Faith and Prosperity

The prosperity gospel is a subject that often surfaces in the blogosphere and often is accompanied by a lot of vitriol and controversy.. thought that these economic times might be a good time to discuss it here.

Christianity today recently highlighted two preachers who pastor two of the largest churches in America and their views on the subject:
For [Joel] Osteen, Prosperity Gospel isn't a pejorative term:

"Does God want us to be rich?" he asks. "When I hear that word rich, I think people say, 'Well, he's preaching that everybody's going to be a millionaire.' I don't think that's it." Rather, he explains, "I preach that anybody can improve their lives. I think God wants us to be prosperous. I think he wants us to be happy. To me, you need to have money to pay your bills. I think God wants us to send our kids to college. I think he wants us to be a blessing to other people. But I don't think I'd say God wants us to be rich. It's all relative, isn't it?"

On the other side is the guy whose church rounds out the "largest four" list:
"This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy?", [Rick] Warren snorts. "There is a word for that: baloney. It's creating a false idol. You don't measure your self-worth by your net worth. I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty. Why isn't everyone in the church a millionaire?"
Two interesting perspectives.. my thinking is somewhere in between.

I agree that God wants us to pay our bills.. also think that He doesn't want us to live above our means.. don't believe that God wants us to be slaves to our credit cards.. this is where many prosperity folks go wrong.

I think that God does want us to be happy.. if that happiness is accompanied by contentment.. really.. money and things can't make you happy.. again the prosperity folks mistakenly define "blessings" narrowly and create an illusion of a "right" to be blessed with things.

I also agree that God wants us to be a blessing to others.. but often money is not what people need most.. many times they need our compassion.. mostly they need us.. they need our presence.. they need the blessing of our time.

I do wonder who Warren is speaking of when he says:
"I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty."
He is probably not speaking about folks that attend his church in Southern California. He might be speaking about folks who have had troubles.. health issues.. family tragedies.. folks in third world countries.. mostly he speaks the obvious.. the world is full of folks who are poor due to no fault of their own.. but I doubt that he would say "God wants you to be poor" to His church.

So what should a pastor say to the folks who they regularly speak to? Should they say "God wants you to be poor"?.. or "God wants you to be rich"?.. or should they simply offer scriptures that will cause folks to consider how they can best live a contented and responsible life?


  1. We see where the "prosperity" message has gotten most of the "so called" Church. I am glad that there is "The" Church, made up of all true believers and forms The Body of Christ. God know those who are his!!!!!

    I think more repentance needs to be preached. That is a word you don't hear from a lot of the pulpits in America. Some, never!!

  2. I imagine that you have to deal with this theology a lot down in Tulsa Susan. I still run into some confess and possess folks here in KC.. I have had to counsel one person who told me that God had gotten told them to go into debt that they couldn't afford.. sad when God gets blamed for this kind of stuff.

  3. I never quite saw the connection between money and living a faithful, content life. Both rich and poor can live a life full of Christ's peace -- or not. What I have found is that every day (or month, or year) we are called to do more. Whatever more means. Standing still is not an option.

    Interesting, since we started tithing two years ago, it has changed my perspective about work. Days when I am not feeling so up for work, knowing that what I do from 9-5 helps fund God's work on earth is encouraging.

  4. Great original thought about tithing and work Ed.. puts a nice perspective on work.

  5. Having grown up with the prosperity message, and seen how it worked (and didn't) in my own life...I have a modified perspective of this now.

    Of course God is good, and of course He wants our happiness and fulfillment. But we have somehow reduced this to how much money and things we have, or are supposed to have. The problem I have with this is simply that our faith has become all about us, and what God will do for us--rather than how we can best live unto His glory.

    For me, the most prosperous I have been in this life has been when I stopped worrying about how much I had or didn't have, and took the attention off me and my needs, and sought to be part of God's mission. I have seen God fulfill His word, that when I seek His kingdom and His righteousness, the other things are added to me.

  6. Bob, this prosperity gospel is what made me leave the charismatic church I was in for a few years. Western "Christianity" sure does get narcissistic,huh?

  7. What should a Pastor say? For me it is simple, "seek first the kingdom of GOD...".

  8. I like that Jeff.. it is not all about our needs.. the kingdom is not self centered/focused.

    Thanks Shaun.. narcissistic.. yes.. a great insight into how we can make the gospel all about us.

    Good thought Mike.. we seek not so that all the other stuff is added to us.. we seek God because we desperately need Him.

  9. Mike and I thought of the same thing first. I also thought of St. Paul and his "I know how live in abundance and in poverty" as showing DETACHMENT from prosperity. If you have it, great. If you don't, great. God's Will put you where you are. Be obedient and persevere and you'll remain there.

  10. Correct me if I'm wrong, again, but I don't remember Christ bestowing wealth on anybody in the Gospels; health, yes; wealth, no. If He didn't do it then why do we expect Him to do it now?

    Too many members of my old church believe that the strength of their faith and evidence of their salvation are revealed by their health and wealth. Chronic illness indicates a lack of faith. Chronic indebtedness or poverty indicate a lack of faith. If a person does not speak in tongue then he or she is not ready to be a messenger for God.

    I think a church misleads its members when it promises anything other than salvation.

  11. Great reflection Joe! Jesus even told a rich guy to sell everything.. He said the widow who gave two mites gave more than all. Sad that some have such a perverted view of riches.


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