What do Benny Hinn, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes, and Kenneth Copeland all have in common? They’re all proponents of the so-called “prosperity gospel”, a false teaching that proclaims a gospel of wealth and health instead of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Donnie Swaggart once called it the “greed gospel”. I wish it weren’t called a “gospel” at all, so that it would never be confused with the True Gospel – the Good News of Jesus Christ.
I’ve been reading a lot about this lately, and the Spirit burns with anger inside of me because of the false teaching these people are spreading throughout the world. They would do well to remember the warning Jesus gave the scribes and Pharisees about devouring widows’ houses! I pray that in my anger I do not sin, but I want to look at some of the claims of the greed gospel and show what God’s Word has to say in response.
Claim #1: God Wants to Bless You with Abundant Material Wealth
One of the primary claims of the greed gospel is that God wants to bless all Christians with abundant material wealth. This teaching is found nowhere in Scripture – it’s a false teaching made up by men. Let’s look at what the Bible really says instead. First, let’s think about the Lord’s Prayer. Do you remember the part about “give us this day our daily bread”? What was Jesus referring to when he said “our daily bread”? We find the answer in Proverbs 30:8-9:
8 Remove far from me falsehood and lies. Give me neither poverty nor riches. Feed me with the food that is needful for me; 9 lest I be full, deny you, and say, ‘Who is Yahweh?’ or lest I be poor, and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.
Proverbs 30:8-9 (WEB)
The food that is needful for me is my daily bread. It is no more and no less than what I need to survive the day with health. Jesus is teaching us here not to pray for riches but to pray for just enough. If Jesus had wanted us to pray for abundant wealth, He would have chosen a different phrase than “our daily bread”. In fact, Jesus taught strongly that our life does not depend on the abundance of our possessions (our wealth).
He said to them, “Beware! Keep yourselves from covetousness, for a man’s life doesn’t consist of the abundance of the things which he possesses.”
Luke 12:15 (WEB)
The Amplified Bible explains this verse by saying that our life “does not consist in and is not derived from possessing overflowing abundance or that which is over and above our needs”. Jesus makes it clear that the quality of our life does not depend on our having wealth or lacking it – He points to a deeper meaning, purpose, and value for our lives. Jesus wants to give our lives more meaning than material wealth, but the greed gospel insinuates that we get more meaning and happiness by getting more wealth. The Gospel of Christ contains no such teaching.
Throughout the New Testament, we see a doctrine completely opposed to the greed gospel. Instead of prosperity in Christ, we see contentment in Christ. Paul teaches extensively on this subject.
8 But having food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 But those who are determined to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful lusts, such as drown men in ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some have been led astray from the faith in their greed, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
1 Timothy 6:8-10 (WEB)
Note that Paul doesn’t say “But having overflowing wealth, we will be content with that.” The requirements for contentment in Christ are merely food and clothing, because our happiness and worth come from Christ and His strength – not our wealth. Those who seek after God and Christ because they want material blessings and wealth will only pierce themselves with many sorrows. Paul teaches that regardless of our situation on earth we can be content in Christ.
11 Not that I speak in respect to lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. 12 I know how to be humbled, and I know also how to abound. In everything and in all things I have learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in need. 13 I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:11-13 (WEB)
Instead of seeking Christ to find wealth and blessing (material), Paul alludes to seeking Christ to find contentment – the kind of contentment that nothing on earth can offer. No amount of money can make you content in every situation. It may help alleviate your needs if you are poor, but what will it do for you when people betray you and curse you? Only the strength of Christ will see you through all situations. Therefore, we come to Christ not for blessings and prosperity but for His strength and the contentment He offers us.
Does This Mean God Doesn’t Want to Bless Me at All?
God obviously does not want bad things for His children, but that does not mean all of His children will be rich and wealthy in this life. God does want to bless us, but there will always be lack and want in this life because of the nature of this world. God blessed us through His Son, Jesus Christ, that we might have eternal life with Him and we’ll never lack a thing any more. It’s that gift that allows us to deal with any situation on earth, and it’s that gift that has abundantly blessed us in this life. We have the abundant riches of eternal life that come from Jesus – riches that will never fail us and bring contentment and joy that the world’s money cannot. Poverty is not a sign of God’s disfavor or our lack of faith. In fact, Jesus blessed the poor and warned the rich. Poverty is but a temporary and outwardly state. As Christians we have spiritual riches that no man can truly see or understand unless he is of the Father. In the same way, riches are not a sign of God’s favor or our righteousness. We need only look at all the unrighteous wealthy people in the world to see the truth in this.
Other Claims of the Greed Gospel
I’m going to stop here today before I exhaust you by going through the other three claims I want to examine. We’ll look at those in separate posts, and I’ll add them here after they’re finished. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below. May God open your eyes to see the truth of His Word and give you His Spirit to discern what is true and what is false.