I was reminded recently by a local TV preacher (asking for money in exchange for prayers, of course) how badly the “prosperity gospel” distorts the gospel of Christ. Here are three major things that I think the prosperity gospel does:
1. Cheapens Grace
The gospel of Jesus Christ is built upon the fact that God’s wrath needed to be satisfied by the shedding of blood in order for sinners to be taken out from under this wrath. Jesus did not have your material wealth in mind when he died on the cross. No, Jesus had your eternal soul in mind. Your wealth on earth is judged by others, but your soul is judged by God. Grace is poured out because you are born in spiritual poverty with no hope, not because your 401k is lower than you’d like. Paul proclaims that we are more than conquerors in Christ. What more do we really need?
2. Glorifies Materialism
One of the grossest sins in America is the infatuation with money and reputation. I live in Dallas where everyone is in debt up to their eyeballs in order to be seen as one of the North Dallas elites. It doesn’t matter that you make $35,000 per year as long as people think you make $200,000. It’s a scary place to be to think that God wants your wealth because he is ultimately concerned with your renown and happiness. There is a reason that faithful believers in the Bible struggled at one point or another by earthly standards – God was teaching them to refocus their standards according to his. Wealth is not sinful in and of itself, but should never be sought as though you deserve it.
3. Elevates Moralism
It is pretty clear in any prosperity sermon that you are blessed if you are wealthy. A key phrase for a prosperity preacher is, “Are you broke? Does your car need new tires? Did you only get peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch this week? It’s because you haven’t unlocked God’s ultimate plan for you!” He (or she) proceeds to tell you that if you do this and that, God will bless you. What is this blessing? MONEY. Duh. What more could you need to be happy? Forget reckless abandon for Christ and his Kingdom, as long as you got Chili’s instead of tuna salad this week. God’s blessing is him. You get HIM with no stipulations.