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Feb 21 2009

The Prosperity Gospel

Word of Faith – a non biblical teaching that uses God as a cosmic dispenser of goodies. The photo on the left is a Joy Meyer Family Compound by Rober Cohen of the St. Louis Dispatch. The prosperity gospel at its best.

One thing that is notable with the prosperity gospel is that the believer of the prosperity gospel is taught to use God whereas the truth of the bible teaches that God uses the believer. The Holy Spirit, as taught in the scriptures, teaches that He enables the person to do God’s will whereas the prosperity gospel teaches that the Holy Spirit is a power that can be put to use for whatever the person will with the requisite amount of faith. God becomes the cosmic candy dispenser. Instead of depositing a quarter into the candy machine, the prosperity believer deposits faith into the cosmic candy machine and prosperity is dispensed.

Those that believe that Christians can ‘claim’ a promise, I would like give verses that the word “claim” is used in the New Testament.

  • Rom 3:8 And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), “Let us do evil that good may come”? Their condemnation is just.
  • 1Ti 2:10 but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.

The Greek word that is used is “epaggello” which is defined by Strong’s as “to announce upon (reflexively), that is, (by implication) to engage to do something, to assert something respecting oneself: – profess, (make) promise.”

There is no instance in the bible where believers claimed promises. The word claim, as used by the prosperity believers, does not use the word as defined biblically for it would not make sense. They are using it not in the sense as in the bible which is as “a deponent verb meaning basically to announce oneself, offer oneself for a responsibility or service.”

Claim, as used by the prosperity people, use it in the modern definition which is “To call for; to ask or seek to obtain, by virtue of authority, right or supposed right; to challenge as a right; to demand as due; as, to claim a debt; to claim obedience, or respect. To have a right or title to; as, the heir claims the estate by descent; he claims a promise.”

A claim is a demand.

I would like to share a couple of stories from the prosperity movement.

A family had a child who was a type 1 diabetic. They claimed a healing for their young child and stood on the promise that their child would be healed. They tossed out the child’s life saving insulin as to keep the insulin would demonstrate that they lacked faith. They prayed over their child, folks from their church would come over and pray over the child. They performed demon removals. Yet the child remained diabetic and slowly got sicker while they continued to diligently pray and claim a healing. Eventually, the child slipped into a diabetic coma. Yet, the parents chose to believe and claim a healing for their child and refrained from giving him the life saving insulin. The child died and the parents were prosecuted and put in prison where they belong.

Another example is a story from someone that witnessed the following.

A young girl was fell off her bike and hit her head on the sidewalk. Her parents were prosperity believers. While the child was in the hospital, she was prayed over not only by her parents but by many in the parent’s church, including the pastor of that church. Meanwhile a couple of days later, in an unrelated incident, a biker sitting on his motorcycle at a stoplight, was hit by a bus and ended up in a hospital with many, many broken bones. It was a different hospital than the child. There was no link between the two, they were simply two human beings that suffered a tragedy.

Two weeks later, the child succumbs to her injuries and dies. Meanwhile, the man who was hit by a bus, a biker who had no relationship to the Lord, had no one praying for him, eventually recovers and walks out of the hospital.

The outcome of this is that the parents were told that they lacked faith and because of the lack of faith, their child died. In fact, one person stated “If her family knew their Bible, their little girl would never have gotten into that situation in the first place.”

God, the cosmic candy dispenser. If you desire a gumball and see a gumball machine, you place your quarter in the gumball machine and a gumball is dispensed. If you put in less than a quarter, you will not receive the desired gumball. God, as the cosmic candy dispenser, does not take quarters. He takes faith. If you deposit the requisite amount of faith, He dispenses the desired request. If not enough faith is deposited, like the gumball, nothing is dispensed.

I’ve often wondered what is taught about the faith, or lack of faith of Paul, David and Moses who God denied their requested petitions.

“But the LORD was angry with me on your account, and would not listen to me; and the LORD said to me, ‘Enough! Speak to Me no more of this matter. (Deu 3:26 NASB)

David therefore inquired of God for the child; and David fasted and went and lay all night on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him in order to raise him up from the ground, but he was unwilling and would not eat food with them. Then it happened on the seventh day that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead, for they said, “Behold, while the child was still alive, we spoke to him and he did not listen to our voice. How then can we tell him that the child is dead, since he might do himself harm!” (2Sa 12:16-18 NASB)

Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2Co 12:8-9 NASB)

 

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  1. docdeer

    I find it interesting that those who hold to a prosperity gospel seldom talk about the fact that Jesus died with his executioners gambling for the only thing he owned. The Apostles and the early Christians didn’t exactly reap a financial harvest either. I tend to think their faith was certainly strong enough.

    1. tishrei

      You’re correct. Actually, I wrote this post in response to another’s blog who titled her blog “create your tomorrow” or something like that. She posted a slew of scriptures that cited promises that Christians can claim. I commented on her blog yesterday but she has not approved my comment and I suspect she will not. My opinion is that this prosperity teaching is one of the most damaging and misleading teachings that is out there.

