Our Problem With the Prosperity Gospel

I’ve been reading about MacArthur’s “Strange Fire” conference. And it’s a strange experience indeed. Mainly because I am so appreciative of his ministry to me through books and cassettes while I was in college. And yet now, I struggle to appreciate his way of speaking about his concerns of the charismatic church.

It seems one of his main concerns is the spread of the prosperity gospel among Charismatics.

I have mixed feelings about this concern. On one hand, I do not like the prosperity gospel that says God wants us to be blessed with health and wealth. The gospel of the killed One is at odds with this. I think the prosperity gospel uses Jesus as a means to created things.

So, why do I have mixed feelings?

Because, we are wealthy. I mean, compared to you, I am not wealthy. But compared to the vast majority of people in this world who we fear will hear the gospel of prosperity, I am. And the evangelical church in America and its pastors are very wealthy. We are awash in luxury. Whether you are talking about our facilities or sound systems or pastor’s salaries, we are rich beyond the poor of the world’s imagination. This is not necessarily a criticism. It’s just fact.

Think about this, many evangelical leaders will get paid to get on a plane, go speak at a conference, where they will have their lodging and meals covered, and they will most likely sell a lot of books. And they will often speak out against the prosperity gospel while there. And they will go home to a nice house and nice cars and all the gadgetry and plan a really nice vacation.

I am not so cynical as to think this is true of every leader in evangelicalism. But it is realistic. I’ve seen it. I know the temptation.

And this is our problem with the prosperity gospel – all of our protestations against the prosperity gospel will fall on deaf ears so long as we insist on sitting in the lap of luxury. It must be hard for the poor who long to no longer be poor hear us who have so much wealth say, “Do not put your trust in wealth!”

Now here is where I must stop. I do not think there is one particular answer to this problem. But we must acknowledge the tension of the problem.

8 thoughts on “Our Problem With the Prosperity Gospel

  1. Coco October 22, 2013 / 9:28 am

    Matt–when I first read your statement, “I have mixed feelings about this concern” I was confused. Then your explanation made perfect sense! I have often felt this way too. I am amazed at how pastors and Christian speakers are catered to and indulged, and they feel perfectly fine with this. Being poor is ok, as long as it’s not them. So many advertise luxury trips to the “Holy Land” or this or that cruise. I really struggle with this because while taking a vacation is nice, why are we spending so much money on ourselves all the time? Why are we so entitled as Christians to indulge ourselves when we could be helping the poor? I am asking myself these questions! I need to do some soul searching as well. What message are we really sending to “the world”? I don’t have a simple answer…but I bet Scripture does.

  2. Jamie October 22, 2013 / 11:32 am

    I so get this. The prosperity gospel is deeply damaging many dear African churches and believers I know. Yet I feel like an idiot opening my mouth. I’m supposed to preach “be content” to them? I-who have never known hunger, homelessness or HIV.

  3. Rob Grayson October 22, 2013 / 2:21 pm

    Thanks for spelling this out. It’s a real problem. I guess most of us are to some extent wedded to prosperity, even those of us who outwardly shun the prosperity gospel.

  4. dswoager October 22, 2013 / 5:29 pm

    “I think the prosperity gospel uses Jesus as a means to created things.”

    I think that this is the key though, anytime that you are making Jesus a means to something else you are engaged in idolatry. If I see you sacrificing to a fertility god on the hill behind your house, you might see fit to disregard my rebuke since I have 12 kids, but that doesn’t mean that I was wrong in calling out your worship of false gods.

    This is also a harder question to tackle when we are talking about “our problem with the prosperity gospel” instead of “my problem with the prosperity gospel”. There is very little I can do about the kind of car or size of house that some celebrity pastor has, but when I turn the question on myself and I see hypocrisy in my own life then I can make steps toward correcting that.

  5. randallslack October 23, 2013 / 5:11 am

    Matt, I agree. However, the prosperity gospel goes along with the so-called “faith movement” which is blatantly un-biblical. To teach that “faith is a force and words are containers of that force” and that “God used the force of faith to create the world” (Kenneth Copeland) is actually cultic. Visualization, indebting God by telling Him what you want (thus making Him your servant) as just a few of the heretical teaching of this “movement.” Certainly it is “another jesus, another gospel, and another spirit.”

    Regarding our wealth, we accumulate wealth here because often we have lost sight of the coming of the Lord and the value of treasure in Heaven. That makes us, among all men, most poor indeed.

  6. Jennifer Jackson October 28, 2013 / 4:44 pm

    I would agree that we are abundantly rich in this country, but not sure that you got the point of the conference when you stated “I’ve been reading about MacArthur’s “Strange Fire” conference.” Maybe you should listen/watch before assuming it was all about prosperity? Seems it was more about false theology, which leads into the prosperity gospel.

    • mattbredmond October 28, 2013 / 6:17 pm

      My post made clear that I was only discussing one point made during the conference.

  7. jimpgrave November 5, 2013 / 6:35 am

    Hi there Matt,

    Just to let you know, I’ve nominated you for a Liebster Blog Award – you can see the nomination here:

    I’ve really enjoyed your thought provoking posts (particularly this one, and also “The Hardest Thing” from August) and the discussions I’ve had with others arising from them … thank you!

    I was really encouraged when I received my nomination … I hope you are too!

    God Bless,

    Paul at ‘Red Setter Christian’

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