Not Your Mom’s Prosperity Gospel

It may be repackaged for a new audience, but this modern version of the prosperity gospel is just as dangerous.

Over the years, scores of Christians have caught on to the fact that the glittering promises of “health, wealth, and prosperity” from the mouths of charlatans are unbiblical and idolatrous. It’s become so well-known that even the unbelieving world has called it heresy.

Today’s wolves have realized, with their bellies grumbling, that they need a new approach in order to deceive the flock–something more subtle, seemingly more innocuous. Teaching that we should use God to get material riches and physical healing is far too obvious now.

But what if we use God to get something else? Like, let’s say… a better, happier life, fewer problems, and feel-good spirituality?

That’ll work!

And so they feed their poisonous teachings to an unsuspecting, disarmed flock… accomplishing their goal of stealing God’s glory to benefit themselves.

How has the old “prosperity gospel” been revised and updated? Let’s take a look.

BEFORE: Come to Jesus to get health and wealth.

NOW: Come to Jesus to get your life problems resolved and your selfish desires fulfilled.

If the prosperity preacher declares that Jesus will heal your cancer or make you rich, he’s bound to run into a big problem–reality. How long before his followers realize that what he’s promising is a bunch of baloney? When they realize they’re still living paycheck-to-paycheck and paying for hospital bills, at least some folks are going to wake up from the disillusion.

That’s why false teachers will say that it depends on the strength of your faith. That way, they can fall back on the refrain, “You’re not healed or rich yet because you need a stronger belief that it’ll happen. Your doubts are getting in the way.”

But what if there was an even easier way to avoid this problem? What if, rather than promising things that are as tangible as healing and riches, they instead focused on a less-visible prosperity?

“Jesus will take away your disease” becomes “Jesus will fix your marriage.”

“God will multiply your bank account” becomes “God will make your kids behave like angels.”

Beware if the teaching you’re hearing makes becoming a Christian (or becoming a “better” Christian) all about assurances that your earthly issues will be resolved, your insecurities will vanish, your relationships will improve, you’ll be happier in life.

No matter which version is taught, the focus of this false gospel is always on the selfish trinity of “me, myself, and I,” and never on glorifying the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We should never come to Jesus–whether as an unbeliever or a Christian–as a means to get something for ourselves. Jesus is never a “means” to anything. He’s the end, the goal, the prize. Godliness for the sake of gain is one of the oldest false teachings in existence–even the early church had to deal with it (1 Tim. 6:5). It just reshapes and reforms for each generation.

So why should we come to Jesus?  We come as sinners in need of salvation, yes, but not just to avoid pain and suffering and hell, or to “get to heaven.” We come to have God as our inheritance–to be in His presence, to know Him and be known by Him, to experience His love and to love Him in return.

As Samuel Rutherford wrote, “O my Lord Jesus Christ, if I could be in heaven without Thee, it would be hell; and if I could be in hell, and have Thee still, it would be heaven for me, for Thou art all the heaven I want.”

I would rather have suffering and illness and poverty, if it means having and honoring my Lord, than to have all the riches of the world and not have Him.

Jesus is our prosperity. If we have Him–even if we have nothing else–our cup overflows. 

BEFORE: Name-and-claim what you want and speak your desires into existence, so that God grants your wishes.

NOW: Name-and-claim your “identity” as a worthy, beautiful princess and speak your goodness into existence, so that God makes you feel better about yourself.

There is only one Being who can speak things into existence, and that is God Himself.

The idea that you should just “speak positively” about something–as though it has already happened–in order to make it real, is worse than pagan superstition. It is nothing other than rebelliously seeking to become God. In other words, it’s satanic. Who else but Lucifer, the fallen angel who envied the throne of heaven, could have invented this lie–that our words have the power to force God’s hand?

Saying things like “I’m claiming healing for my aunt,” or “I’m claiming that my sister will be saved” is a wicked attempt to manipulate the Lord Almighty into doing something He hasn’t promised.

On the flip side, the concept that speaking negatively will make your worst fears come true is equally as false and contrary to God’s Word. The Lord alone is sovereign. 

Today, we see this show up in a more subtle, insidious form: identity claiming.

They want you to stop calling yourself a sinner, and start saying you’re just a good person who loves God but occasionally makes mistakes.

