if all our own dreams are given by God. What he should be doing is directing them out of their comfort zone and pushing them towards Jesus. Sin is such an overused word and Joel obviously doesn’t like it but Sin is so much more than bad habits and bad stuff we do. Sin makes us enemies of God and before accepting Jesus’ death we are all sinners and therefore we are all enemies of God. Jesus died to save us from that enmity between us and God so that we can now worship him. It means we can have relationship with God as we cannot save ourselves. That is the good news and Joel is twisting it to point to earthly possessions and desires rather than to our awesome saviour. Not once does God point to Jesus and clearly state what Jesus has saved us from. So now, thousands of people are just listening to some ‘life coach’ who tries to act like a preacher.

What to look out for with Prosperity Preachers (Scripture Use)

Very rarely will any of the prosperity preachers use an entire passage of scripture to back up their sermons. If they did, they would have a very hard time justifying their financial situations as well as their teachings. As said earlier, we must look at the entire book, the entire chapter and then the verse when reading the bible. You can justify any theology by picking out single verses – including murder. This is sort of teaching is dangerous and emphasises the need for Christians to read the bible for themselves (preferably not just KJV or Amplified Bible translations)!

Repeated Sermonising About Material Blessings

God does bless people (but most frequently not through abundant finance). Healings do happen. It is good to give to your church. But, the prosperity focuses solely on you giving and you getting that they miss out on the fact that our purpose is to glorify God and not ourselves. Any scriptual backings for financial giving are usually twisted. Check out my mate Dan’s blog for how to see through scriptual misuse. If a church continually talks about you giving money to them, start to question, if you can’t question see the next point.

“Don’t Attack The Pastor”

Defenders of these men and women preachers often go on the offensive as soon as someone tries to point out their mistakes. The usual defense is, “these men are reaching more people with the gospel than you so they will obviously be under more spiritual attack than you, how dare you allow satan to use you like that!”. Let me just say this: if your church leadership ever tells you not to question them and gets defensive over their theology – get out – especially if they start telling you Satan is using you! There is reason behind doctrine and theology and if you can’t question it and get good answers, you are not under good authority and most likely in a cult.

What father wouldn’t give the best for his children?

This is a typical misquote from Matthew 7. It is a great example of how to take something out of the gospel and remove it from all of Jesus’ other teachings. God does know best, he also promises to provide for us and he teaches us not to worry about material things. When you look at the quoted ‘ask, seek, knock’ he doesn’t promise abundance, he promises that the father’s gifts will be good. If you read this then read Luke 12:13-34 you will see Jesus is talking about trusting God to provide for you when you need it. Prosperity gospel promises good gifts as we humans think of them (i.e. wealth and health), Jesus teaches us to trust God that HE knows what good gifts are and to focus on seeking God rather than stuff.

If you can’t defend it guilt-trip the offender…

It is common for people stuck within the prosperity gospel to bring into question your own giving. If you aren’t giving to these preachers then you’re obviously a slave to money because you aren’t helping these ministries spread the gospel or ‘reach the poor’. This is obviously a last ditch attempt to stop you from using biblical truth to change their view of material gain.

Conclusion

One reason that I love the bible so much is that it is relevant today, 2000 years from when it was written. The apostle Paul, writes to a man name Timothy who is sort of Paul’s apprentice in terms of learning how to teach the gospel. Paul warns Timothy about people who preach about money – it is something you won’t hear from a prosperity preacher’s mouth. Please, if you agree with the prosperity gospel, read the whole of this book not just the link: 1 Timothy 6:3-10.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (copied from biblegateway.com)

I could quote chapter and verse at you all day to show you how wrong the prosperity gospel is. But the danger isn’t us middle class bloggers. My biggest concern is that these ‘ministries’ are going into really poor areas and these preachers are telling them, “have faith and you’ll get rich”. How sick can these people be, going to the poor, preaching crap, taking their money and occasionally doing ‘mission trips’ (that also cost a ridiculous amount). The gospel is contentment in whatever circumstance. As John Piper says, “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in him“.

If you have another 10 minutes, please do watch the following Youtube clip. John Piper is a brilliant theologian and preacher and he sums up the prosperity gospel and its dangers very clearly.

http://totheunknown.blogspot.com/2010/06/im-christian-and-god-wants-me-to-be.html

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