  2. docdeer

    I agree. It reduces God to nothing more than a cosmic ATM. It also crushes the faith of those whose “claims” don’t come to pass.

    1. tishrei

      I like the ‘cosmic ATM’ better than my gumball analogy. I used that because I recall as a little girl, I did not have the right amount of money and I really wanted a gumball so I put in the wrong amount, hoping against hope, that the machine would still give me the gumball. Of course, it did not and I could not understand at that young age how the machine was able to determine what was correct amount and what was not. What I find incredibly insedious about the word of faith movement is if someone does not prosper, their petition is not granted, they are blamed for having a lack of faith which is exactly what happened to the parents of that little girl who died from the biking accident. Without naming names, a very well known prosperity teacher found out she had breast cancer. Instead of ‘claiming her healing’ as she has taught countless others to do, she sought medical treatment.

  3. Repent Harlequin

    Tishrei,

    I’m sure there are thousands of stories of hearthache great and small that have their origin in the filthy lies of the prosperity teachers. Nothing we do or say happens in a vaccuum, and when people believe and depend on it, well, we better be right.

    In Christ,
    Kent

    1. Tishrei

      What I try and do (though I am sure I fail at times) is make a distinction between what I believe is truth and what is my opinion or what I think. In other words, I will say “I think this is what God is saying” as opposed to “This IS what God is saying.”

      BLT :)

  4. PaulFan

    I think it is true that some take “prosperity preaching” too far. But I don’t think that our Lord wishes us to live in poverty either. If one thinks that you have to be poor to be a Christian, then I ask you, how do you define “poor”. If you live almost anywhere in the US, then you are probably considered wealthy by over 50% of the worlds inhabitants.

    When God spoke to Moses, he said “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy”. Though he wasn’t necessarily speaking about prosperity, I believe that some Christians will prosper while others may not. I don’t think this means that the prosperous Christians are living in sin as I can find no scripture that describes wealth as sin, but rather, the “love of wealth” is the sin.

    1. Tishrei

      Hopefully no one believes that to be a Christian, one needs to be poor. That’s not what the scriptures teach. God’s blessings rain on the just and the unjust. However, the prosperity gospel teaches that one will prosper in finances and in health and that’s just not true. Some Christians are wealthy, some are poor but the same is true as to the non Christian. Some are wealthy and healthy and some are not.

      The whole of the Gospel is to bring sinners to Himself and in doing so, it glorifies God. What He has promised is take care of our needs.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Mark Jersin

    These are all very good. I do like your points about Cosmic ATMs and Gumball machines. If our prayers are to be rich in faith, that sounds good to me but Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” What is true riches? I’d assume all Christians know in their hearts it is not material wealth but we are all so easily fooled. Your picture of Myer’s “Compound” was pretty sad indeed!

  6. Tishrei

    Hi Mark,

    I was rather stunned at Myer’s compound when I saw it. I have a friend that once told me that if he wanted to make a lot of money, he would start a new religion. Those that are being deceived by these prosperity preachers are being deceived because of their greed. They want what those prosperity teachers have.

  7. Terry

    Does St Louis Family Church in Chesterfield fall under the prosperity gospel umbrella?

    1. Tishrei

      Sorry for such a late response. Too much going on so I haven’t been on the blog.

      To be honest, I don’t know anything about that church so I really can’t comment. Is there anything in particular that they teach that may lead you to think they may be a prosperity teaching congregation?

  8. E-Rock

    Peace,
    First I want to say that I agree in some part that there are many pastors out there that just want to take advantage of believers and get their money. But when I think about the entirety of the Bible it is filled with the grace, goodness, and promises of God. I have read this entire article/post and while I don’t think of God as a candy machine or ATM I do find it hard to believe that God does not intend for us to be well supplied in all areas of our life INCLUDING finances. I personally don’t intend to go after riches (though I do want to have more than enough to pay bills give to my church and help others). But you cannot deny the fact that God has always blessed his chosen with more than enough. In Hebrews the Bible says to come boldly before the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace in our time of need. While I understand that money is not the center of things it is however important in daily life. It seems as though the devil fights Christians in their health, their finances and their relationships. So if finances is the thing I am having trouble with in my time of need why not go BOLDLY before the throne full of faith/expectation that my Father, who is in heaven and owns the cattle on a thousand hills will extend to me as promised in his Word the finances I need?? Again as I said in my first post on your “believeing absurdities” let him who is weak say I am strong. That is a claim. How strong a faith is it when you can claim something as rightfully yours? Are we not promised certain things in his word? If they are promised then why can I not boldly claim them as such? As Jesus said himself, which of you if a son asked for bread would give him a stone or if he asked for a fish give him a serpent? There are numerous statements from Christ that lead me to the thought and belief that he wants us to be taken care of financially as long as our ultimate goal or focus is not solely on money(resource) and the obtaining of it but instead placed on him(THE source/root).

