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Is the true gospel the gospel of wealth ? Is God a celestial ATM machine ? Is God a means to an end (health and wealth) ? According to the cover story of Time Magazine (Sept.18), there is a movement in America within Christianity that would answer yes to all these questions. There is a number of Mega-churches that are spreading the Prosperity gospel, the health and wealth gospel, and the name it and claim it gospel. Houston pastor Joel Osteen says God wants us to be prosperous. He wants us to be happy. He wants us to send our kids to college. If a believer establishes that he is in Christ then God will respond with gifts of health and wealth. One of God’s top priorities is to shower material blessings on Christians in this lifetime. In a recent sermon he said he discerned God’s favor because he was able to buy their dream house and now has moved up from economy to first class on the airlines.

Another prosperity minister who I have seen on TV goes by the fitting name of Creflo Dollar. He said passages like Malachi 3:10 are a spiritual contract from God to pay us back a multiple on our offerings. The implication here is that this is your reason for giving, so God will be obligated to give back 10X.

A TV evangelist named Joyce Meyer said in the article, “Who wants to get in on something where you are miserable, poor, broke, and ugly ? I believe God wants us to have nice things!”

Also interviewed was my personal favorite author Rick Warren (The Purpose Driven Life) who answered the claims of the Prosperity gospel just the way I would have. Warren said, “BALONEY” It is creating a false idol. You don’t measure your self worth by your net worth. There are millions of faithful believers who are poor. Why isn’t everyone in the church a millionaire ?”

Question: What is wrong with the Prosperity gospel ?
Answer: We live on the wrong side of Eden—we are fallen, this world is fallen. The Prosperity gospel soft pedals the consequences of Adam’s fall. Sin, pain, and death are a part of this world and the only eternal antidote is Jesus Christ.

So what does the Bible say, does God want you to be rich ?
The “name it and claim it” camp uses passages like—-
Deut. 8 “remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth”
Malachi 3:10 “Bring all the tithes…if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and
Pour out for you such blessing”

John 6:38 “ Give and it will be given to you, good measure…running over”
John 10:10 “I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly”
Of course this is the game that false teachers have played for 2000 years. Take passages out of context and use them for your purposes. Devise your theology and doctrine and then go find some passages to support it. Deut. 8 was spoken by Moses reminding Israel that it was God who freed them from slavery and gave them the land. He was warning them not to forget where there blessings came from or “you shall surely perish”. Malachi 3 is actually an admonishment to Judah for failing to give according to the law. Luke 6 is about the characteristics of disciples and has no guarantee of material riches. John 10:10 has nothing to do with material possessions but is speaking of salvation and spiritual life.

In fact the bulk of Jesus’ teaching had to do with “deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me”. Jesus taught about being a humble servant, not a rich materialist. In one story after another Jesus warned people against loving money—Matt.6:19 “Don’t lay up for yourself treasure on earth…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”

Think about what is obvious and logical—if God was a celestial ATM machine then all Christians would be rich, attractive, and healthy and this would actually be the Garden of Eden. We would have heaven on earth if we just had enough faith and approached God with a positive attitude expecting to get rich. I would like to repeat Rick Warren’s response—Baloney. These proponents of the Prosperity gospel are just like the crowd in John 6:14 who approached Jesus after His great miracle and tried to make him king to set them up with peace and prosperity. What was Jesus’ response ? He withdrew from them. The next day Jesus preached His great sermon we call “The Bread of Life Discourse”. The bottom line of His message was that they had a focus on physical-material things, but Jesus came for a different reason—to bless them spiritually. Their real problem was not materialistic. What they needed was a Savior from their sins. Therefore the real Jesus came to suffer and die on the cross, not to bring them prosperity. He challenged that audience to eat the spiritual food which was His body sacrificed for them, and to drink the spiritual drink which was His blood shed for their sins. That first century audience had the same problem our “name it and claim it” churches do today. They thought their problem was health and wealth but it was not. They were sinners who needed a Savior. Jesus was so straight forward and adamant about this that the crowd grumbled(Jn.6:61) and many of them withdrew(v66).

I can’t find any passages that state that our theology or our worship should be built around being prosperous, but the Bible is full of passages about suffering, persecution, denying yourself, and being focused on the spiritual as opposed to the materialistic.

I think it was C.S. Lewis who said, “Aim at earth and its riches and you will miss heaven, but aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in”

Next week the sequel to this message—WILL A MAN SERVE GOD FOR NOTHING ?
This is the question Satan asked God about Job—Haven’t You protected him and rewarded him with possessions and good health? Take it all away and Job will turn against You.

Picture of About the Author: Charlie Taylor
About the Author: Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor grew up in Dallas, Texas, graduated from the University of Texas Business School and went into the commercial real estate business for about twenty years before enrolling in and graduating from Dallas Theological Seminary with honors.

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