-by Andrew Strom.
The fact is, Christian TV can be costly, so it helps to have lots of money. And the "Prosperity" teaching is a proven money-maker for preachers. It really gets people giving! And so these kinds of preachers thrive on television. But it sure is a sick kind of "Christianity" that is presented. And totally unscriptural, as we shall see.
The Prosperity gospel basically teaches that not only does Jesus want to take away your sins and heal your body, but He also wants you to be prosperous and even "rich". -Not just 'SPIRITUALLY' rich, but actually blessed with all kinds of possessions, cars and houses, etc. Because, of course, any kind of poverty and suffering is a "curse", and we know that Jesus came to set us free from the 'curse'.
Now of course there is some truth in this. If there wasn't, then this false teaching would never get off the ground.
But the Bible makes it very clear that Jesus' followers can expect to SHARE IN HIS SUFFERINGS (Rom 8:17, Lk 14:27, etc). The Scriptures also speak again and again of Jesus' affinity with the POOR and His opposition to those who are rich. In fact, the sheer weight of Scriptures on this subject is staggering. It is amazing to me that the Prosperity teachers can get away with the things that they say. Doesn't anybody read their Bible any more?
The fact is, these people can find only ONE verse that mentions "Prosperity" in the whole New Testament (-and it is of dubious help, as we shall see). And there are dozens and dozens of verses in opposition! But which one do they choose to quote again and again? Here it is in the King James version (-which is the only translation that helps them in any way): "I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth." (3 John 2). Now, it is interesting to note what this word "prosper" really means in this verse. Renowned Greek scholar W.E. Vine says that it simply speaks of "the prosperity of physical and spiritual health." So it's not about MONEY at all!
And thus we find that in all the later translations, this meaning is made clear. For example, the NIV translation says: "I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well" (3 John 2). Isn't that interesting?
As I said, this is one of the ONLY VERSES that these Prosperity teachers quote in the entire New Testament. If they are honest, they will admit that most of the rest of the NT is squarely AGAINST THEM.
What I would encourage anyone to do, who wants to research this subject, is to get a Concordance and look up EVERY VERSE in the New Testament that contains these words: (1) Rich or Riches, (2) Money, (3) Poor, (4) Mammon (5) Possessions, (6) Treasure, (7) Sell or Sold, etc.
You will be absolutely amazed at how strong the NT Scriptures are on this subject. I did this exact search years ago, and was astonished at what I found.
When you look up the word 'Rich' you find Scriptures such as this: "Woe unto you that are rich! For you have received your consolation" (Lk 6:24) and "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Lk 18:24-25, NIV) and "People who want to GET RICH fall into temptation and a trap" (1 Tim 6:9) and "You rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you" (Ja 5:1). There are many more along similar lines. Go and look them up, and you will see!
We find that when Jesus was preaching kingdom principles he was very strong in this area. When the 'Rich young man' came to him, He told him: "SELL your possessions and give to the POOR, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (Mt 19:21, NIV). He also told his own disciples to "SELL your possessions and give to the POOR" (Lk 12:33).
In my recent article on "Tithing" we discussed the whole issue of 'Giving' in the New Testament. The fact is, there is no "law" telling Christians to give 10%. In fact, what the NT makes clear is that EVERYTHING we have literally belongs to God. Many people claim that "All I have is God's" but they do not act like it! In the New Testament it is clear that it was EXPECTED for Christians to sell any spare possessions, land or houses, to give to their needy brothers and sisters - especially widows and orphans. They certainly weren't giving their money to wealthy preachers on TV! And neither were they giving it to erect a new church building on the corner! (-Such things did not exist). They were giving from their HEART - and while some of it went to support the ministry, MOST of it clearly went to feed and clothe the POOR. (See Acts 2:44-45, Acts 4:34-37).
Some people today want to go back to the Old Testament and use people like Solomon and Abraham as examples of RICH people to emulate. But what they fail to realize is that the Old Testament is a 'type' or a "SHADOW" of the New. (Col 2:16, Heb 10:1). The Old was a "physical" covenant, with a "physical" temple and rituals, etc. The "blessings" of God were also mostly PHYSICAL and material. But today we have a "spiritual" covenant - a "heart-based" covenant, with mostly SPIRITUAL blessings. That is why we should not seek Old Testament wealth today. -We live under a different covenant.
It is very obvious from the New Testament that there is NO SUCH THING as a 'Prosperity' gospel. In fact, it is the exact OPPOSITE. Jesus said, "Blessed are you who are POOR, for yours is the kingdom of God" (Lk 6:20). And James declared: "Has not God chosen those who are POOR in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?" (Ja 2:5, NIV). Jesus clearly stated that you "CANNOT serve God and Mammon" (Mt 6:24) and yet it is obvious that many Christians today are trying to serve BOTH. The 'Prosperity' teaching clearly encourages this. It is a very dangerous and harmful fallacy.
So does God want to bless His children or not? Of course He does! But He wants to bless us so that we can GIVE MORE AWAY - NOT so that we can hoard more luxuries to ourselves. How can it be right for some Christians to be wealthy and rolling in money and possessions, while just down the street there are Christians who barely have enough to eat? And what about our needy brothers and sisters overseas?
There is a prophecy about the coming move of God that one thing it will be built on is "Extravagant giving to the poor." I truly believe this. I am convinced that it is something that is very high on God's agenda.
It is important that I make a few comments about the 'Seed-Faith' teaching here, because so many TV preachers use it to pressure people to give to their ministry. What it amounts to is a "Give-to-Get" doctrine that blatantly twists Scripture.
When a preacher says something like, "Sow a seed of $100 into my ministry today, and God will give you back 100-fold," then they are operating out of this "Seed-Faith" doctrine. What they are really saying is, "Give to get". The motivation for giving is not so much to bless that ministry, but to GET SOMETHING BACK from God. The motivation is all twisted. Do they really expect God to "bless" something so wrong-hearted?
But the TV preachers love this doctrine, because it enables them to gather huge sums of money. And surprisingly, studies have shown that it is the poor and needy who give most often to these TV preachers. Why is this? -Because these people often feel that only a financial "miracle" can save them. It is not uncommon for desperate Christians to give and give, well beyond their means, in the hope that God will rescue them. Some will even lose their homes. And the elderly and the sick often give sacrificially in the hope of some kind of improvement.
Many preachers are fully aware of the kind of people they are exploiting. How sick it all is. As Jesus said in Mt 23:14, ?Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows' houses.? I shudder to think of the fate that awaits some of these preachers on Judgement Day.
Much of the reasoning behind this "Seed-Faith" teaching is a distortion of 'Sowing and Reaping', which is a biblical concept. But when it is distorted by preachers and sold as a means of "Giving to get" then it has gone well beyond the Scriptures. The purity of simply "giving from the heart" is lost and replaced with selfish motives. People give because the preacher "guarantees" they will get a 'big return' on their investment! The motivation is so wrong that it is no wonder that this doctrine has produced disastrous fruit in the church. It is one of the sickest things around.
So next time you hear a preacher using this kind of manipulation to get you to give him $100, make sure you rebuke the deception in the name of Jesus, and turn the television off!
We would all be far better off giving to the poor.
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