    My favorite scripture is from John 3:27 “To this John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.” Not everyone is called to do the same thing. To each has been given his measure. It’s not for everyone to just live within their means. Some are called to excel in their finances to own a mega church to reach millions across the globe. Likewise, not everyone is called to own a mega church. So while I agree to an extent with what you’re saying I personally don’t find it fruitful to stand in judgment of pastors who preach prosperity. Everyone has a passion for some topic concerning Christ particularly pastors. Some peoples main passion is the grace of God, some the promises of God, and others joy etc.. You may not agree but I parallel the prosperity teaching to the grace teaching. One of my favorite preachers is Joseph Prince. He is an amazing pastor in my opinion. I was listening to him one morning and he said that one of the main issues people had with Paul (and himself) was his radical view of grace. People thought what he taught was wrong, not scriptural and gave a license to sin as some people even now still do. “He is teaching people not to obey the law! Not to be circumcised!” they cried.. But he was right. How effective can you be to the masses unless you teach it radically? If Paul went in halfhearted trying not to offend people who could have received the grace through faith teaching when people only want to feel condemnation and law? Think about his letters that speak of predestination. People were like “NO! I can’t believe that God the loving God has predestined people for destruction that’s not fair!” But it is true. Well I parallel all that with the prosperity teaching. How can those that believe incorrectly that they are supposed to be poor and sick and always in turmoil because “oooh we have to carry our own cross and our own burden!” believe if they are not taught and it preached to them effectively? How can people looking in from the outside who are yet to believe understand God’s goodness and constant care of his sheep if not by outward appearances because sometimes that is all a sinner can see or believe is what is seen. I think people are so afraid of money the root of all evil that anyone who is obtaining more than a person thinks they should it must be evil. Money gold increase is not evil. What is evil is the worship of it. Just because I have a mega church doesn’t mean I worship money. Just because I preach God will bless you financially doesn’t mean it is evil. Just like people believing Jesus because he healed.. Jesus said himself if it were not for the miracles you would not believe! Yeah their motive for going to him just to get healed was not pure but he healed and accepted them anyways and they accepted him. There are always going to be some who are just in it to get something.. Think about the blind men who Jesus healed their sight.. Most of them ran off and never came back so yeah it happens… I Also think that some people who are proud and rich and have every material possession wouldn’t have even given some preachers any notice (because of their lowly appearance) if it were not for the fact they SEEMED high status like them. Maybe they were saved only because they saw the material blessing God gave them they decided to give it a chance (even though maybe wrong motivation like Jesus and the blind men) and from that point on was changed and saved and made more humble by what he heard. I believe there are infinite ways God saves people or leads them to a pastors door. I believe there is a spectrum of all sorts of colorful ways God brings people to him even if the motive at first is wrong they come to a true understanding of him.. No one can say that these same churches are not effective. Christ is preached around the world through these churches. These same churches don’t just preach on prosperity 24/7. They also speak on grace love humility etc. I personally enjoy smaller churches and wouldn’t go to a mega church. But they cannot be denied their effectiveness. The word says you will know them by their fruits.. I have heard many stories of people getting saved from addiction etc etc specially from the smaller groups within mega churches…

    With regards to tithing what does it say in Malachi? “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I repeat those words because I am amazed by them. “Test me in this,” says The Lord Almighty.. We know from the Word that we are not to test the Lord.. So this must be a serious subject if it was enough for him to say Test Me. So while I agree as much as a person can that God is in no way an ATM machine or a candy machine. I believe he will do exactly what his word says. Bless the tither with increase. To believe anything opposite of that is disbelief of God’s Word. Again, I do not in any shape way or form promote money as a source or a god or something to chase after. But I do believe it is a resource God uses to bless his people just like mega churches is a resource of God. They all have their place and purpose as God has intended.

    I know I have written much but with regards to the tragedies.. I don’t know the specifics of what you’re talking about in its entirety but I do understand what you’re getting at and while I won’t go into each specific event I do have a couple things to say. firstly I want to say it is not the pastors job to judge anyone and how much faith they have especially in the manner that he did it. Secondly I have found that God’s word is true in saying that his people die from a lack of knowledge. I think the real issue here is that (like Paul states) people do not test the spirit to see what is good and hold on to the good. While I find that most times this is NOT the case, some people ARE meant to be sick and stay sick for different reasons just like Paul was given a thorn that couldn’t be removed. Also think of the man that was cripple for 30 or something years who was healed by Jesus. When Peter asked about the cripple Jesus said he was cripple for this very reason! Yes even some people are meant to be of low means and hardships just like the prophets and chosen people from before.. However, test what is good. Find out what God’s plan for you is through constant use of his word and prayer. All things work together for his purpose and ultimately for our good.. Even if that good is not revealed on this side.. Its hard to hear that because you are literally betting everything on this hope. But you will soon see that the hope you have wont be in vain. Trust and submit to God because ALL things work together for the good of those that love him.

    This post was not meant to be of malice or negative intent. I Hope no one receives it that way.. God Bless

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    This post was mentioned on Twitter by Tishrei: The Prosperity Gospel http://fruitoftheword.com/2009/02/21/the-prosperity-gospel/

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