"No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” Matthew 6:24
“And Jesus said to his disciples, "Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God" Matthew 19:23-24
“Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep” Luke 6:23-25
“But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God" Luke 12:20-21
Contrary to what Prosperity preachers say, Jesus warns against saving up riches for ourselves. But it is understandable how so many could be misled by this teaching. Here in the United States we are taught to strive for the “American Dream.” TV tells us to buy more and more so we can keep up with our neighbors. You absolutely need that new iPhone and fancy car and bigger house, right? And God loves us, so he must want us to have these things we desire right?
Last summer I came face to face with just how tempting Prosperity Gospel can be. I was speaking with a woman who I considered godly, the kind of woman I could consult on these types of subjects. The conversation drifted towards the topic of prosperity and at some point I said what I normally do when the subject comes up: “God never promised us prosperity here on earth; he promised that when this life is over we could live with him in heaven.”
Her response was something along the lines of “Of course God promised us prosperity! 3 John 1:2 says “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.” She proceeded to tell me how Solomon prospered because he asked for wisdom to rule, so God gave him riches as well.
It was about this time I realized I had never actually spoken to someone who believes in the Prosperity Gospel. Although I had read much on the subject I didn’t know how to respond to this enthusiasm she had for prosperity. My protests that there are many Christians in the world who do not prosper were met with the offhanded comment that in poor areas of the world owning a goat can be seen as prospering. She then proceeded to tell me that we are God’s children and, just like how she tries to give her son everything, God wants to give us everything we want and we just have to be open to him to receive it.
And that’s about when I started to doubt my longstanding conviction that the Prosperity Gospel is wrong. What she said just sounded so logical, and more importantly, desirable. Why couldn’t I be a pastor and also have the money for luxuries? Wouldn’t God want to bless those who serve him?
By the end of our conversation I was thoroughly confused. First chance I got I began searching for answers. I ended up on a website that examined the very scriptures she had quoted (among many others) and explained why these scriptures did not prove that God wants us to prosper. The website can be found here: http://www.puregospeltruth.com/prosperity-preachers-and-financial-gain---does-god-want-you-to-be-rich.html. It explains that John was talking to a wealthy man named Gaius who used his money to support the church in his city. It explains that although Solomon was blessed with great wealth, he fell to worshipping the idols of his 900 wives, wives he was able to have because of his great wealth. I highly recommend reading the rest of the article, as it debunks many more arguments made by prosperity preachers.
And this brings me to the problem of prosperity. In our consumerist culture it sounds right. It becomes very easy to fall prey to it. It provides something to blame when life doesn’t work out the way we want it, or rather, when life doesn’t work out for others. When we believe it, it becomes too easy to look at someone who is suffering and think they weren’t faithful enough, or they didn’t give enough money to God, or they sinned. But what happens when we suffer ourselves after all the money we gave or all the church services and Bible studies we went to? The Prosperity Gospel drives people away from Christ because they get frustrated when life doesn’t go the way they want it after they did everything they were “supposed to.” Imagine telling one of the millions of Christians living in third world countries that the reason they are sick, poor, starving, persecuted, etc is because they don’t have strong enough faith. This false teaching exploits the dreams of people who are told day in and day out that they need more stuff to be happy. It risks destroying the faith of people just so a few “pastors” can have bigger houses and fancier cars.
The problem of prosperity is that we are not promised prosperity during this life. Some will prosper, but when they do they must follow Gaius’ example and give all they have to help the poor, the hungry, the sick, the persecuted, all the people Christ commanded us to help. If God blesses us with prosperity it is so we can do God’s work, not so we can live in luxury. Some will prosper, but many will not, and that has nothing to do with how many prayers you say, or how much money you give to the church. The “reward” for our faith is heaven (although I shudder to think of heaven as solely a reward). This life is only temporary, and the things we gather here on earth do not last. The real blessing our faith brings is the joy of living in communion with God and doing God’s work. Don’t be like the rich young ruler who asked Jesus what he needed to do to go to heaven. Don’t miss out on the true blessing because you cannot let go of your wealth.