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Many preachers of Los Angeles, New York, and every city in between are proclaiming what has come to be known as “the prosperity gospel.” The prosperity gospel is a label used to describe the popular teaching that Christians are promised prosperity in their finances, health, and life pursuits as God’s response to their faith in him and his promises.

Millions of people – including myself for several years of my Christian life – have been attracted to this teaching. And it’s no wonder. It certainly sounds like gospel (“good news”) to hear that the Lord of the universe is committed to meeting our every desire (thereby making us the de facto lord of our universe). And yet, in truth, the prosperity gospel is anything but the gospel. It is the exact opposite of good news and every Christian should reject it for at least three reasons.

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Reason 1: It Abuses God’s Word

Prosperity preachers can only present their “gospel” by twisting the Scriptures to make them appear to say things they simply do not say. They do this in many ways but two prominent strategies are to ignore contrary evidence and to read the Bible backwards.

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Those who promote the prosperity gospel tend to ignore contrary evidence. They will point us to the prosperity of Solomon while ignoring Solomon’s own conclusion that his material prosperity was meaningless (Ecclesiastes 2:11) or they will reference Abraham’s riches while ignoring the many texts that reference the extreme poverty of Jesus and his Apostles (e.g. Luke 2:24, 9:58, 1 Corinthians 4:11-13) and the promise that future Christians should expect much of the same (2 Timothy 3:12).

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Prosperity preachers also tend to read the Bible backwards by interpreting the New Testament in light of the Old Testament. In other words, they use Old Testament passages as the keys that open the true meaning of the New Testament. While this may appear to make sense chronologically it makes no sense theologically. Jesus teaches us to do the exact opposite. In Luke 24:25-27 he explains that he is the key that reveals the true meaning of the Old Testament. He and his apostles model this approach throughout the New Testament by revealing Jesus as the True Sabbath, True Temple, True Sacrifice, True Israel, True Promised Land etc. These physical shadows in the Old Testament find their true spiritual fulfillment in Christ (Colossians 2:16-17). In the same way, the material prosperity of the Old Testament is not the fulfillment of God’s promises but a shadow of his promises that are fully fulfilled in the person of Christ. Ephesians 1:3 promises that Christians presently possess in Christ “every spiritual blessing.” The context reveals these blessings include adoption to sonship, forgiveness of sins, the seal and power of the Holy Spirit, new life and much more. Prosperity teachers read the Bible backwards when they promise us the shadow of temporary material prosperity rather than the reality of eternal spiritual prosperity in Jesus.

Reason 2: It Robs God and You of Your Worship

It is true that the prosperity gospel calls us to do good things like give financially to the church, pray, and have faith in God’s promises. Unfortunately, it also calls us to do these good things for very bad reasons. The core motivation for every one of these actions is worship of self and advancement of our kingdom rather than worship of the Triune God and advancement of his kingdom. We are not told to do them because we love God or because God is inherently worthy of these things; we are told to do them so we can acquire material prosperity for ourselves.

In this way the prosperity gospel robs God of our God-directed worship. Though he does not need our worship, he does richly deserve it. Also, the prosperity gospel robs us of our God-directed worship. While God does not need us to worship him we very much need to worship God. For when we do not live as his worshipers we live as his enemies, and that does not end well for us (James 4:4-5).

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Reason 3: It’s Not Good News

As sweet as it might sound on the surface, the prosperity gospel is not good news. It does not prepare you for life, it does not prepare you for eternity, and it encourages you to settle for a few nice things when you can have every glorious thing.

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The prosperity gospel cannot equip you for life. When you face financial, health, and life problems the only answer the prosperity gospel can offer is “have more faith.” In addition to being trite and utterly unhelpful, this counsel puts your salvation in your weak hands instead of God’s all-powerful hands and it often does so during a time of suffering, when faith is often most difficult to come by.

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On the other hand, the true gospel is good news as it offers countless resources for your suffering including a High Priest who prays for you, who sympathizes with your struggle, who has rescued you from God’s judgment, and who promises to provide everything you need – including faith – and never leave you.

Likewise, the prosperity gospel cannot equip you for eternity. It focuses your eyes and energy solely on what you can obtain and experience in the here and now. In so doing it virtually guarantees that you will not be prepared for eternity. This is Jesus’ point in Matthew 10:39, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” The only Christians who are able to stand before God on judgment day are those clothed in the fine linen of Christ’s righteousness and theirs, being clothed in the fine linen of your favorite designer will be of no help to you on that day (Revelation 19:8).

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Worst of all, the prosperity gospel encourages you to trade every glorious thing God offers you for a few nice things the world offers you. It teaches your heart to settle for a nice car, house, or bill of health when it could have the glorious Lord of the Cosmos who holds all of those things together with nothing other than the power of His Word. What is this other than a deadly deal with the Devil where you willingly give up what is most valuable and costs nothing less than the life of the very Son of God for what is most common and costs nothing more than a few thousand dollars.

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