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”.
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.
Sometimes 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.