The prosperity gospel is the term used to describe that brand of teaching which claims that health and wealth are guaranteed to the Christian on account of their faith. It further claims that the main ways to exercise faith so as to receive health and wealth is through financial giving (sowing seed) and making positive declarations (decreeing and declaring). When this is done, the teaching claims, the Christian can expect guaranteed blessings of health wealth and a happy life all round. Those who propagate this message vary in the intensity with which they hold to its different tenets. There are some who are hard core whilst others embrace a softer and more subtle version of it.
This message is very popular in our country and large sections of professing Christians are beholden to it. There are churches in our city which proudly espouse and defend it. There are also several famous preachers who embody it with flashy and exorbitant lifestyles. This, ostensibly, is done so as to be examples to the flock of what the ‘victorious’ Christian life looks like. Poverty and sickness is shunned as a curse and health and wealth is embraced as true blessing. (This dichotomy is a far cry from what the Bible actually teaches.)
John Musyimi recently published a book arguing that the prosperity gospel is a dangerous fraud. The book titled ‘A Counterfeit Gospel’ seeks to sound the alarm against the spread of the prosperity gospel. In it, he presents a Biblical and Theological case as to why Christians should reject the prosperity gospel.
One of the reasons the book presents to reject the prosperity gospel is its idolatry. He argues that the prosperity gospel tends to set people’s affections, not on God, but on his gifts. Idolatry is a serious problem to which every Christian is tempted. It is to be fought with all the Spirit empowered strength we can muster. It is a heinous crime because it says ‘I prefer something else over God Himself’. The prosperity gospel comes along and fans the flames of idolatry in our hearts.
The following are excerpts from a chapter in the book on the idolatry of the prosperity gospel. The chapter title is ‘Displacing God’:
‘The prosperity gospel corrupts the worship of God and turns men into idolaters.’
‘The Bible teaches that we were created to worship God .. This is to be our joyful duty. We are also forbidden to worship anything or anyone else apart from God. God really is the only one who is worthy of any and all worship. However, if we will not worship God, we will worship something else.’
‘Idolatry is spiritual adultery. It sickens the heart of God. He abhors it. To abhor is to hate to the point of vomit.’
‘The worship of God and the smashing of idolatry are to be the whole of a Christian’s life. We are to ‘offer our bodies as living sacrifices Holy and acceptable unto God.’ (Romans 12.2) We are to love God with all that we are; mind, heart, strength and with all that we have (matt 22.37). Christians are called a Kingdom of priests, ministering to God through worship. (1Peter 4.9)’
‘It is here that we come to the first crucial problem with the prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel displaces God as the supreme object of our worship and offers the idols of health, wealth and self in His place.’
‘.. prosperity gospel preachers regularly promote idolatry from the pulpit! They might not realize it, but that is what they are doing. The content of their preaching enforces the false idea that health and wealth is the most important thing about being a Christian. They declare more about goods than God. It is further enforced by the preachers’ demeanor, lavish lifestyles, flashy dressing and boastings about what they own.
Sadly, the pulpit, a place from which the pure gospel of Jesus Christ is to be proclaimed in the church, has been turned into a marketing platform for idols. It happens all the time. Isn’t it time that we called it what it really is?
While true gospel ministry produces disciples of Jesus, the prosperity gospel invariably produces idolaters. What else but idol worshippers could such materialistically charged atmospheres produce? How can the people leave with great thoughts of heaven when all the thoughts offered were of earth? How can they have awe for the One True God when He wasn’t held up as awesome, great and glorious? It is impossible. The people will walk out either idolizing their swanky pastor, desiring his wealthy life, or thinking about houses, cars, promotions, a better version of themselves and so on. Rarely do they walk away with awe for God for God’s own sake. ’
The real treasure of the prosperity gospel system is not God, rather it is the attainment of a particular lifestyle; one marked by perpetual health, wealth and happiness minus any lack, suffering and pain. This and other themes are developed more thoroughly in the book.
Are you concerned about the prosperity gospel and desire to better understand its dangers and deceptions? Do you desire to be better equipped to respond to and help those who are deceived by the prosperity gospel? This book is a good place to start.