I’ve always suspected that there is something wrong with the “prosperity gospel” preachers. I also think there is a connection between them and the “name it and claim it” people. At least the “name it and claim it people aren’t using religion and their authority of being a minister to delude and deceive. They are simple charlatans. But the ministers are what concern me. They have taken the Gospel of Jesus and turned it into the worship of money. They have made an idol of money and twisted religion into personal gain. They are taking Jesus’ message of selfless service and turning into selfish gain.
I’ve recently found a verse that specifically addresses this issue. Jesus says in James 4:3 “You ask and don’t receive because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your evil desires.” (HCSB)
Your motives for prayer have to be for good things. Not good things for yourself. Good things for the world.
They seemed to have missed that bit.
Often the “prosperity gospel” ministers use this parable of the talents to justify their message. It can be found in Matthew 25:14-30. You can look it up quickly on any Bible website – I use Bible Gateway. They point out that the one who didn’t make more money was punished. They don’t get that the servants were to make more money for their master – not for themselves. The master is God.
The parable isn’t really about money – it is about using your gifts well. “Talents” were a form of money, but it is a useful word, because “talent” also means ability or gift. An ability to sing or dance is a talent. An ability to encourage others or to write is a gift. It isn’t about money but about whatever way that God has blessed you. You are to use it to help others. If you yoke up your talents with the power of God, you’ll multiply them.
It can be likened to the story of the loaves and the fishes. One version of this story (it happened twice) is to be found in Matthew 14:13-21. I’d like to bring attention to the fact that early in this section, Jesus felt compassion for the people who had gathered, and he healed them. He didn’t heal them to make a name for himself, or to get bigger ratings on his TV show. He felt compassion. This should be the motivating force behind everything.
Then, when he took the five loaves and two fish, he did these things. He looked up into heaven. He blessed them (gave thanks). Then he broke them. Then he gave it to his disciples to give it to the people. 5000 people were fed, and there was a lot of food left over.
This is what Jesus wants. This is what God wants. This is the kind of prosperity that we need, and that we have access to. Take what is given to us, remember that it is from God (everything is), give thanks for it, and then be willing to break it. It has to be broken to let God get into the mix. We break things by “casting our bread upon the waters.” We break things by trusting God – we offer it forth. When we invest our money or time or effort in a worthy goal that we don’t know will succeed, we are breaking it. We aren’t holding onto it. It is the holding onto it that is the problem. When we hold on to it we aren’t trusting God to fulfill His part.
The other part of the problem is what do we intend to do with the fruit of our labor? Is it to help others, or ourselves? We really have to examine our goals in everything we do. Do we do it to build up our names? Do we do it to become famous and sought-after? Or do we do it in a sense of servant-hood, in a sense of letting God work through us?
In Acts 4:32-37 gives us a story of the early church, where we find that things were entirely different than they are today. “32 Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. 33With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. 35They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.” (NRSV)
This is what the church is supposed to do. TFrom those who have, to help those who don’t have. People help each other out, and not just members of the church. The people who most need help are those who will never set foot in a church. And the help I’m talking about isn’t trying to convert them. Often people need a sandwich, not a sermon.
It isn’t about “every man for himself.” It certainly isn’t about your tithe paying for the light bill or anybody’s salary or for stained glass windows.
Part of the prosperity gospel” is saying that a sign that God loves you is that you are rich. They give the impression that God shows that he loves people by giving them lots of stuff, by making them prosperous. The unspoken assumption is that if you are poor, it means that God doesn’t like you at all.
What about in the Beatitudes, the “Blessed are…” phrases in Matthew 5:1-12? There’s no mention of the rich.
In fact, Jesus told a rich man to sell everything he had and follow him. Matthew 19:21 21 “If you want to be perfect,”[j] Jesus said to him, “go, sell your belongings and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.”
He follows in verse 23 saying “23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “I assure you: It will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven! 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
If your minister is telling you that God wants you to make more money, run away. Your very soul depends on it. You are being deceived.