Is “Prosperity Preaching” Off Base?

Straight Talk

The Question:

Why and when did prosperity preaching take the place of preaching the CROSS? It appears to be a humanist (all about self) teaching. I could go on and on but the word of God speaks for itself on the matter.

– Stan, City unknown

The Answer
Part 1: Balance in God’s Word
Part 2: The Pendulum swings
Part 3: Guard your heart

Balance in God’s Word (Part 1)

You have raised a question that is harder than you think. You think it is self evident that the so called prosperity preaching is in error. Depending on the heart and motivation of the one preaching it, maybe it is. But remember that there is scriptural backup for believing in the blessings of God for his people as well as “let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24) Let’s look at some contrasts in scripture.

“The generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever.” (Psalm 112:3)

“Because you say, ‘I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,’ and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” (Revelation 3:17)

“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, and the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.” (Proverbs 13:22)

“Let your character be free from the love of money, being content with what you have.” (Hebrews 13:5)

“And the Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the offspring of your body and in the offspring of your beast and the produce of your ground, in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give you.” (Deuteronomy 28:11)

And Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:23)

“And the Lord has greatly blessed my master (Abraham), so that he has become rich; and He has given him flocks and herds, and silver and gold, and servants and maids, and camels and donkeys.” (Genesis 24:35)

Am I saying that scripture contradicts itself? Of course not! I am saying that there is a balance in scripture and the truth is right on the very edge of the coin – not on either side. You asked “when” prosperity teaching started to take hold and so next I’d like to give a bit of history.

The Pendulum swings (Part 2)

I grew up in a branch of Christianity that believed in suffering and trials, with an expectation that life offered little other than hardship. We were taught about the great saints in history and how they were impoverished, persecuted, tortured and martyred. When they got sick they didn’t pray for or expect healing; they endured. I thought the worse your life went, the more you were favored by God.

When I actually became a Christian in 1977 I was happy to find out that Christ endured the cross to bring us LIFE. “I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.” (John 10:10) Abundance! What a wonderful thought. I had never heard about that before.

At that time there was a lot of teaching going around about being a “King’s Kid.” The kingdom of God was ours to possess. We weren’t to be hanging our head all the time and slinking about as down and outers. God owns “the cattle on a thousand hills”. (Psalm 50:10) This was music to my ears because I had never considered before that God wanted his children to prosper and live in abundance.

You know that always in history when anything gets too out of balance the pendulum swings back the other way. It usually swings too far because of over reaction so down the road it will swing back yet again.

The modern day “prosperity” message has some roots in the faith movement of the 50s and 60s which was led by Kenneth Hagin and some others. At that time, faith was sadly lacking in the church and Hagin had a revelation of it especially after his own dramatic healing as a young man. He brought a much needed message to the Church but eventually his sound teaching was corrupted into a “name it and claim it” theology.

Hagin himself never proposed such things. He never lived an extravagant lifestyle and did not apply faith toward creating personal wealth or owning fancy cars and watches etc. He simply believed God’s Word was true and felt that with faith we could move mountains – literally!

Unfortunately, out of that came a lot of greed, materialism and what you so distain as “prosperity preaching.” Some have gotten way off track but not all. We need to be sure we do not throw out the baby with the bath water.

Guard your heart (Part 3)

The blessings of God are real and they do not automatically exclude material prosperity. As noted in the scripture in Part 1, God made Abraham exceedingly rich. Think too about Job; when God restored his fortunes he gave him great material wealth. What about Joseph of Arimathea who had the wealth to take the body of Jesus and bury it in his own tomb?

An individual’s wealth should not be construed as either God’s favor or his disfavor. We are not necessarily more spiritual if we are poor. There is value and place for either and really depends on the condition of the heart. Paul said; “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity.” (Philippians 4:12)

Of course the way to do that is; “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) Christ must be our center and no other. When our heart gets off track with the love of money, desire for prestige, power, and extravagance we are deviating from the pure truth of God’s Word.

On the other hand, think what could happen to world evangelism if we became good stewards of the wealth that God puts into our hands. If prosperity was mainly used to spread the gospel I don’t think any of us would have a problem with that.

I’ve always said that I don’t want to get to heaven and have God tell me that there was so much more in the line of blessings I could have had if only I would have asked for it. I want everything God has for me both materially and spiritually. I’m sure you feel the same. If we truly seek first God’s kingdom, surely all these other things will be added!

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