Tuesday, November 3, 2020by Reverend Dan on November 3, 2020
"Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth ... But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven"
We’re taking a look at the “Prosperity Gospel” this week. Yesterday we talked about what it is, and today we’re going to look at the criticisms of it.
- It is irresponsible. It promotes idolatry of worldly wealth, and is contrary to scripture.
- It exploits the poor because it equates poverty with sin and implies that the poor just don’t work hard enough or have enough faith.
- The proponents (the pastors who preach it) are criticized for abusing the faith of their listeners by enriching themselves through large donations.
- It doesn’t deal with Biblical poverty or suffering because it is in direct conflict with scripture. Three prime examples are the Apostles, Paul, and Jesus. Cathleen Falsani once wrote an opinion piece in The Washington Post which points to the conflict with one of the foundational Christian understandings. "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."
- It’s just poor theology. To suggest that righteousness can be earned and that the Bible promises an easy life flies in the face of, and negates, grace. Plus, it is inconsistent with the gospel of Jesus and it replaces Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as the central message of the gospel and replaces it with idolatry of material things. It minimizes Jesus in favor of pleasing human wants.
- The Abrahamic covenant, God's promise to bless Abraham's descendants, is a spiritual covenant for all believers. It is not and never was a material one for only those who believed deeper.
- Paul often taught Christians to give up their material possessions.
- While tithing is a call of scripture, the Prosperity Gospel motive is the "Law of Compensation", which teaches that when Christians give generously, God will give back more in return. In contrast, Jesus' teaching called to "give, hoping for nothing in return".
- Jesus instructed followers to focus on spiritual rewards. Matthew 6:19–20 "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth ... But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven".
Prominent evangelical leaders, such as Rick Warren, Ben Witherington III, and Jerry Falwell, Sr. have harshly criticized the movement, sometimes denouncing it as heretical. Warren proposes that prosperity theology promotes the idolatry of money, and others argue that Jesus' teachings indicate a disdain for material wealth.
Mainline evangelical Christians view Prosperity Theology as a perversion of the gospel of Jesus because it claims that God rewards increases in faith with increases in health and/or wealth.
Joe Carter of the Gospel Coalition said the following: “At bottom, it is a false gospel because of its faulty view of the relationship between God and man. Simply put, if the prosperity gospel is true, grace is obsolete, God is irrelevant, and man and wealth are the measure of all things.
Whether they’re talking about the Abrahamic covenant, the atonement, giving, faith, or prayer, prosperity teachers turn the relationship between God and man into a quid pro quo transaction.”
Tomorrow . . . the history of the Prosperity Gospel movement.
“Father, Open our eyes to the true meaning of scripture. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.”