What Does The Bible Say About The Prosperity Health and Wealth Gospel?
In general, the prosperity gospel is a teaching which espouses “health and wealth.” Prosperity gospel preachers teach things like “if you tithe more than God will bless bless you financially” and “God does not desire anyone to be sick” or “God always desires to heal.”
Are these types of claims true? The Bible alone is our final authority. What does the Bible say?
Does God always desire to heal? Is faith a guarantee that we will be healed?
There are no verses which teach that all sickness or disease was healed at the cross or that faith is a certain path to healing. The cross was about our problem of sin. The cross was to provide a way for us to be reconciled to God. The cross made a way for our old natures to be replaced with our new natures.
Note Revelation 21:4 – He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
He will do these things. In the future. In heaven. When we have our perfect bodies. He does not currently do this or promise to do this on earth.
Godly, mature believers many times are not healed in this world.
1 Corinthians 12:8-9 – Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
Paul, a godly apostle, most likely suffered a physical ailment, perhaps bad eyesight. He was not healed.
Daniel 8:27 – And I Daniel fainted, and was sick certain days; afterward I rose up, and did the king’s business; and I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it.
Daniel, a righteous man was sick.
Philippians 2:25–27 Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellow soldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants. For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick. For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.
Epaphroditus, a co worker of Paul was sick.
2 Timothy 4:20 – Erastus abode at Corinth: but Trophimus have I left at Miletum sick.
Trophimus, a co worker of Paul, was sick.
Clearly many righteous and godly people are sick, not only in biblical times, but now as well. We all know scores of people who are following faithfully after God who are sick.
When Jesus healed the man at the Bethesda pool, He healed one out of a multitude, not everyone.
This brings us to the question, “why?” How can God allow this? Is there actually a reason for sickness or is it evidence of a lack of faith?
For example, in the case of Paul above, God allowed this weakness for a reason. God has many different reasons to allow sickness either temporarily or long term.
Take the case of Lazarus in John 11:1 or the blind man in John 10. In this cases God used their sicknesses to show His own glory.
The Bible is also filled with examples that sickness can be a punishment/discipline from God. The plague of boils in Exodus 9:9 is an example. Uzziah being struck with leprosy for taking the role of priest is another example (2 Kings 15:5.) Believers who have mistreated communion and become sick and weak is another example (1 Corinthians 11:30).
But disease/sickness because of punishment/discipline for sin is the not the only reason for those things to happen. God has many reasons for sickness, just as he does for any trial.
Romans 8:18 – For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
Romans 5:3-5 – More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
James 1:2-4 – Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Trials of various kinds. Sickness is one kind of trial. God uses these trials in our life for many reasons, building our faith and perseverance being two key ones.
God does not always desire health and wealth for believers because it is in a lack of health and wealth that He works many great changes in our lives. Suffering and trials are tools in the hand of a divine and sovereign God, used for building up our character. God cares more about our character than our comfort and convenience.
On this John Calvin said, “Men are undoubtedly more in danger from prosperity than from adversity. For when matters go smoothly, they flatter themselves and are intoxicated by their successes.”
We should still pray for healing (but God does not guarantee to heal)
James 5:14-15 – “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.”
3 John 1:2 – “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.”
God is a big God. Of course He heals! He works miracles. He is the great I AM. We should pray for healing. But we should not presume that it is always God’s will to heal.
What is the correct Biblical view of money? Does God want us to be rich?
Matthew 6:19-24 – 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 your heart will be also. . . . No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
Matthew 19:24 – “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
Luke 12:15-21 – Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, “What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?” And he said, “I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, ‘Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’” But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.
1 Timothy 6:5-8 – And constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain. But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.
Hebrews 13:5 – Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you
The above verses (and many more in Scripture) are clear. A believer is not to set his mind on wealth. Being wealthy actually opens the doors to many temptations. Prosperity gospel preachers do believe that “godliness is a means to financial gain.” But it is not.
When Pilate asked Jesus if He was a king, Jesus replied, “my kingdom is not of this world.” Money is a currency of this world. There isn’t any money in heaven. Jesus was not preoccupied with it. He had nowhere to lay His head.
We are to be content with our daily needs. Giving to God is an act of appreciation, investing in God’s kingdom, not a method to try to get more financial blessings from God in return.
This does not mean that God necessarily wants believers to be poor either. God takes care of His children. He loves to give us good gifts (James 1). But that gift is only sometimes material blessings. Other times that gift is the “gift of trials.”
God wants us to work hard. He wants us to be successful. But this success is defined by Him and not by the world’s standards.
