Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Understanding the Gospel: What is the Prosperity Gospel?

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. 3 John 2 NKJV

 Have you ever heard of the prosperity gospel? Have you heard that label used to describe various ministers or ministries? The real question is do you know what the prosperity gospel or message actually is?   

 Traditional Christianity often assigns labels to church groups they don't like or organizations they disagree with. The heresy label abounds. What I'd like to do is clear away bias, and traditions and just look at the substance of what the prosperity gospel actually teaches and whether it's Biblically accurate or is indeed erroneous and false. My goal isn't to fight or accuse, I sat in prosperity gospel circles for ten years allow me to share what it actually is. 

 First, we need to establish that not every teaching about finances or healing is the prosperity gospel. There are Christians who deny healing is for today and believe that tongues are mere gibberish. So any church that prays for the sick and believes in the Gifts for today is dismissed as prosperity gospel preachers. We also must understand there is a difference between extremism and error. 

Don't become extreme in addressing extremes in the Church

 Believing that God is a good Father isn't extreme. If you believe God is good, that He doesn't send or ordain disease, disaster, death, and despair doesn't mean you ascribe to an extremist theology. But doesn't the prosperity gospel also teach nothing bad will ever happen if you have enough faith? Yes, some circles teach that. The differences are we know we live in a fallen world and that is why we see sickness and suffering abound. We don't say bad doesn't occur in this world, we are just saying God isn't responsible.

 Because God is a good Father, we can believe God for financial provision in times of need. We can believe God for healing when symptoms arise. Jesus is our hope and present help. This isn't extremism. So don't accept the extremist label bias tradition-bound believers try to label everyone with just because you trust Jesus for help in time of need.

What is the actual prosperity gospel then?

 The prosperity gospel is centered around seed faith. The prosperity gospel focuses more on wealth than any other subject. As for health, it teaches if you're sick it's your fault and you lack faith. In truth, this should be called the always healthy and wealthy seed faith gospel. 

 Let's thoroughly examine prosperity gospel teaching. This teaching starts with the tithe. It teaches you are supposed to give 10% of your gross earnings to your prosperity church.  Now tithing is just the beginning. It serves a dual purpose. In poker, you have to ante or buy into the game before you can bet. The tithe is the ante. See, according to the prosperity gospel, you haven't even given until you first tithe. The tithe isn't yours so you haven't given until you give your own money.

 So the tithe is first like an ante, funds you deposit so you can participate in the game if you will. The second purpose of the tithe is for protection. The tithe is owed to the Father so your stuff will be protected. It's literally a protection racket. If one had a car accident, the first thing many ask is were you paying your tithes? If not then it's your fault for not giving God His protection money. 

 Once you pay your tithe, then it's onto giving or sowing seeds. What's the difference? The truth is, an offering is what you give when you don't have a pressing need. When you are in need and give you are sowing a seed for your need to be met. You have a need, so you are basically bribing God to pay attention to you and bring to you the supply.

 When you give above the 10% the process of seedtime and harvest has begun. What you're to expect is a return or harvest on your giving. A 30, 60, or Hundredfold return is promised to you each time you sow in faith. What this looks like is this; Say you gross $1,800,  you owe God $180. Then you are to give above that to begin seedtime and harvest. You give say $50. You then are supposed to expect either,  $50 times 30fold return equals $1,500. $50 times 60fold equals $3,000. $50 times 100fold return equals $5,000. 

 This is the foundation of the prosperity gospel. Soon after this wasn't enough. Teachers of this view began teaching about giving into good soil, naming your seed, giving personal financial gifts to the minister, and giving unto the rich and not the poor, a concept called blessing the blessed, the first fruit offering. They also ascribe to a view that the wealth of the wicked will one day come into the Christian's hands.

 Allow me to briefly explain these aforementioned views. Giving into good soil means only giving to churches and ministries that teach you're supposed to be rich. Don't give into any other ministry or it won't produce a blessing. You're to not just sow a seed but name or target your seed. In other words, if you had a need for a new job, give and keep giving saying this seed is for me to harvest a new job. Again, bribing God to bless you, or buying your miracle. When Jesus was on Earth He never merchandised His anointing or healing or miracles. Peter never gave him a financial gift before He caused the miracle of the near-boat sinking catch of fish.