They want you to stop focusing on your unworthiness, and start proclaiming how priceless, amazing, and totally-worth-saving you are. After all, didn’t God go through all that trouble to make you a princess? How great you must be!

The goal of all this “positive-talk” is to make ourselves feel better and to quiet down our guilt-ridden consciences. Hopefully, by repeating over and over again how good we are, we’ll actually “live up to” what we’re saying.

Don’t be deceived: this identity claiming is just as dangerous as the name-it-and-claim-it Osteen variety. It is still an attempt to do what only God can do–assure us and transform us.

But God’s way is more difficult for sinners. It isn’t focused on glorifying us, but giving all the glory to Him. We aren’t assured of our worth and beauty, but of His; not our righteousness, but Christ’s, given to us as a gift. We don’t become better by ignoring our sins and thinking we’re better than we are; we are transformed by the Spirit as we confess and repent of our sins, and gaze upon the perfections of Christ.

BEFORE: The Holy Spirit is a powerful force we can wield for our pleasures.

NOW: The Holy Spirit is a powerful force that speaks to us and directs us according to our pleasures (and not according to God’s Word).

Sadly, the heretical belief that the third Person of the Trinity is a “force” or a “gut feeling” is still very prevalent today.

Prosperity teachers have taught their followers to view the Holy Spirit as a tool we can employ to get what we want, especially through prayer. They misrepresent His identity and work so that, instead of being a Helper who transforms us and leads us to do God’s will, He becomes a servant of man’s desires.

Now, the new trend is to attribute words and feelings to the Spirit that the Bible does not assign to Him. People claim that the Spirit “whispered” or “spoke” to them, yet what He apparently says cannot be found in Scripture–which is where the Spirit has spoken to us.

They often won’t claim an audible voice, but a kind of inner voice, “leaning,” or “feeling.” Thus, the Holy Spirit is diminished to nothing more than our own thoughts and emotions.

No wonder what they assert to be “the Spirit’s words” are more in line with their own desires, what they want Him to say–rather than what the Word actually says!

The truth is that the Spirit is a Person, not a force. The Spirit is concerned with glorifying Christ, not glorifying you or me. The Spirit speaks to us through the Bible, God’s holy, inspired words, illuminating the truths therein. The Spirit leads us and guides us according to His will, and not our own.

THE SAME FALSE GOSPEL

Traditional prosperity preachers teach that the “good news” of Jesus is one of material gain. Today’s preachers cleverly disguise and reword their message, often removing materialism from the picture, but replacing it with more man-centered, selfish promises.

In the end, both teach the same false gospel: that we can use God to get what we want.

That if we want the good feelings of being forgiven and happy, all we need is to say a little prayer.

That if we desire the outward label of “Christian” and all the earthly “benefits” it entails, we just need to claim it for ourselves.

This false gospel always hands out cheap grace without repentance. It promises gifts without mentioning the cost. It never warns of the wrath of God that abides on us unless we turn from our sins to Christ. Nor does it focus on our ultimate purpose of existence– to enjoy Him, not just His gifts, and to glorify Him forever.

Let’s refuse to accept any “gospel” other than the true good news of Christ. He is the Savior of all those who genuinely put their trust in Him. He saves us for His purposes–that we would be holy lovers of God, pure worshippers in His kingdom. And that’s what we desire more than anything.

We may be poor, suffering saints, with bad health and no earthly joys to claim; but this world isn’t our home. The prosperity gospel, old or new, doesn’t tempt pilgrims who know they have a better inheritance in Christ. He, alone, is our treasure.

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7 thoughts on “Not Your Mom’s Prosperity Gospel

  1. Lisa says:

    I appreciate the article. I would say that the feel good Gospel you wrote of, isn’t new and it isn’t reprint the health & wealth prosperity gospel. That heresy and it’s perpetuators are still going strong with new sellers cropping up every day. And we are exportin it to 3rd world countries too. As in Ecclesiastes …. nothing new under the sun.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Lyn Schupp says:

    Jesus said in John 10:10 that the thief came to steal, kill and destroy, but He came that we may have life (zoe- Vines- Expository Dictionary : llfe as God has it) and have it exceedingly, abundantly, over and above, uncommon, extraordinary… Matthew 1:21 says that He (Jesus ) will save (sozo:to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health, to preserve one who is in danger of destruction, to save or rescue. 3 John 2 says, Beloved, I wish above all things that you prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8) and redeem us from the curse of the law- poverty, sickness and death.(Galations 3:13) Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, Seek ye first the Kingdom Of God and His righteousness and All these things will be added to you. The bottom line is the motive of our hearts. It is God’s heart and nature to bless us, but impure motives block the blessing. Deuteronomy 30:19 says …I set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse so choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants. Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, Seek ye first the Kingdom Of God and His righteousness and All these things will be added to you. The bottom line is the motive of our hearts. It is God’s heart and nature to bless us, but impure motives block the blessing.

