A little background on me first…“Our greatest fear in life should not be of failure…but of of succeeding at things in life that really don’t matter.” This Francis Chan quote floored me a couple years ago when I first heard it. At the time I had found myself fully invested in my career and seeking advancement to validate myself and feel worth. I count it as a blessing that I had a relationship fall apart and was given the opportunity to re-align my priorities in a new city and in a career where I am surrounded by people who value kingdom building above career building. This job also “coincidentally” allowed me to attend The Institute (Seminary School) and spend eight months strengthening my walk and deepening my knowledge of the scriptures. The dual role of work and study has been difficult but all things worth doing are and count it all joy my brothers. (James 1:2)
So now let’s talk about Prosperity Gospel.
I started this assignment on prosperity gospel with the intention of doing the bare minimum and fell asleep with my laptop at 3am because I never really felt closure on it.
This issue has separated so many people from God. I’m in no position to speak to true suffering but all the more reason to battle this now. I’m learning that the Prosperity Gospel hits actually close to home for me. I wasn’t raised or taught that way but the God I perceived was not the God I know Him to be now. I never allowed myself to mature in my faith because it’s more comfortable to believe that we can leap from the highest point of the temple and that He we will command His angels to not let our feet strike the stone but those were the words of the enemy. (Luke 4)
That’s the God he want’s for all of us, One that makes us feel safe playing with fire.
Jesus’ response paints a very different picture. – It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’
Prosperity Gospel vs Christianity
How does entitlement or earned grace affect our relationship with the Father?
It’s intoxicating to consider yourself as the catalyst to all the good that you see in your life but if we are always fixated on earning favor towards our desired outcome we may find ourselves missing out on submitting to what God’s plan for us is. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has found myself at some point praying at God. Have you ever begged Him to make your relationship work because you don’t want to feel the pain of losing that person? Have you ever said the same prayer over and over again in succession as if when you get to the 10th time your wish will be granted? Have you bargained with Him?… None of these are healthy ways to approach the throne. So, what is?
It’s intoxicating to consider yourself as the catalyst to all the good that you see in your life but if we are always fixated on earning favor towards our desired outcome we may find ourselves missing out on submitting to what God’s plan for us is. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has found myself at some point praying at God. Have you ever begged Him to make your relationship work because you don’t want to feel the pain of losing that person? ….Or said the same prayer over and over again in succession as if when you get to the 10th time your wish will be granted? Have you bargained with Him?… None of these are healthy ways to approach the throne. So, what is?
“Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” ….Moments before being nailed to a cross for the sins of man. He prays to his Father asking if you He is willing to remove this cup but ends the prayers in full submission. I don’t know if I will ever be able to say those words when the stakes are high but that’s the bar that has been set. Imagine the weight of those two sentences. (Luke 22:42)
5 Beliefs in Prosperity Gospel that Deviate from Christian Theology
- They believe that the Abrahamic Covenant God made for “land, seed, and blessing” extends to us as believers.
- They believe that Jesus’ atonement also covers and protects his followers from the “sin” of poverty.
- Tithing & charity will result in positive influence to intervene into the lives of those who give.
- Faith is Willed (self-generated) by the believers and when harnessed can lead the believer to prosperity.
- Prayer is a powerful tool that has the ability to force the hand of prosperity in the lives of those who believe.
Breakdown of Core Beliefs
The first few core beliefs serve to dismiss fear, they provide reassurance to
the believer that they will ultimately prosper. The last few beliefs provide the believer
with an illusion of control by claiming that they can force prosperous outcomes
by doing good works, praying, and willing their desired outcome into existence.
What’s Driving the Growth of these Churches?
People like having control. Dependency is uncomfortable. Also, positivity is contagious and many elements of this doctrine at their core are good: charity, prayer, ambition, encouragement, praise, etc.…
Challenges & How to Address Them
When asked, what’s wrong with going after a little good karma…how should we respond? …
It’s difficult to combat this without coming off as legalistic because it can very easily watered down to the point of sounding completely harmless. The danger is it implies earned grace.
If someone said….”I just enjoy helping others. I’ve noticed it seems like God has been giving me more favor in my life as well when I am more selfless with my time and money. Romans 8:28 says God works for the good of those who love Him and this is how I show my love. You think there is something wrong with that?“
Should this be corrected? Was the verse misused?
Unfortunately, if you believe that these things create good or will result in favor in your life then even if you do them with a heart that genuinely loves and cares for those who they are serving it can lead to a sense of entitlement or earned grace that is not biblical. Man has never ‘earned’ anything for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.(Rom 3:23) Trying to explain something like this using words like entitlement will be too heavy handed especially to someone who is already acculturated to their own way of thinking.
One statement won’t be enough to topple their beliefs. This is not a game you are playing to “win an argument”. Rarely is someone going to be convinced that a fundamental truth they have accepted is wrong over the course of one conversation. Our goal is to plant the seed. The best way to do this is by strategically asking questions and letting them arrive at the conclusion themselves.
