If you missed the earlier parts of this series, you can find them here:
- Prosperity Gospel or Greed Gospel? Does God Want to Make All Christians Rich?
- Prosperity Gospel or Greed Gospel? Does Poverty Come from Disobedience or a Lack of Faith?
- Prosperity Gospel or Greed Gospel? Name It and Claim It
In this last article on the lies of the prosperity gospel, we’re going to look at the idea of giving to get blessings. This belief is widely held by many proponents of the greed gospel. There are even some Christians who would argue against the prosperity gospel who still believe that God will bless them if they give more. Jesus made it clear that giving was a means of showing our love for each other and accumulating heavenly treasures – not worldly treasures.
Buying God’s Blessing
The prosperity gospel preachers claim that the more you give the more God will bless you. Think about that statement for a moment. If that’s true, what they’re saying is that you can buy off God. You can bribe Him into blessing you just by giving money (usually to their “ministry”). They can’t be any further from the truth! You can’t buy God’s blessings – He has already freely blessed us with the Gift of His Son. We have need for nothing else. In fact, Jesus warned us not to worry about our needs but to focus on seeking the Kingdom of God instead.
The story of Simon the sorcerer is a clear warning against thinking that you can buy God’s blessings. When Simon saw the power of the Holy Spirit working through Peter and John and how they could give the Holy Spirit by laying their hands on people, he offered them money so that he could get the power of the Holy Spirit. But look at what Peter said to him:
20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart isn’t right before God. 22 Repent therefore of this, your wickedness, and ask God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.”
Acts 8:20-23 (WEB)
Peter chastises Simon the sorcerer for thinking he could by God’s blessing and power with money. Simon had believed and been baptized, but his heart still wasn’t right with God. It’s the same with those who preach the prosperity gospel. They look at the Gospel of Christ as a means of financial gain – for them and their followers. They preach that if you’ll just give you can get God’s blessings. They think the power of the Gospel is in blessing us in this life with all the material possessions we desire and great health and prosperity. But they’ve missed it completely. They’re the ones teaching a different doctrine, as Paul warned Timothy:
3 If anyone teaches a different doctrine, and doesn’t consent to sound words, the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, 4 he is conceited, knowing nothing, but obsessed with arguments, disputes, and word battles, from which come envy, strife, insulting, evil suspicions, 5 constant friction of people of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. Withdraw yourself from such. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we certainly can’t carry anything out. 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 6:3-10 (WEB) emphasis mine
Those who preach and believe the prosperity gospel falsely think that following God is a way of getting money. But Paul says that godliness with contentment is great gain. Following God and being content in this life because you know how fleeting and temporary it is gives you more wealth than any worldly riches can amount to. You’ve conquered death through Christ! No amount of money can do that – which means you’re wealthier than the richest non-Christian in the world. That’s how the Gospel is a means to great gain!
Treasures in Heaven
When Jesus taught about giving, He never promised financial or material blessings. He promised His followers they would receive spiritual blessings – treasures in Heaven – if they give generously and seek God’s Kingdom. He even warned that doing all the right and holy things still wouldn’t bring us to the Kingdom of Heaven if we’re still focused on worldly riches:
17 As he was going out into the way, one ran to him, knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except one—God. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not give false testimony,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and mother.’” 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have observed all these things from my youth.” 21 Jesus looking at him loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack. Go, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me, taking up the cross.” 22 But his face fell at that saying, and he went away sorrowful, for he was one who had great possessions. 23 Jesus looked around, and said to his disciples, “How difficult it is for those who have riches to enter into the Kingdom of God!” 24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus answered again, “Children, how hard is it for those who trust in riches to enter into the Kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God.” 26 They were exceedingly astonished, saying to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus, looking at them, said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God, for all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter began to tell him, “Behold, we have left all, and have followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Most certainly I tell you, there is no one who has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or land, for my sake, and for the sake of the Good News, 30 but he will receive one hundred times more now in this time, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land, with persecutions; and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last; and the last first.”
Mark 10:17-31 (WEB)
You can’t ask for a clearer teaching! Jesus asks the young man to give everything he has to the poor. And then what does He promise? More wealth? No! He tells the young man he’ll have treasure in heaven and that he should follow Him and take up the cross. Taking up the cross doesn’t mean you’re going to have an easy life once you start following Jesus. It means you’re exposing yourself to death and choosing self denial and love instead of selfishness and greed. You relinquish yourself to God’s Will and through His power conquer the temptations of wealth. You count everything a loss compared to knowing Christ.
Jesus made it perfectly clear that following Him is not a way to wealth, health, and prosperity. If anything, we’ll endure trials and suffering for our faith in Him. He promises that the Father will take care of our needs as long as we seek His Kingdom, but there is never a promise of earthly riches in Jesus’ teaching. Right after He tells His disciples not to worry about their needs, He again teaches that they should give to the poor so they will have treasure in heaven and will be focused completely on the Kingdom.
33 Sell that which you have, and give gifts to the needy. Make for yourselves purses which don’t grow old, a treasure in the heavens that doesn’t fail, where no thief approaches, neither moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Luke 12:33-34 (WEB)
It’s very important that we remember verse 34. Wherever we focus on storing up our treasures, that’s where our hearts will be focused as well. To focus on heaven means we focus on building up our treasures in heaven – not on earth. And that means we leave the world and all the things that are perishing with it behind. We focus on serving God and seeking His Kingdom – on doing His good work and saving up treasures in heaven. It’s only when we lose our desire for worldly wealth that we can truly serve Him.
Who Will You Serve?
The conclusion of it all comes in Jesus’ words to the Pharisees:
13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. You aren’t able to serve God and mammon (Money).” 14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they scoffed at him. 15 He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts. For that which is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.
Luke 16:13-15 (WEB)
You cannot serve God and Money at the same time. You must choose one. If you choose Money, you choose the things that are prized and held with high regard among men. But those things are an abomination in the sight of God. They’re worthless!!! But if you choose God over Money, then you can truly serve Him and you’ll amass immeasurable riches in heaven. You’ll enjoy wealth that will never perish, will never disappear, and can never be stolen. You’ll have the unspeakable Gift of Jesus and the unsearchable wealth He has promised. So, who will you serve?