How The Prosperity Gospel Misses The Mark and What It Gets Right
I grew up in a church that scoffed at people who subscribed to what they called the prosperity gospel. This gospel says that through Jesus you can and should expect blessings in your finances, health and every other area of your life. As I grew in Jesus, my perspective towards the prosperity gospel actually went through a shift towards what they preached. I was confronted with the fact that I believed that God wanted me to be poor and didn't care about my physical needs. This can't be true of a God that loves, and even more importantly it's not supported by scripture. Here, I'll look at what the prosperity gospel gets right and what it gets wrong.
Let's start with what it gets right.
1. God cares deeply about your finances and other physical needs. There is no part of your life that God is not concerned about and there is nothing that is outside the scope of what he wants to influence. To say that anything is too small or too unspiritual for God actually relegates him to the background in some areas of your life.
2. I had a hard time accepting this, but financial blessing is consistently seen as a sign of God's blessing throughout the scripture. God loves to give good gifts to his children and as far back as Abraham, we see that God blesses those that he is in covenant with. In Genesis chapter 12 onward Abraham continually is blessed by God in the form of finances even when he allows his wife to be taken by the king of Egypt. In Deuteronomy 28, God gives a list of blessings for obedience which includes cattle, children and full vats and barns. King Solomon is also promised wealth and riches when he asks God for wisdom.
3. God wants to bless you. It's actually part of God's plan to do great things for his children. There is no lack when Jesus is around. God doesn't promise that you will be a millionaire, but a father that doesn't want success for his children is not a good father. Sometimes that may mean that you are called to give up certain amounts of finances for a little while (see the rich young ruler) but ultimately, God desires that your heart would be able to handle finances in a way that glorifies him and allows him to give you more.
What it gets wrong
1. You do not get blessed for your own benefit. It is not wrong to enjoy the things that God has given you, but good finances are not given solely for your own use. The reason that God gives to his children is because he expects that we use the financial provision in a way that he would. God is generous and we are supposed to be representing him here on earth through what we give.
2. It produces a dangerous heart posture. While wealth can produce a dangerous heart posture, the danger is more about the perspective that the prosperity gospel promotes. We never come to Jesus for what we can get. As soon we make it about our blessing, we reduce Jesus into a means to an end and not the end in itself. God is not there for a better and more comfortable day. He is not a busboy or your servant. We come to Jesus because he is beautiful and worthy of our whole lives. The gospel is about transformation of life, not about living a more blessed life.
3. Your obedience, spirituality, and place with Jesus is not determined by your finances or any other physical factor. The prosperity gospel often teaches that your spirituality is determined by what your finances look like and that by doing more good, giving more money or praying more you may get more blessing from God. This is works based deception. God is not someone that you can get to do your will by twisting his arm through prayer or good works. You don't have to twist God's arm. He wants the best for you in every circumstance. Some people may wonder why they aren't in a better place financially or otherwise. The short answer is that we are in a spiritual battle. The enemy is a defeated foe, but he is still influencing things in this world. God commanded us to pray that his will be done on earth as it is in heaven and when his will is done on earth it will look like heaven. Until that day, there will still be some areas of lack in this world.
Truth is a complicated thing. Many people make things far to simple by subscribing wholeheartedly to one camp of beliefs over another. In reality, there is often a level of truth even in flawed perspectives that are important to understand and even embrace. A new perspective is a call to reevaluate your beliefs and determine why they are actually true.