 The idea of giving money to the minister is rooted in the concept that if you sow money into him or her what giftings they have will show up in your life. Blessing the blessed is a concept rooted in greed. It uses a passage in Proverbs about giving to the poor, here, to show that there is not a rich return on giving to the poor. so "bless the blessed", or put money in rich people's pockets, they are "good ground" for sowing. The first fruit offering is a TV preacher gimmick wherein you give the first fruit of your increase. Meaning if the first time you made say $10,000 you would give an additional 10% as a first fruit offering. 

 The wealth of the wicked transferred to the just concept is a Graceless view. Jesus died on the Cross and purchased our redemption if we simply believe. He didn't die to get the lost person's wallet or checkbook. He wants people's hearts, not their paychecks or possessions. These basically sum up the entirety of the prosperity gospel tenets. 

 The prosperity message I've expounded has sadly turned into an almost lottery-like fantasy designed to remove money from the hands of gullible Christians. It preys on lower-income families. It makes lavish promises that one day they will become rich and will be able to drive a Lexus and take summer vacations in Paris if only they keep giving 12%, 17%, 20%, 30%, or more of their income to a local church or TV minister. 

extremes vs error

 What these concepts are, even though they are rooted in greed, are defined as extremes. They are taking Scripture and pushing them to extreme areas. They are pushing them out of bounds so to speak. The problem is any truth taken to extremes leads to error. Now, these extremes are an untruth. There is no Biblical precedent for someone giving God $100 and then receiving $10,000. These ministers take Luke 6:38, 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, Mark 4 and 10, and Galatians 6 and interpret them out of context and push them to extremes. As wrong as these extremes are they aren't the real error of the prosperity gospel. 

What is the real error of the prosperity gospel?

 Any truth taken to an extreme leads to error. Error and false teaching Biblically defined, is when false teachers deny the deity of Christ, deny the authority of the Scriptures, or change or alter the Gospel or salvation message. A gospel of works and performance is, therefore, an error and false teaching because it contradicts the Gospel of Grace.

 The real error of the prosperity gospel is they have turned the Gospel into a message of works, performance, and attempts to buy and earn the blessings and favor of God. If any benefit of salvation requires works or performance to receive then all benefits of salvation must be by works and that is bad news and that isn't the Gospel.

 The Prosperity gospel is a performance-driven, works-oriented gospel that condemns, hurts, and destroys. Marriages crumble and dissolve due to the stress and pressure of trying to manifest money. People walk away from God because they feel unworthy or that God lied to them. There is one passage that sums up this message.

There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Proverbs 16:25 NKJV
People are promised a harvest for giving much, and when it doesn't manifest soon, their eyes quit seeing the Savior and turn inwardly. They begin to search their heart for hidden sins or addictions. Search if they're harboring ill will, resentment or bitterness, or unforgiveness. They also search their heart to see if they're in faith or have allowed doubt and unbelief to corrupt their faith. Oh, wait you must be in fear they say to themselves, fear contaminates faith. So it must be fear of not receiving causing me not to receive. The excuses are endless and the peddlers of the prosperity gospel conveniently insulate themselves from anyone challenging them on their teaching by teaching it's up to your faithfulness and performance to receive.

 So instead of Jesus being your provider you and your perfect obedience, performance, faithfulness, sinlessness, and financial giving become your provider. When you tithe and give and don't see a return they say, "Well you gave with the wrong motive",  but they took your money regardless of your motive, and when they instructed you to tithe and give offerings they specifically stated if you give you will be blessed financially. 

 What has God actually promised to Christians in this life? God isn't saying for eternal salvation and receiving righteousness the Finished Work provided it, but for financial needs or receiving healing, you're on your own. In the Finished Work, He has given us wisdom and favor, and strength. He gives us the wisdom to manage our finances. He gives us the favor of finding jobs and better jobs and finding good bargains when we shop. He gives us the strength to work and be productive. What about the suffering and famine in many lands? That's why we take what blessing we have and become a blessing to the needy and unfortunate. We first must be blessed to be a blessing, and that isn't prosperity extremism. 

 In summation, the prosperity gospel is an extreme teaching that produces the error of works and performance-based faith. When people are promised by men that God will do something and it never happens condemnation overtakes them, and they wonder what's wrong with them. In the long term, people begin to blame God for lying to them and they walk away from God hurt, broken and bitter. That is the true fruit of the prosperity gospel. 
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