What is the true gospel?
The health and wealth gospel is not Scriptural. It distracts from the real gospel. The gospel is about sin and repentance. It is about Jesus and the cross. It is about God’s justice and God’s love. It is about our spiritual problem of separation from God. It is about forgiveness, restoration, redemption. And Jesus is the center. He is our Savior. He is the object of our affection. He is the the one we follow. He is the one we adore. He is the one we model our lives after. He is the one we praise and glorify.
The prosperity gospel pulls the attention of people away from Jesus. It causes people to set their hope on this world.
Galatians 1:8 – But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
The prosperity gospel is a heresy. It is destructive.
Scripture warns us about the lifestyle of false teachers
2 Peter 2:13-15 – They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. 14 With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood! 15 They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer, who loved the wages of wickedness.
Peter tells us another identifying mark of false teachers, greed. He says they “have a heart trained in greed.” Then he gives the example of Balaam.
Balaam was a prophet. You can read his story in Numbers 22. The Moabites wanted to hire Balaam to say a curse against God’s people. Balaam didn’t want to. He knew that God had not cursed them and he was afraid to incur God’s wrath. And yet Balaam did not tell them to go away. He wanted the
money. He kept hoping that God would somehow change His mind and he could get paid. His number one priority was not serving God above everything else. His number one priority was money.
Peter warns us very clearly in these verses that false teachers are greedy. One of the clear ways to identify false teachers is based on their lifestyle. God calls believers to a life of love, service, and sacrifice, not a life of luxury.
Many prosperity gospel teachers live a life of luxury. This luxury is built on the back of donations from those they are “ministering” to.
A popular South African pastor who is called Shepherd Bushuri has not one, not two, but three private jets. And these are in addition to his fleet of luxury cars.
God does give nice things. In James 1:17 it says that “every perfect gift is from above.” Paul said that Christian workers could make their living by working for God. But that is a far different thing than becoming rich and living a life of wanton luxury, all coming from the money given by those one supposed to serve.
Please listen to a sermon I gave about the depravity, deception, and destruction of false teachers in 2 Peter 2:12-22.
False teachers, including prosperity gospel teachers, promise what they cannot give.
In verse 2 Peter 2:17 Peter says that false teachers are “springs without waters” and “mists driven by a storm.” For people living in that time water was a precious commodity. They couldn’t just turn on the tap and have water available in their home. They couldn’t just turn on the sprinklers and have water immediately available for their crops. They had to find water or wait for it to rain. Springs and wells were very valuable. Imagine a person going to get water from a spring, but there is no water there.
This could be devastating. Imagine a farmer waiting for rain. He sees clouds coming and he starts hoping for rain, but then realizes it is only mist and fog, which contain no water for his crops.
Peter says false teachers are like this. Today we might say they are like a mirage in the desert. They make a promise, “Get water here,” but they can’t fulfill it. It is in stark contrast to Jesus who said, “I am the living water, He who drinks from Me will never thirst.” False teachers claim to have such water, but they don’t.
In verse 18 we see that the they mouth “empty, boastful” words. And in verse 19 they promise freedom. It has always been Satan’s way to make big promises and small deliveries. Eat this fruit and you will be like God! When Adam and Eve ate it they found out what a lie it was. They were far less like God than ever before and hid themselves from Him.
False teachers are the same. They will attempt to deceive and mislead you. A false teacher will not stand up in the pulpit and say “I am a servant of Satan. Come serve him with me.” How effective would that be? No, like Satan they attempt to appear as an angel of light. In modern cartoons, you will often see a person with an angel on one shoulder encouraging the person to do good and a demon on the other shoulder spurring the person to do evil. That is not how it really works. False teachers deceive. They make promises that sound good. They mix just enough truth in with the lie to make it sound convincing.
We need to be wary of the deceptions of Satan and his false teachers.
We must guard the true gospel
2 Timothy 1:13-14 – Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.
Guarding the gospel is important. We must strive to keep it pure and Biblical. If we allow errors and man-centric ideas to creep in, it is dangerous.
Let us set our eyes on Jesus (not health and wealth), and run the race with endurance.
Testimony of a prosperity gospel follower (and nephew of a famous preacher): https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2017/october/benny-hinn-costi-uncle-prosperity-preaching-testimony.html
Test every doctrine: https://www.challies.com/articles/test-every-doctrine-test-every-teacher/
6 keys to detecting the prosperity gospel: https://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/six-keys-to-detecting-the-prosperity-gospel
7 types of false teachers:
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