The Christian prosperity gospel. Some call it the health and wealth gospel. It is the idea that God’s sole mission is to financially bless you.
I do believe that God wants to bless us, richly. But, I think those blessings come in many, many forms other than money. I also believe that he is more important than me and my wants. When the Bible talks about money it is much more complex then the Christian prosperity gospel.
Random Notes Regarding the Christian Prosperity Gospel
In the Bible, ‘you’ is not always you.
Let me explain. The Bible was written to specific groups of people in specific situations. For example, when God says to Elijah, “I want you to go into the desert,” I should not read that as saying, “I want you (Craig or insert your name) to go into the desert.”
Some “You” promises in the Bible do apply to you.
For I know the plan I have for you, plans to prosper …
Is God saying that his plan for me is to prosper me for being a Christian? Or is he saying his promise and plan is to prosper Israel? Is this statement mutually inclusive or mutually exclusive? The Lord’s promise to give health and wealth to someone else doe not necessarily mean God is promising me the same.
While some ‘yous’ are transferable, not all are.
Christian prosperity is about something much, much broader than money and stuff.
If God is telling me that he wants to bless me or allow me to prosper, does that mean he is going to give me a $1,000 check? Matthew 5 gives a whole list of ways people are blessed. We walk on thin ice when we make the word ‘prosper’ synonymous to ‘give money’.
Christian prosperity is both a liability and an asset.
Those whom God blesses with much, he also expects much from. To be financially prosperous is an immense responsibility that God calls some of us to bear.
In my context overseas, I find that I must make some very difficult decisions as a rich man (compared to world wealth). What do I say when someone wants me to drive them to the hospital? What do I say when someone wants money for medicine for their child? What do I say when someone needs help paying for school?
God entrusts us with money for the sake of others, and not just for our own indulgence. The realities of the health and wealth gospel means we have a tremendous responsibility.
There is no “law of Christian prosperity”.
I’m using law in this context like a predictable mathematical equation. 1+1 must equal 2.
Some people talk about the prosperity gospel in this way. Ask God for wealth + have faith in him = money. God is a relational being. He is the creator of this world. He is all knowing. Anytime we think we can predict the actions of God, I think we put ourselves in a dangerous position.
In my book, Money Wisdom From Proverbs (free eBook when you subscribe for free), I say that proverbs are half-truths. They are things that are generally true, but there are exceptions. If God were mathematical, there would be no exceptions. However, he is bound only by himself and his desire to give us what is best. At times, he might treat us differently than we deserve.
Don’t turn God into a mechanical candy machine – insert a quarter and wait for the gum ball that is sure to come. Most health and wealth gospel teachings make the creator mechanical.
God says, “Trust me.”
When people talk about faith in this context, it is often introduced as a type of currency.
How much faith is needed for me to get $1,000?
Hmm. I didn’t get my $1,000, I guess I need more faith.
Faith, on the other hand, is about submission – not control. In faith, I say, “God, I trust you, you know best. If you bless me, then I will do my best to be responsible. If however, my heart is impure and you see that I trust you, do to what is right.”
Faith is more about submission than it is about control.
Bible verses do have context.
I know you know this already. I guess sometimes we obviously just forget. Finding a stray Bible verse and giving it any meaning you desire can be a dangerous thing. Instead, we must recognize that Bible verses belong in paragraphs, which belong in chapters, which belong in letters.
Don’t develop a grand theology of prosperity based on one verse taken out of context.
What are your thoughts on the Christian prosperity gospel and the health and wealth gospel?