These statements were spoken by two well-known “Word of Faith preachers” whose central message is that God wants you to be materially rich, perfectly healthy, and happy. If you’re not rich, happy, and healthy, you must be lacking true faith.
This is the summation of the prosperity gospel, also known as the Word of Faith gospel, which has found its way into hundreds of American evangelical churches. In fact, this belief is taught to 40 percent of evangelical churchgoers and continues to plague Christians with emotional manipulation, calls to “more” faith, and advice on how to “live your best life now.” Even if they are not explicitly taught this view in church, 75 percent of evangelicals believe that God’s desire for them is that they prosper.
Only in a flourishing country like America can Christians be duped into believing that God’s highest calling for them is to follow Jesus to receive temporal blessings. Only in a prosperous country like America can believers be told to “name it and claim it” and “speak it into existence” in order to receive blessings from God.
This is not a saving gospel message. This is more akin to mysticism.
If the prosperity gospel were correct, grace is unnecessary, God is a genie in a bottle, and man is sovereign over all things.
In 1 Timothy 6, Paul warns of heretical teachings like this and about men who are “depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” The prosperity gospel is merely a misuse of Christ in exchange for temporal, worldly gain.
So what does the Bible say about earthly treasures and temporal gain?
“And he said to his disciples, ‘Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!’”
Prosperity teachers will emphasize that Christ’s atonement on the cross not only paid for your sins, but also for the curse of illness, poverty, and sorrow. In his book, The Troublemaker, prosperity teacher Kenneth Copeland writes, “The basic principle of the Christian life is to know that God put our sin, sickness, disease, sorrow, grief, and poverty on Jesus at Calvary.”
This not only makes a mockery of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross, but it is totally antithetical to what Scripture teaches. The purpose of the cross is not for your personal desires or even your earthly needs to be met. The purpose of the cross is that you have committed deadly sins against a righteous and holy God, but Christ has atoned for them in full.
“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.“
–2 Corinthians 12:10
Scripture makes clear that we will suffer in this life, whether that be in the form of persecution, hardships (physically or financially), or calamities. That’s not a result of our little faith — that’s a result of living in a fallen world. And it gives us a longing for the return of our Savior. One day He will return and there will be no illness, weakness, suffering, poverty, or lack.
“In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Right now, until the day comes when we are in our glorified bodies, we will experience suffering that no amount of giving or manifesting will relieve. But we can have peace in knowing that Christ has already overcome these things so that one day we can enjoy an eternity with Him forever, freed of the sufferings we endured on this earth.
In the Word of Faith/prosperity movement, there is an overwhelming sense of wanting more. The biblical term for this is greed. Rather than coveting the wealth of your neighbor or wishing you didn’t have that lower back pain, Scripture calls us to count it all joy. To respond in any other way is sin.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.“
Centering our focus on the things that we lack inevitably causes us to show little regard for God’s provision. But it is through the things that we lack that God sanctifies us and makes us more like Christ. That’s the power of the biblical gospel at work in our lives.
To place the focus of our faith on temporal desires and trust in our own ability to make God provide what we want is to have a very, very small view of God and a very big view of ourselves.
We can rest in knowing that God will provide the things that we need simply because He loves us — not because we gave $1,000 to our church so we can receive $10,000 in return. Our job is to be obedient to His will — whether that means giving with a joyful and generous heart or praying for our family member who has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. And if we do not receive the things for which we asked, we must rejoice in knowing that He is sovereign and we are not. His will is greater than our own, despite what we think we need.
It is not our job to demand of God the things we want to see come to pass.
The next false gospel we’ll discuss in this series is the “Jesus Only” gospel. It’s become incredibly common in progressive Christian and deconstructionist circles, yet so many in the modern evangelical church have been affected by the blatant attack on God’s Word and what good theology means for the Christian.
Follow Reagan on Twitter! @thereaganscott