There is a new “gospel” out there called “The Health and Wealth Gospel.” In the past, this teaching was called the prosperity gospel. The message is that God wants to bless us in every way, including our material possessions. The religious leaders pushing this “gospel” promise that if you give your money and possessions to them and their organization, God will give you far more. Religious leaders justify enormous salaries by saying that God is rewarding their righteousness, faith, and spirituality by giving them physical wealth. They promise that members of their churches will also become rich if they give their money to the church.
The logic of the prosperity gospel is that God is good and that in His goodness He will bless His children with material blessings. Preachers of this doctrine say that God cares about the whole person and that He is faithful to His promises. They take Jeremiah 29:11-14 and especially Deuteronomy 8:6-18 out of context to show that God promises to multiply one’s gold and bless us materially if we are His children. They also use Matthew 6:33 to say that God will give material blessings to those who seek the kingdom.
The biblical error in this is that Deuteronomy and Jeremiah were not written to Christians. The Jeremiah passage refers to the Jews being released from Babylonian captivity. The Deuteronomy passage refers to taking over other people’s homes and lands which Christians are not commanded to do. These are Old Testament promises to the nation of Israel, and they have nothing to do with Christians today. The passage in Matthew 6:33 promises to provide basic needs–food, drink, and clothing–not luxury items. The emphasis of the passage is spiritual and not physical.
Jesus Christ did not enjoy the luxury items of His day. He and his apostles lived in austere conditions. Paul suffered beatings, imprisonment, and mistreatment from both the Romans and the Jewish leaders. Jesus warned His followers, “In this world you will have trouble.” Christ also warned about the dangers of riches. (See Luke 6:24; 8:14; 16:14-15; 18:24 etc.) The riches that Christianity promises are spiritual riches. God promises peace, love, eternal life, and the joy of learning both to love and to serve others.
Don’t go to Church or become a Christian to make money or become rich in material things. The prosperity gospel is nothing new, and it is a twenty-first-century example of Paul’s statement in Galatians 1:6-7 where he was amazed that people could pervert the clear teachings of Christ.
–John N. Clayton © 2018