Prosperity theology has done much to hurt the cause of Jesus.
We all know the stereotype. A preacher in an expensive suit urges his television viewers to send in money as a seed offering for the miracles that God wants to do in their life.
And the promise goes something like this. If you would only donate large sums of money in good faith, God would multiply your wealth, restore your physical health, and bring you prosperity.
All the while, these televangelists line their pockets with these seed donations.
This theology, and the charlatans who have peddled it, have damaged the life and faith of many people in very tangible ways. Too many people have been misled to believe this dangerous theology and have emptied out their bank accounts, retirement assets, and lines of credit to donate to a preacher’s private jet fund.
They did it because they believed that they would be financially blessed tenfold what they gave, which is what the preacher claimed as a promise of God. But the expected blessing of money never came in.
Prosperity theology is the work of the enemy.
Prosperity theology has no place in the community of Jesus. It’s not just a flawed interpretation of scripture. It’s dangerous and incredibly hurtful. It turns people away from Jesus.
With that being said, we also need to be concerned about overcorrecting the ills of prosperity preaching.
When such a heinous error begins to spread, our natural inclination is to remove ourselves as far away from it as possible. We don’t want to be associated with it. We don’t want anyone to ever think that we’re in any agreement with the people who preach falsehood. This is a good inclination to have.
But part of the reason why prosperity theology has gained so much traction among certain believers is because it takes things that are actually true and just spins them way out of proportion. It takes things that are truthful about who God is and what he does, but manipulates and distorts them.
This is the kind of work the enemy is known for throughout the bible and indeed throughout history. Satan is the father of lies. And the most effective lies utilize elements of truth.
In ridding ourselves of the error of prosperity, we need to make sure that we don’t also forfeit the truths that they have distorted. We must hold to the good and precious promises about God’s heart to bless us, without coming anywhere near the erroneous beliefs of prosperity preaching.
Here are 3 truths we can’t let the prosperity theology steal from us.
1. God has a bias for blessing you.
Our God is the God of blessing. In Jesus’ most famous public message–called the Sermon on the Mount–he begins by proclaiming blessedness to those who would come to him. God loves to bless us.
And the word “blessed” can seem like an overly spiritual word. But really the word just means happy–the kind of happiness that only God can grant. It means living the good life. Jesus is calling you to himself so that you can live the good life. This is the purpose for which he came.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
Prosperity preachers will often quote this promise of Jesus and claim that Jesus wants us all to be healthy, wealthy, and prosperous. In fact, if we are poor and sick, it is a sign that we have not fully surrendered to Jesus–or so they argue. But this is a distortion of Jesus’ promise.
The abundance that Jesus speaks of is not material wealth and physical health. The abundance Jesus promises is a life of unshakable joy, regardless of our earthly circumstances. A rich blessedness, a true happiness and contentment in our relationship with him.
Jesus wants to bless you. He came to this earth in order to bless you. Believe that.
2. Cultivating generosity allows you to live an abundant life.
Another text that prosperity preachers often quote as a proof text for their theology is Malachi 3:10. They take it to mean that generosity necessarily leads to physical wealth (though they keep much of the capital from other people’s generosity for themselves).
“Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” (Malachi 3:10)
A prosperity preacher would say that this text shows us that if you are generous with your money, you will eventually become wealthy. But that’s not how we should understand this verse. The promise presented here is even greater.
And the promise is this: if you choose faith and are generous toward God with your earthly possessions, you will be blessed beyond what you could ever possibly imagine.
Does this mean you’ll be rich? Maybe. But not necessarily. And perhaps not even likely. But you will be blessed until you have no more need. You will be given true wealth.
Have you ever met someone who was completely content and satisfied in their relationship with Jesus and with their purpose in his Church? They often aren’t the people with the most physical possessions. And yet they are so much richer than everyone else.
And the thing about their wealth is that it cannot be taken from them. There is nothing you can do to remove the wealth of a person whose treasure is found in Jesus.
That’s what abundant life looks like. Prosperity preacher, you can keep your private jet. We don’t need it.
3. God cares about both the spiritual and the physical.
As we learn to truly value what is spiritual and immaterial, sometimes we have a tendency to end up devaluing what is physical and material. But we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that God doesn’t care about our physical needs.
Jesus talks about how God cares for our physical needs by calling us to look at how he cares for his creation.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:25-27)
Jesus goes on to use another metaphor to illustrate his care for our physical needs.
“And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:28-30)
God cares deeply about the physical. In fact, when Jesus returns, he will restore this physical world to the condition he always intended for it. Eternity will have a physical reality. We will have eternal physical bodies. And Jesus will physically rule and reign among us.
To discount the importance of the physical is to downplay something that God created and intended to be good. While it may be broken, we are hoping for the day when he will restore it.
God never intended for our physical and material realities to be separated. And when the fullness of time comes, it will all be made whole.
Jesus wants to prosper you…just maybe not in the way you think.
The sad truth is that prosperity theology takes the rich and precious promises of Jesus and cheapens them for the promise of a quick buck and a clean bill of health.
And as much as we would all love to be instantaneously more physically wealthy and healthy, Jesus’ plan for our prosperity is something greater.
Jesus may prosper you the most when you are sick, poor, needy, and friendless. If you cling to him, you will know riches that the world could never understand and that you can never lose.
Jesus wants to prosper you. And he wants to do it in ways more incredible than you can imagine.