The Worst Ideas of the Decade/The prosperity gospel


The prosperity gospel

by Cathleen Falsani

Jesus was born poor, and he died poor. During his earthly tenure, he spoke time and again about the importance of spiritual wealth and health. When he talked about material wealth, it was usually part of a cautionary tale.

In the Gospel of Saint Matthew, we are told that Jesus said, “You cannot serve both God and money” and, “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.”

The “prosperity gospel,” an insipid heresy whose popularity among American Christians has boomed in recent years, teaches that God blesses those God favors most with material wealth.

The ministries of three televangelists commonly viewed as founders of the prosperity gospel movement – Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland and Frederick K.C. Price – took hold in the 1970s and 1980s. One of the oldest and best-known proponents of prosperity theology, Oral Roberts – the television faith-healer who in 1987 told his flock that God would call him home if he didn’t raise $8 million in a matter of weeks – died at 91 last week.

But the past decade has seen this pernicious doctrine proliferate in more mainstream circles. Joel Osteen, the 46-year-old head of Lakewood Church in Houston, has a TV ministry that reaches more than 7 million viewers, and his 2004 book “Your Best Life Now: 7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential,” has sold millions of copies. “God wants us to prosper financially, to have plenty of money, to fulfill the destiny He has laid out for us,” Osteen wrote in a 2005 letter to his flock.

As crass as that may sound, Osteen’s version of the prosperity gospel is more gentle (and decidedly less sweaty) than those preached by such co-religionists as Benny Hinn, T.D. Jakes and the appropriately named Creflo Dollar.

Few theological ideas ring more dissonant with the harmony of orthodox Christianity than a focus on storing up treasures on Earth as a primary goal of faithful living. The gospel of prosperity turns Christianity into a vapid bless-me club, with a doctrine that amounts to little more than spiritual magical thinking: If you pray the right way, God will make you rich.

But if you’re not rich, then what? Are the poor cursed by God because of their unfaithfulness? And if God were so concerned about 401(k)s and Mercedes, why would God’s son have been born into poverty?

Nowhere has the prosperity gospel flourished more than among the poor and the working class. Told that wealth is a sign of God’s grace and favor, followers strive for trappings of luxury they can little afford in an effort to prove that they are blessed spiritually. Some critics have gone so far as to place part of the blame for the past decade’s spending binge and foreclosure crisis at the foot of the prosperity gospel’s altar.

Jesus was born poor, and he died poor. During his earthly tenure, he spoke time and again about the importance of spiritual wealth and health. When he talked about material wealth, it was usually part of a cautionary tale.

Cathleen Falsani is the religion columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and the author of “The Dude Abides: The Gospel According to the Coen Brothers.”

via The Worst Ideas of the Decade (washingtonpost.com).



Categories: Christian misconceptions

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4 replies

  1. Christians commonly prefer Old Testament promises–about God prospering Israel materially if they obey God’s commands, in the covenant given through Moses–more than Jesus’ promises, and new covenant, about giving up treasures on earth (by selling treasured possessions and giving to the poor, and gaining treasure in heaven). The prosperity gospel is “biblical;” it just isn’t in the New Testament, which of course should be the guide for Christians.

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  2. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.

    2 cor 8:9

    I believe this verse speaks for itself…

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    • Well, not really. When I was learning to study the Bible I was taught to read at least the verse before and after the target verse, so to find the meaning. In 2 Corinthians chapter 8 Paul is talking to the corinthinians about giving and supporting the churches. He say’s some gave beyond their ability. The early churches and the apostles depended on the giving by others. verse 7 tells us “But just as you excel in everything-in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us-see that you also excel in this grace of giving. 8.) I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9.) For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. He goes on to say in verse 10 that his advice about what is best for them in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Verse 11 Tells us Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. Verse12 sums it up and say’s it all. For if the willingness is there the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. 13. Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that here might be equality. so really these verses are about giving to support the ministry of the early church. Now my Bible suggests that I see Phillipians 2: 6-8 to explain verse 8. So Phillipians 2:6-8 tells us exactly what Christ did for us. It Say’s : Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to grasped, but made himself nothing taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. And we are indeed Rich with Blessings from Christ, but our rich’s are stored up in Heaven, not Earth. God does take care of our needs while we’re here, and He Blesses, whom He wishes, and curses whom he wishes. We do not have the power to “Name it or Claim it.” Thanks for your comment.

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  1. South African Pastor Calls Prosperity Gospel Damaging, Asks ‘Where Are We Heading To?’ « 'I Am NOT Ashamed of the Gospel of Christ!

Rev. 22:20 'Surely I am coming quickly, Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus!'

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