What is Prosperity Theism?
According to Wikipedia, Prosperity theology is defined as: “a religious belief among some Christians that financial blessing is the will of God for them, and that faith, positive speech, and donations (possibly to Christian ministries) will increase one’s material wealth.”
Televangelists, such as Joel Osteen, are famous for preaching prosperity theism to their congregations. Consequently, Osteen’s congregation at Lakewood Church is currently the largest congregation in the United States, with over 40,000 people attending each week. Now, if prosperity theism is drawing so many people to the church, why is it a bad thing?
Problem 1: God Never Said “Love Me For Financial Gain”
Sorry Joel, but nowhere in the Bible does it state that God solely seeks to increase our material wealth if we believe in Him. Actually, the Bible says this:
“For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
-1 Timothy 6:7-10
Hmm… so prosperity gospel teaches that God loves you only if He provides you with monetary gain, even though the Bible clearly dictates that the love for money is the root of all evil? Maybe they’re too busy counting that money to read their Bibles…
But… you know who did promise material gain if you follow him? Satan. He even tried to get Jesus to fall for it.
“Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.”
On another note, if prosperity gospel were true, let’s consider the book of Job. Job, at first, was a wealthy man because he honored God’s commandments and loved God more than anything. But, what happened in the second chapter of Job? God allowed Satan to test the faith of Job by taking away all of his material possessions, ridding him of his family, and making him physically ill. If the heart and soul of prosperity gospel were true, God would have never allowed Job to go through trials, because prosperity gospel preaches that it’s God’s will for people to be happy. Now, I’m not saying that God is a bully who picked on Job for absolutely no reason; by the end of the book, Job passes the test of faith and God rewards him with more than he originally had. The point, however, is that God’s purpose for allowing Satan to tempt Job was to show Satan that true faith in God will convict people to not fall into the temptations of sin in their time of despair. You see, true faith in God involves loving and honoring Him in all situations, whether you are rich or poor, and expecting nothing but His love and guidance out of it. Conversely, prosperity gospel states that if you aren’t rich, you aren’t loving God enough.
Problem 2: Self-Centered Expectations
Another glaringly obvious fault with prosperity gospel is that it focuses mainly on how we can benefit ourselves from following God, instead of how we can best serve God. The Bible tells us that we should have a servant’s heart, and not brag on ourselves.
“For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.”
-2 Corinthians 4:5
From what I can tell after reading about the beliefs and teachings of prosperity gospel, its followers believe that you should exalt yourself for doing good deeds because it means that you are doing the will of God. However, this contradicts two main teachings of the Bible: that deeds alone will not get us into Heaven, and the concept of humility.
“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.
Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men.
Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.”
Jesus says that if do good deeds, such as giving to the poor, that we should do so in secret and not boast about our righteous actions to others. Additionally, we are to act righteously in order to honor God, not ourselves, and to seek reward for the glory of God rather than a reward for ourselves. The entire concept of Christianity is that everything we do, everything we believe in is for the glorification of God. We were made in the image of God, but we were not made for God to serve us; we were made to serve God. Therefore, the belief that He is solely here to reward us for our good deeds is asinine, and completely contradictory of the teachings of God.
Problem 3: “Loving, kindness and generosity gets you to Heaven”…
Um… no. I came across this video for the first time yesterday, and I’m completely terrified that people actually believe what Osteen, along with Oprah, are saying about Heaven. Our acts of love, kindness, and generosity are not what died on the Cross at Calvary to save us from our sins… that was Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, as it states in the Bible multiple times, is the one and only way to Heaven.
“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
If our acts alone are what ultimately wins us favor with God and gets us a ticket to Heaven, then why would God send Jesus to die on the cross? In reality, our works are futile without faith. We can’t rely on our own good deeds to get us into Heaven, period. Additionally, we can’t go by the world’s guidelines for what good deeds are; we have to rely on God’s guidelines that are plainly stated in the Bible. Worldly guidelines often go against the teachings of the Bible, and are misleading when it comes to concepts such as getting into Heaven. The only way to get to Heaven is to admit you are a sinner, believe that Jesus died for your sins, and confess your faith in God. It’s as simple as ABC, really.
So, why am I doing this?
The purpose of this week’s blog post is not to bash prosperity preachers like Joel Osteen. Rather, I am aiming to reveal how ultimately misleading prosperity theism is. If people actually believe that we can get ourselves into Heaven merely by promoting ourselves and thinking of God as an afterthought, they are falling for Satan’s trap. True salvation only occurs through accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior from sin, and actively humbling ourselves in order to please God. If we ignore the fact that we are to turn away from our sins, then we are not truly believing in Jesus or God, because we are choosing to ignore the possible consequences of our sin. Therefore, God’s purpose for placing us in this world was not to reward us with material possessions, but to reward us eternally in Heaven if and only if we accept His Son and actively seek to do His will.
Thank you for your time, and God bless,
Featured image found at: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/324540716876052599/