We have spent the last two blog posts describing the theological basis for the Prosperity Gospel along with its fundamental flaws. In this post we will discuss how to react to what we have learned. In light of the Prosperity Gospel, we should:
Actually Help the Poor
In serving the poor, the church can offer a real alternative to the deception of the Prosperity Gospel that is sweeping through impoverished nations. Yes, God is a God who does heal even today and is One who has a concern for the poor. But the way in which this is manifested is often through the simple act of “sharing.” Those who are rich are to share what the have with the poor and those who have some type of knowledge or skill are to share with those without such knowledge. Let us dig wells, offer medical care, dental care, clothe the naked, adopt a Compassion International child, and donate our clothes to an organization that will give them to the poor. Maybe then there will be less of a draw when the flashy preacher flies into an improvised African village promising health and wealth.
Preach the Cost of Following Christ
Let us just say it: Jesus is demanding. He demands ultimate allegiance over country, over family, and even over oneself. Is this the Jesus we are preaching? He said in Matthew 10:37-39:
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
To come to Jesus is to die with Jesus, and sometimes this happens quite literally. To follow Jesus is to place his opinions and desires over that of one’s own mother. To worship Jesus is to lose one’s life. Is this the message we are preaching to unbelievers or are we just telling them all the benefits of following Christ? Let us preach both the easy-to-hear and the hard-to-hear promises of Scripture.
Treat Money Like a Seductress
“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.”
To love money is to forsake one’s love for Jesus and is to pursue destruction. Let us quickly give our money away before it makes its way into our hearts and let us equally emphasize its dangers when preaching the Gospel to the poor. Am I saying to leave the poor in their poverty? Not at all, but I am saying that making them rich would make it harder for them to be a Christian. Let’s live and teach that the love of “stuff” hinders faith.
Expect and Embrace Trials
Prosperity preachers say that if we are not experiencing health and wealth now, then there must be something wrong with our faith. The Bible, on the other hand, teaches us to not be surprised when we go through trials:
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings” (1 Peter 4:12-13).
There is nothing strange about Christians being killed for their faith, for that is what happened to our leader. It is not shocking when pastors are drug out of their churches and taken to prison. And there is nothing out of the ordinary for families to ostracize a loved one who was recently baptized. All these situations are grievous, but not strange.
Remember your Best Life comes Later
The Prosperity Gospel is not necessarily wrong about the Lord wanting to give away health and wealth, but they are simply wrong about the timing of these gifts. Suffering is for today, laughter and eternal pleasures are mainly for the next life. It is only when we are separate from the flesh and in God’s presence that we will know the fullness of true pleasure.
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
The Bible does not lead us to reject the Prosperity Gospel because there is something inherently wrong with pleasure – not at all! The Bible tells us to seek a greater pleasure that can only be realized when we can see King Jesus on his throne and all those who resist him are wiped away from this earth. True lasting pleasure will come when we will be given new bodies that do not grow old or sick, when we are separate from the flesh and thus separate from the pull of sin. The better pleasure is not found in remodeling our houses but instead in living in a city made of gold. So let us reject the timing of the health and wealth of the Prosperity Gospel, but let us not reject the pleasures of it.
In sum, Prosperity Theology is dangerous because it teaches people to love and pursue money, something that Jesus strongly warned people not to do. It is also dangerous because it takes away our duty as Christians to help the poor but instead leaves the burden on them to “claim” the wealth that God wants them to have. It is also to be avoided because it does not preach the cost of following Jesus. Thus when people commit their lives to Christ and then comes persecution, they were certainly fall away. Prosperity preachers reject the Lord’s means of sanctifying the church during this era: namely trials and suffering. For these reasons (and many more) prosperity theology should be rejected. Instead, we as the church should give our money away to the poor, we should warn people that following Christ will be costly, we should not be surprised when trials come, and we should yearn for all the pleasures that are coming in the life to come.