Maybe you’ve seen them on late-night TV: Some preachers promise that if you follow their teachings, and give money to their ministries, that God will make you rich. In fact, some folks preach about money so much that they can make you think that the only reason to follow God is that He will make you wealthy if you do.
Spend enough time talking about God and money, and you’re bound to encounter these ideas. Collectively, they’re known as the “Prosperity Gospel,” and they can be incredibly polarizing. Some Christians stake their entire financial lives around the teachings of prosperity preachers. Others can’t stand the sight of these guys, and denounce them as heretics. And many people outside of the Kingdom of God use prosperity preachers to make a case that all of Christianity is a fraud.
So, where is the truth in all of this? After all, God does say in His word that He wants us to prosper. And yet, the teachings of prosperity preachers often smack of hair grease and smarmy platitudes. So what should you really believe?
Start with this: The word of God is absolute, but the Gospel is more than money.
In general, we take a pretty cautious view of the Prosperity Gospel. It’s not that the Bible doesn’t teach prosperity; it’s just that it teaches us so much more than that. The great failing of the Prosperity Gospel is that it reduces Christianity to an investment scheme or a financial transaction.
Much of the substance of prosperity teachings is based on principles that are actually found in scripture. In fact, we’ve written about many of those principles here. God is a good father who knows how to give good gifts to his children. God promises to bless those of us who give to His Kingdom. And if we’re faithful to follow God’s commandments and precepts, He will instruct us in paths that lead to prosperity.
Unfortunately, too many prosperity teachings twist these principles, take them out of context or blow them out of proportion. Some people teach that simply by following God, we are destined for riches. Others say that if we want financial prosperity, we simply need to exercise the correct level of faith to “name it and claim it.” Still others suggest that we can reach prosperity by simply giving to their ministries, or by always blessing others, as though our financial lives were an episode of “Barter Kings.” All too often, these preachers neglect to teach what the Bible says about financial responsibility, stewardship, wisdom, character, diligence and hard work.
We’re not here to say that everything that a prosperity teacher says is wrong. You have to draw your own conclusions on that, using the word of God as your guide to evaluate the things that you hear. But what we really do want to say is this: Beware of anyone that boils the Gospel down to prosperity. Because the Gospel is so much more than that.
With this website, we spend a lot of time talking about money. And we spend a lot of time studying what the Bible says about money in order to be able to teach about it effectively. But the more we study this, the more that we realize that there is so much more to God than money. The Gospel, in fact, isn’t about money at all. You can’t buy salvation, and salvation doesn’t guarantee you money. In the New Testament, there were rich Christians and poor Christians. And while early church leaders like Paul did teach people to be generous and wise with their money, they were much more concerned with seeing the Kingdom of God grow larger than seeing its members grow wealthier.
What is the Gospel about? It’s about the fact that we were created by a God that loves us, but our own rebellion and sin separated us from Him. It’s about the fact that He chose to take on human flesh, to live on Earth with us and to experience our sufferings. It’s about the fact that He lived a perfect life, and yet died a criminal’s death in our stead. It’s about the fact that He overcame death, rising again from the grave, and conquered sin so that all of us might be reunited to Him. The Gospel isn’t about making poor men rich; it’s about making dead men live.
If you believe that God has called you to a life of prosperity, then we encourage you to work hard, give generously and model godly prosperity in everything that you do. But remember, you weren’t saved by your money, and God didn’t save you to make you wealthy. He saved you because He loves you. The Gospel is about the love of our Father and the great lengths that He went to in order to bring us back to Him.
You can’t put a price on the value of a human soul, and you can’t attach a dollar amount to the power of the Gospel. Anyone who tries isn’t really preaching the Gospel at all.
Photo by JMWK. Used under Creative Commons License.