Below is an article printed in an edition of last week’s Washington Post. In light of the recent passing of Oral Roberts, I found this article not only appropriate to share, but also necessary due to the negative impact that the “Prosperity Gospel” has had on mainstream evangelicalism, which has produced a heresy in addition to theologically weak believers. The author includes some excellent points and scriptural references, but I would like to add a few more fundamental statements regarding material possessions that Jesus preached. In Matthew 16:24 ESV Jesus states, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.” It is tough impossible to deny yourself, carry your cross, while also stuffing your pockets full of cash, cars, and possessions.
In a second example, Jesus made the point very clear in His Sermon on the Mount as He stated, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 ESV
Finally, as the author, Ms. Falsani, alludes to below with Jesus’ illustration of the camel through the eye of the needle, Jesus had just finished telling the rich young ruler to go sell all he had, give it to the poor, and follow Him. Matthew 19:21 Which devastated the rich man because he had many possessions, again pointing to the fact that you cannot follow Christ and be concerned with material possessions.
The article below speaks to the dangers of the prosperity Gospel, its harmful impacts and prevalence in mainstream churches, and its primary teachers. Definitely worth the read.
“but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the Gospel of Christ” Galatians 1:7 NKJV
By Cathleen Falsani
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.”