False teaching distorts the pure gospel and your view about God. It has been a problem for centuries, even in the early Church. But God has always raised up leaders and Bible teachers to shine a light upon the truth that sets people free from deception and the bonds of sin.
In 2020, the Church is in desperate need for such leadership. There is a false gospel that has been gaining momentum and causing great deception across the world for decades that was birthed right here in America – the “prosperity gospel.”
The prosperity gospel is a far cry from the gospel of Jesus because its roots are not grounded in the message of the cross that gives new us new life in Christ. It originates from New Thought philosophy, which focuses on using your thoughts, declaration of specific words, and visualizations to attract what you want to happen in your life. The prosperity theology distorts the message of the finished work of the Cross by proclaiming that Jesus didn’t just die for the forgiveness of your sins and to give you new abundant life (John 10:10), but by using your faith, this new life in Him will bring about perfect health and abundant wealth in material possessions and relationships.
This message appeals to every (fallen) natural human desire and it is absolute heresy, my friends. When you add anything to the gospel, it becomes a false one.
We were followers and believers of this false teaching for many years, but by the grace and mercy of God, He opened our eyes by removing the blinders of deception. He stirred our hearts to repent for believing a different gospel and trust in Christ and the finished work of the Cross alone.
The Lord filled our hearts with a strong desire for truth; We became like the Bereans in Acts 17 who searched the Scriptures daily, so we would not fall prey to false teaching again. I believe this is something we all must do as Christians. We must always be on our guard against what we allow to enter our eyes, ears, and heart, even from those in the pulpit, making sure it all lines up with the Bible and is not being taken out of context, as so many prosperity preachers do, sadly.
Since the prosperity gospel is so popular and prevalent, it is important to consistently reflect upon your beliefs as a Christian and what the Bible truly says about the foundation of our faith.
Here are five questions to ask yourself that should help you get an idea if you are allowing the prosperity theology to twist your view of God and the gospel:
1. Do I believe faith is merely a force to be used for my own personal gain?
Like stated previously, the prosperity gospel has its roots in New Thought philosophy, so it’s add-on message that health and wealth through the finished work of Christ on the cross is obtained by using positive and declarative words and actions, through the law of attraction and visualization (New Age principles).
This theology believes faith is then a force to receive whatever you want to attract to you, believing God will give you whatever you are asking for, and using the name of Jesus as your authority to do so.
Faith is not something you use to get material possessions or temporal pleasures, friends.
Faith is the gift God fills our heart with to believe upon the Lord Jesus to have a relationship with Him where we trust that He is good and faithful no matter what we are experiencing in life, even in lack, even in illness. Our faith in Christ is what gives us the hope that we have eternal life in Him.
2. Am I truly giving out of a heart of generosity, or am I giving to get something in return?
If your faith is to be used as a force to get something from God, as it is in the prosperity gospel, then you must give something away to get what you want in return. This act of giving stems from the law of reciprocity:
- If you sow time, you get time.
- If you sow money, you get money.
Sowing seeds is at the core of this false gospel, but it is not modeled Biblically like explained in 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 or in other parts of Bible where the seed is the Word of God (see the parable of the sower in Luke 8).
An Example of Reciprocity in the Prosperity Gospel:
Most often, a seed in prosperity theology is a financial gift that has a condition attached. As you sow your financial seed, using the tithe as the key to open the windows of heaven, the Sovereign God is then required to multiple that seed (as if He were subject to the law of reciprocity) and pour out a blessing so big that you can’t contain it. This “gospel” promises a 30, 60, or 100-fold return (taking the parable of the sower out of context) of the amount of money that was given (the offering given beyond the tithe).
God Our Father, Not Business Partner:
God is not your business partner; He is your Heavenly Father who promises to richly provide all that you need, not want.Tweet
Jesus tells us that we cannot serve God and money (Matthew 6:24). We can serve Jesus with our money and time by being cheerful and generous givers simply to help those in need and seeing the Kingdom of God advanced by the preaching of the gospel.
3. Do I use prayer as a means to tell God or to ask God?
Along with New Thought philosophy, the prosperity gospel is founded in Word of Faith theology, which proclaims that our words have the power to create our reality. It says that we are able to call things that are not as though they are (mishandling Romans 4:17, which is an ability only given to the Creator).
This false teaching completely changes the purpose behind prayer.
Instead of prayer as a way to connect to our Father and cultivate relationship (as Jesus so humbly modeled), prayer is viewed as a way to tell God what He is supposed to do for you through declarative statements and thanking Him (what would be said is done “in faith”) that He is already making a way, even if it is not His will.
Even if the person praying is asking God that He would move in their situation, the belief that it will happen has more to do with the person’s faith in the power of their words than faith in God Himself.
“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”Matthew 21:22, ESV
We have faith in God that He hears us when we come to Him. As His child, we can ask Him for what is on our heart, but we also must remember that His ways are higher than our own, therefore, we must trust that His will for our life is perfect.
4. Do I believe that as a Christian that I should not suffer?
The prosperity gospel proclaims that because Jesus suffered on the Cross:
- As His followers, we should not have to suffer.
- And if we do suffer, it is because somehow, we opened the door to the enemy to wreak havoc on our lives.
But Job was “blameless and upright,” and he suffered greatly. And who do you think gave Satan permission to wreck Job’s life? The Apostles were thrown in jail, martyred, and tortured for their faith in Christ. Suffering is one of the highest honors as a follower of Christ. Peter tells us that we should rejoice and praise God when we suffer (1 Peter 4).
Jesus never promised us that we would not have to suffer. In fact, He promised that we would be persecuted and that we would face many trials and tribulations. But He also promised that He overcame the world for us (John 16:33) and when we trust in Him, we win in the end! As the Apostle Paul said, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21)!
5. What is my definition of a blessed life?
This question is the most reflective of the five listed above because I believe it deals with the area of contentment. In a culture where “blessed” is a literal hashtag on social media, I think it is important to define this word for ourselves. What has God given you that you deem as a blessing? Make a list.
Does your list contain more material possessions and temporal things, or do you find salvation, wisdom, or spiritual gifts among your blessings? Sometimes blessings come wrapped up in suffering.
After all, 1 Peter 4:14 (NASB) shares this truth:
“If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.”
I pray you take time to meditate on these questions and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal areas of your heart where you might have been influenced by the prosperity gospel instead of the true gospel. The true gospel is that Jesus came to rescue sinners from the wrath of God by taking our punishment upon Himself through the Cross and to give us eternal life as well as a new life right now that should be lived to glorify Him always. Life found in Christ alone will always be enough.
Are You Living Out the Prosperity Gospel? was originally featured on iBelieve.com in October 2018.