Q1 to ask – Do you ever feel like you aren’t getting the favor you feel you have earned?
Q2 to ask – I try to tell myself I don’t deserve things but I still find myself praying at God more often than too Him. What are your thoughts on prayer?
Q2 to ask – Looking at these 5 beliefs I get the impression that God wants His children to be wealthy. Do you feel it is more or less difficult to pursue God when you are wealthy?
Q3 to ask – The hardest part about prayer for me is praying like Jesus did in the garden and ending my prayer with “not my will but Your Will be done Lord.” What are your thoughts on that?
Q5 to ask – How does your church handle verses that acknowledge the role of suffering in the life of the believer like Timothy 3:12 & Philippians 3:8?
- Timothy 3:12 says, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
- Philippians 3:8 and 10, “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. … that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.”
Additional Verses to Discuss on The Topic of Suffering
In Colossians 1:24, Paul would write, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake.”
First Peter 2:21 notes the role of suffering in this way: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”
For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him. (Phil 1:29)
What does Suffering look like for a Christian?
One of the most frustrating things is when someone dismisses your idea without having an alternative. Dismissing Prosperity Gospel is a transition from believing that ultimately we will prosper into a reality where we are are promised suffering.
Here is where we start to jump in on this question – Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? Before we start I want to acknowledge that this whole question could be dismissed since God doesn’t allow bad things to happen to ‘good’ people for “none is righteous, no not one” (Rom 3:10) Moving past the semantics, I want to tell a story about a friend of mine that really changed my perspective on this topic last year…
It was around 6pm. I needed to prepare a talk on suffering (ironically) that I was going to be giving the following morning. I made my way over to the weight room to practice hoping that it would be empty. It was not empty though. Peering through the glass I watch Trent Hosick training a younger camper that wanted to play football at the next level. Watching him felt like the most “seek and you will find” moment that I have ever had. (Matt7:7) This was the same kid Trent had been mentoring spiritually but Trent had set up additional time with him daily to be more than just an ‘spiritual mentor’…
Here is a little relevant background information on Trent.
- One of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation coming out of HS
- Considered the No. 35 pocket passer in the country by ESPN.com
- Rated as the sixth-best recruit in the state of Missouri by Rivals.com
- President of his high school’s FCA chapter
- 2012 Class 3 heavyweight champ after a perfect 29-0 campaign
Honestly I just took a tiny excerpt out of a paragraph of accommodations on the first link I found on google, there are many more….But alas, dust to dust (Ecc 3:20) none of those things will have as much eternal significance as what I was watching that night. An injury may have kept Trent from being surrounded by a stadium of cheering fans, but that night there were a great cloud of witnesses. (Hebrews 12:1)
My point is when God allowed an injury in College to change the course of the inevitable career Trent had worked so hard for it makes you want to ask why but it started to make more sense from the outside looking in. I am still asking myself right now, what am I doing this week that will have eternally significance or matter at all in the long run?
Okay brief intermission here…I stumbled on this and will now be using it as my clickbait. Missouri QB Trent Hosick helps rescue men after truck flips on I-70… I’ve known Trent for 6 months and spent a lot of time with him but he failed to ever mention this. The quote at the end of the article is my new favorite Trent quote. This article derailed my whole train of thought but was a fun read…
What were we talking about again? Oh right…prosperity gospel.
Q6 to ask – How would prosperity gospel respond to this story? Would they use this next verse?
- All things work together for the good of those who believe (Rom8:28)
Okay I am no longer talking about Trent, instead I just want to speak generally. Let’s say God does ‘grant you favor.’ So now money and influence are now your tools to wield. Now you have money and power and hopefully God is still a priority but let’s not pretend that this lifestyle doesn’t also put you in more danger of becoming self-sufficient and less in need of a “Savior.” So is it love for a father to allow their child to be put in an environment where they are less likely to truly prosper?
The enemy will use that root sin of pride present in all of us as often as he can and I would argue that there is more opportunity to use pride to influence a rich man than with a poor one.
- Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. (Matt 19:24)
Suffering can take many forms and it may feel impossible to truly count it all joy when we face trials like we see in James 1:2 but I will say that some of the greatest men are also the ones I’ve seen subjected to the most suffering. I have been watching the devil chase Joe White (President of Kanakuk Kamps) all my life. He has been in a battle with cancer for as long as I can remember and he recently lost a leg to it but when he speaks people listen. God gave him a microphone and a platform to reach more people because his resolve through his suffering cannot go unnoticed. When the world sees an afflicted man that is still praising God he will either be dismissed as crazy or they will seek to understand and a seed is planted.
Our Lord does not promise us prosperity; suffering will be a part of your life but your response to it will determine the degree to which our King is able to use you in your weakness. But He said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Cor 2:19)
Thanks for reading 🙂 There will be typos but grace abounds,