Previously, on 6pm Extra, we considered ‘what is the prosperity ‘gospel’?’ (read here>>>). Over the next few weeks, we’ll be returning to consider some different aspects of this false teaching. Here, Daniel helps us understand the cruelty of the prosperity ‘gospel’.
Do you believe the prosperity ‘gospel’ is cruel?
Or, do you think it’s just a slightly unconventional doctrine some Christians believe in?
One famous prosperity preacher says: "I believe God wants to give us nice things." This preacher goes on to ask, "Who would want to get in on something where you're miserable, poor, broke and ugly and you just have to muddle through until you get to heaven?" She wants people to become Christians, and so wants to offer them something attractive now.
Nothing wrong with that, right? I believe God wants to give us nice things, too. I know God’s a good, kind, and caring Father; who cares, comforts and provides for His people in this broken world. I want my friends to know about Him, too.
But, here’s the thing: the Bible simply does not say God has promised us material prosperity in this world. And that is why the prosperity gospel is so cruel.
1. The prosperity ‘gospel’ leads us away from following Jesus.
The real Jesus tells us, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8:33-34)
That is the authentic pattern of the Christian life. Following this Saviour. The prosperity gospel knows nothing of Jesus’ pattern but instead says following Jesus means not denying ourselves now.
Paul says 'it is through craving [money] that some have wandered away from the faith.' (1 Timothy 6:10). How cruel it is for Christian preachers to encourage others to an attitude of craving stuff, an attitude which actually takes them away from following the authentic Jesus.
2. The prosperity ‘gospel’ leads us away from confidence in God.
By focusing on “nice stuff” now, our focus is taken off God and his eternal plan. This is incredibly destructive to our relationship with God. As we pray, sometimes we’ll get nice stuff, but other times we won’t. Our Father knows best what to give us (Matthew 7:7-11).
So what do we do when we don't get what we think our Father should give us? The prosperity ‘gospel’ says keep asking for what you want, with even more faith which is a lie.
Here’s two ways this erosion of confidence works. First, believing this prosperity ‘gospel’ makes us uncertain of God’s certain promises: 'we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For…the things that are unseen are eternal.' (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). God has promised us an unseen, eternal reality, which is much better than the world we live in now. We can trust this, not feel downhearted when we don’t get the stuff we want now.
Second, believing this prosperity ‘gospel’ erodes our confidence that Christ is enough. Paul says it is precisely when he doesn't get nice things that he is most dependent on Christ (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). His lack of material prosperity isn’t a sign that God isn’t good, rather it helps him rely on Jesus who is supremely powerful, good and able to sustain him!
The prosperity ‘gospel’ isn’t just a slightly unconventional doctrine some Christians believe in. It’s a distortion of Biblical truth, which is actively dangerous in drawing believers away from Christ, and confidence in God’s good and true promises, which are found in Him.
The prosperity 'gospel' is great at encouraging us to crave stuff. I don't need encouraging in that area – the sinful nature is pretty good at that. The real gospel makes me crave Christ!
If something has struck you from this post, why not keep chatting it through with you RML group?
Picture: Images Money