Prosperity Gospel vs Gospel Prosperity

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The Prosperity Gospel is not a new concept. When the idea of televangelists first started to take over our tv’s, prosperity gospel seemed to go hand in hand with them. (If you haven’t seen John Oliver’s hilarious video on the topic, check it out here).

Of course, John Oliver highlights some of the most ridiculous, obvious forms of prosperity gospel, but it highlights a problem that runs rampant through the Church today, often in milder, almost unnoticeable forms.

Prosperity Gospel comes in many forms. In the belief that if we are good and abide in Christ and follow him, we will reap blessings in our lives. Many believe this is Biblical because of the sowing of the seeds; and in a sense, it is. The more we sow, the more we reap. But reaping isn’t necessarily physical blessings of monetary value and things.

I’ve seen it come in the form of people believing that if they tithe regularly, that they will discover financial security (and success), and will always have financial needs met. That’s also not true. God promises that he will take care of us and meet our needs (Matthew 6:25,26), but that doesn’t mean that finances will come in abundance, or that financial obligations will necessarily be met directly through ourselves.

It also exists through the belief that as long as we are obedient, and good, that bad things and hardship won’t befall us (there’s a few current Evangelists who could be filed under this category). That’s DEFINITELY not Biblical. In fact, it’s the opposite of the Bible. 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 says: We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. Life as a Christian isn’t easy; and it’s not meant to made easier by an abundance of ‘things’ and ‘stuff’ that have value in this world, but not in the spiritual.

When we believe that God rewards us for being faithful, when we believe that He gives us things and provides for us a ‘prosperous’ life, it creates an attitude of “It’s about me, and what I do”, a kind of worship of self. It’s about “I’ve been good, so God is rewarding me”.

timthumbIt eliminates God’s grace and cheapens Christ’s sacrifice by saying we don’t need His mercy because we can become good enough to warrant a reward.

And it takes away gratitude. It takes away that deep understanding that despite the fact that we all fall short of God’s glory, God can still choose to bless us. We aren’t as thankful when those blessings come because we believe we somehow are responsible for receiving them. That we’ve done something to deserve a reward.

Prosperity gospel: God will reward ME because I am good.
Gospel prosperity: I am not good, but God will use me as a conduit to bless others

Unfortunately, there are many people who follow the prosperity gospel that will claim they follow the latter *cough* the dude with the jets *cough*. But the difference can be told by how they utilize those blessings.

A-steward-of-Gods-blessingsSometimes those blessings really are in part to improve our lives. Saying God doesn’t do that at all is equal to putting Him in a box or claiming to know the entire mind of God. But when those blessings come that help put you forward in life, there is always a reason for it; it’s always something that allows you to do more work for the Kingdom in another way.

Those blessings tell us a bigger story than anything the prosperity gospel could ever tell us. It tells us the unending story of God’s love – that He doesn’t give us what we deserve, but rather extends his hand of grace to open up possibilities and to provide us with ways we can be a blessing to others.

4 thoughts on “Prosperity Gospel vs Gospel Prosperity

  1. … eliminates God’s grace and cheapens Christ’s sacrifice by saying we don’t need His mercy because we can become good enough to warrant a reward…. I particularly liked that line. It’s so true. Thinking and believing God is there to bless us materially, prosper us and make us successful is humanistic. We ought to believe his word fully, not partially. Thanks for the post.

    1. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head right there. All too often Christians like to believe His word partially, and take bits and pieces that support what makes them happy, but it doesn’t work that way. While certainly the Bible is filled with differing types of lessens and messages (literal, topical, situational, metaphorical), part of growing as a Christian means learning how to recognize the differences and apply them how they are meant.

      (ie Jeremiah 29:11, which people use as a supporter of Prosperity Gospel is actually in specific literal reference to God fulfilling the promises He gave to Israel, which at that time was to prosper them (not necessarily financially, but through children and land), and give them that place. The way it applies to us isn’t a reminder that God isn’t going to allow harm to come to us (because He does), and that we are going to prosper, it’s a solid reminder that God fulfils promises, and that he has a plan for our lives, so that when the darkness hits, our story isn’t over yet).

  2. Love this. It’s something I’ve thought about a lot over the past few years. I’ve been trying to ask myself if I am really a good steward of what I have. So many people think “Well once I get THIS taken care of, then I can donate more/tithe more/etc.” But if I’m not using what He’s already given me, why should He give me anything else? We place a high priority on stability in our culture, and while I understand that (there’s a reason I took birth control religiously instead of just popping out kids while my husband and I were in school and working PT) I also think our desire to create our own stability indicates a lack of faith. I want to use what He’s given for HIS purpose, and truly have faith that the rest will work itself out as HE sees fit…whether that’s living paycheck to paycheck or whether it’s getting a raise, who knows. I don’t want to do something with the expectation God WILL bless me, I want to do something because He has ALREADY given me so much.

    1. EXACTLY!

      A few years ago, when I lost my job, and Scott and I got to a point where we seriously had to consider either declaring bankruptcy or going on welfare and relying on the food bank, someone tried to tell me that it was an example of us not being faithful, and not tithing, and that if we were really being obedient, this wouldn’t be happening.

      That period became the lowest point of my faith I’ve ever experienced, because we were tithing regularly and we were being obedient. We were involved in the church, and up to that point had been the most on the ball we’ve ever been with our faith and our marriage. It threw me because according to this person, giving God our all wasn’t enough. That, if we weren’t receiving financial and material rewards, we were doing something wrong.

      Since then, I’ve been very adamant to erase any kind of prosperity gospel thinking from our minds and our lives. I certainly believe God opens the door sometimes for material and monetary blessings (our house, and even the car we just got, there was no way this could have all fallen into place without him), but it’s never ever as a reward, or because of something we’ve done. The house wasn’t a need, and therefore we believe he gave it to us to be able to bless others, through whomever we bring in as tenants, and now to be able to have a place to host a cell group for our church and use it as a place of spiritual growth.

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