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    • tiandni says:

      I strongly disagree with what you have just presented. To say that we have the power to overcome God would be border-lining the idea that God is not all-powerful and could be seen as blasphemy to some. The Bible is quite clear that God does all that He pleases, and we as humans cannot stay or turn His hand. If God wishes to bless us in one way, or if God wishes to conform us into a Christ-likeness the way He deems is good then He will.

      Nebuchadnezzar mentions such actions against God cannot be done for God does what ever He wills.

      Danial 4 34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

      Isaiah 14 24 The Lord of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed,
      so shall it stand, 25 that I will break the Assyrian in my land, and on my mountains trample him underfoot; and his yoke shall depart from them, and his burden from their shoulder.” 26 This is the purpose that is purposed concerning the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations. 27 For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?

      Job 42.2 I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

      Jonah even had a hard time because he rejected God and ran from God. God was not willing to let him go his own way sending a storm and causing a fish to eat him. (Jonah 1).

      Also the New Testament emphasizes such teachings

      Rom 8.28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

      God works all things for the good. Should that be through trials and tribulations, times of hardships then He will work it in such ways. Should it be through a time of material blessing, then God will work it in such ways. Our goal is worshipping God, whether we should learn that in the lowest of our times or the greatest of our times – Sometimes it is through our sufferings and times of need that we can see Christ shine the brightest remembering that He is all we need for our joys in this life. Happiness is a fleeting emotion that can be crushed in the blink of an eye, but Joy in the Lord is an everlasting life.

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  3. tiandni says:

    Thank you for your article. It has been a bit difficult for me particularly to attempt to share with people the subtleties of the prosperity gospel. Too many make the assumptions that such people are not prosperity gospel because they are not offering “money” and “healing.” The most common sign of such preachers are when they go on about victimhood and how you can be a victor and how you can receive the love you deserve in life; how you can drop all the old baggage (negative feelings or negative history) to obtain ‘freedom’ from all those negative thoughts and emotions.

    They do like to butter up their sermons by speaking highly with regards to placing God at the center of our lives and that Jesus should be what satisfies us, but at gospel call in and of itself is a prosperity one. They use personal illustrations about their families and themselves and what was given or done through them placing the audience in ah of the speaker’s experiences and life. We tend to learn more about the speak themselves than we do anything in the scriptures.

    The biggest red light I find in sermons that encompasses a prosperity gospel preacher is when they say, “God has a purpose for your life”, “God has a plan for your life.” While those who hold to a view that God is sovereign over all this is a true statement. The problem is the prosperity gospel preachers like to make it seem like you have to do something – such as living for God or pleasing God- in order to obtain such a “plan for your life” and usually the stories that surround the illustrations of the preacher’s are ones of prosperous and material blessings or life goals and dreams being achieved.

    One such sermon I heard recently was in a mother’s gathering I go to. It was difficult as not a single person was able to discern what was being said. The speaker spoke wonderful things about the great job his wife had and how his children competed in national sports competitions. He used the Bible to tell us that God was raising us up so that God’s name could be proclaimed through the whole earth (Exodus 9.16), and that God has a purpose in our lives that He is raising us up for. He went on to say that we are mothers have a purpose in life of raising up our children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22.6) and that God has a purpose in their lives. He used the illustration that his children would never be where they are, competing in national championships and placing, had they as parents not raised the children up in that. It was implied that God had great and prosperous things planned for our lives if only we just continued on the path leading our children on such paths. Not once was sin presented, our need for a saviour and need for redemption was preached nor was scripture properly used. Everything made the women feel good about themselves, making themselves feel special and needed and that their happiness lay just around the corner.

    This type of preaching is not one I take lightly of, and reject whole heartily. Thank you again for the eloquent words. It can be very difficult for some of us to properly pen down for those who have never been fully immersed in such teachings or are not sensitive to such deception.

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