The Prosperity Gospel – Truth or Convenience?

When I started this blog, I started with a list of must-write topics as long as my arm. But when it came to actually writing any of them, the big question became “Which one first?” I had two options: procrastinate forever or rip the bandaid off. I’m choosing the latter, and I’m starting with something that popped up in my Facebook feed: Benny Hinn saying he was guilty of taking the prosperity message outside the realms of what was actually Biblical.

Before we get too far in, check out the video. You can see it here, and the comments start around the 9 minute mark.

For those new here, what is the prosperity gospel? Wikipedia, the font of all well-researched knowledge (heh, heh), says it’s this:

Prosperity theology (sometimes referred to as the prosperity gospel, the health and wealth gospel, or the gospel of success)[A] is a religious belief among some Christians, who hold that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for them, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one’s material wealth. Prosperity theology views the Bible as a contract between God and humans: if humans have faith in God, he will deliver security and prosperity.

The doctrine emphasizes the importance of personal empowerment, proposing that it is God’s will for his people to be happy. It is based on interpretations of the Bible that are mainstream in Judaism (with respect to the Hebrew Bible),[1] though less so in Christianity. The atonement (reconciliation with God) is interpreted to include the alleviation of sickness and poverty, which are viewed as curses to be broken by faith. This is believed to be achieved through donations of money, visualization, and positive confession.”

Okay, so where do we start here? First of all, I’d like to say I don’t think prosperity is wrong. Joshua 1:8 talks about having good success. Some translations of Jeremiah 29:11 say “I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you…” Enter “prosper” or “prosperity” into your search function on your Bible app and you’ll come up with all sorts of fun.

But does faith in God mean oodles of money? Does His will for us mean ease in every area as the prosperity gospel indicates? Heck no. Exhibit A: Job. Almost the entire book of Job! The examples cited by Benny Hinn were Jesus and Elijah. Did they walk in abundance, flashing around the best chariots of their day? Nope. Were they outside the will of God? Well, Jesus was God. And Elijah, though he had his moments, was pretty ok! They had no lack. This is what Hinn now believes the truth of prosperity in accordance with the Bible to be.

If prosperity theology was it and a bit, then I reckon Jesus would have chosen something a little more palatial than the side of a hill in the middle of nowhere for the loaves and fishes thing. And he probably could have catered the event properly rather than having to scrounge at the last minute. I’m being overly flippant here, but you get my drift. His was a modest lifestyle.

I read a quote on the Internet the other day. It was someone quoting the message they’d listened to that Sunday. It said “Scarcity is a myth.”

I face-palmed pretty hard. Partially because I studied economics and anyone who has knows that scarcity is the cornerstone economic theory is built on – Human wants will always exceed the resources available to fulfill those wants. Partially because the Bible is full of scarcity – famines and such. Yes,God looked after His people but some went without for a time. Their faith didn’t erase scarcity.

The other thing that saddened me was this: even in an age of good literacy, we still don’t read our Bible enough to know when something is a little bit off. Does it matter if something is only a little bit off? Well yes. If we build our lives on things that are only a little bit off, and those things lead to other things, we can end up facing the wrong direction entirely.

But thats a diversion. I did want to point out that, originally, reading the Bible was reserved for those scribes and teachers who had the ability to do so. We do these days! The majority of us (in the Western world at least) can read! We can access free apps so we don’t even need to buy a Bible! It is so readily available. So why aren’t we educating ourselves on what it actually says.

It doesn’t say scarcity is a myth. It doesn’t say we will all be rolling in cash because we love Jesus. It says we will have no lack, that we ought not worry about our needs. He has that all in hand (Matthew 6).

It also warns against greed (1 Timothy 6:10-11, Hebrews 13:5 and Luke 12:15), and it is this that the prosperity gospel is in danger of glossing over. Is success ungodly? Heck no. Are riches? Absolutely not. But are we failing as Christians if the budget is a bit thin? No, no, no.

Are we failing in our faith if we don’t get the healing we are praying for? Also, nope. One of the greatest Christian women I’ve ever known died of cancer. It was a shock to all who were steadfastly believing for her healing. But was she failing in her faith? Absolutely not. I’m my eyes, she was a Hebrews 11:13 person who received her promise after having passed on.

I would hate to be one of those preachers who misleads people by touting this money gospel. Because right there in my Bible is a line about the love of money being the root of all evil (Matthew 6:24).

There was a comment in the video that Benny Hinn made me cringe and then think – “Wow! True.” He said that there are many Christians out there who aren’t actually Christians, whose Christianity has become deluded.

Wow. Ouch. Wow again. But goodness he is right. This is the danger when we don’t become students of our faith. Even Hinn said he had listened to those around him, but as he grew and read the Bible more and more, his Christianity became more balanced.

I’ve often wondered when I see an ocean of people worshipping at mega-churches, how many of them read their Bible enough to know if a doctrine preached from that stage is on the mark or not? How many of them get swept up in the emotion of the moment, the swell of the crowd, the electricity in the air and let that become the guidepost of their faith instead of the red letters that should be our guidepost. Every preacher is human. Every preacher can have an off day, or even an off doctrine if they aren’t surrounded by good counsel that picks up on every little thing. To err is human. But the safeguard is the word of God, and knowing it.

I’m not saying I haven’t ever been guilty of following blindly, or of getting swept up in the moment. Eh. Who hasn’t? All I’m saying is we need to be students of our faith so we know when something isn’t quite right. The prosperity gospel, in my opinion is one of those not quite right things. The Bible shows us that our Heavenly father will look after our needs (Matthew 6:31-33). It says His plans are for our good.

It doesn’t say it will all be easy. It doesn’t say we will never face hardship. It doesn’t guarantee private jets and palatial homes (The book of Job, Hebrews 11:13).

If riches is what God has in store for you. Awesome! I’m thrilled for you. But as Hinn challenges in the video, don’t let those riches become the centre point. Jesus needs to hold that territory all for Himself.

I leave you with an old song by the Newsboys. There are lots of fun lyrics in this vid, but the gist is this: we don’t get to invent who our God is. That’s what makes Him God and not us.

Just some thoughts hey! I’ve never been a big Hinn follower. But I’ve got to stop and applaud the guy for saying “Hey I got it wrong here.” That’s big.

Over and out

Kit K

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