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Prosperity Gospel and the Deceitfulness of Riches

God the Father has already showered the children of Israel with riches before Jesus Christ appeared on earth. Solomon was the greatest and richest king that ever lived on earth. His glory existed prior to Jesus’ ministry. Jesus did not come to this world so that people can be rich in material things. He came so people could be rich in spiritual prosperity. He came to open and restore the broken window of spiritual connection between God and man. From history of events, money, power, and fame tend to have their destructive powers over man because the same thing that feeds the flesh can turn around to be a poison for human soul. Jesus himself warned us about the deceitfulness of riches choking the Word of God from people’s hearts. "The deceitfulness of riches choke the Word, and he became unfruitful" (St. Matthew 13:22). Sadly today, many rich people are eccentric. The quest for money has led people to the brink of madness. If Jesus came so we could be rich in materialism, he would never have come. However, Jesus came to restore a broken relationship by connecting man from the physical to the invisible world of God through the Holy Spirit.

Prosperity gospel has no place in the house of God. Jesus called us to live a life of contentment, not digging for King Solomon’s mines. Anything that pleasures the flesh in excess will eventually turned out to be a poison for human soul. Samson was a very powerful man. God ordained Samson from his mother’s womb. Yet, the deceitfulness of physical pleasure led him to surrender God’s most precious gift at the foot of lustful desires. In the end Samson perished. Esau was hungry. The same bowl of soup that fed his flesh later became a poison for his future. When he realized what he had lost, he wanted to kill his brother Jacob who stole his birthright. Ananias and Sapphira kept back some of God’s money because of greed. They both faced instant death penalty from above (Acts chapter 5). Similarly, Akan stole those things that were reserved for God. He also faced death penalty with his entire family. Gahazi was the servant of Elisha and was destined to receive the anointing mantle of Elisha. But, the love of materialism led him to be cursed with leprosy. If the love of pleasure for money, power, and fame has been creating curses for people from history, why are we preaching prosperity gospel inside the church today?

The three things the devil used to tempt Jesus in the wilderness included food, tempting God’s power, and fame - - all of which pleasure the flesh. This story made a headline in the Bible to teach Christians lessons about avoiding temptations. Preventing the pride of fame was the reasons why Jesus told those he healed not to tell anybody, but to go give glory to God. The same destructive issues in the Bible are the ones destroying the body of Christ today. Money, power and fame are now holding some ministries in bondage. It is no longer important to preach the gospel, as it is more important to generate more money at the expense of Jesus. For the time being, we are bragging about how we are being blessed by God to the envy of others. We claim that poverty is a curse. If poverty is a curse, why did Jesus take an oath of poverty? Why did Jesus disciples give up all they had to follow him? To prevent the church members from questioning the riches of the preachers, prosperity gospel becomes popular. In the process this questionable gospel is supposed to blindfold church members to financial surrender. God loves you as long as you empty your pocket. The television preachers are no longer asking for $20, they are now compelling people to donate a thousand dollars. Yet, we protested against Catholic Church’s sale of indulgences to start a new denomination. We cannot condemn Catholic sale of indulgences at the same time asking people to send money to preachers before receiving miracles from God. This is absolute hypocrisy!

The sad part of this prosperity gospel is the problem of blocking Christians from entering into the spiritual realm of God. As long as church members are waiting for millions of dollars from Jesus, they are going to be uninterested in a closer spiritual relationship with God. Some people become disenchanted with Christianity when their prosperity is unattainable. The quest to get richer becomes a deterrent from a closer spiritual relationship with Christ. In essence, the prosperity preachers block their members from a closer spiritual relationship with Christ. This is the more reason why the church is so carnal today, and in search for personal fulfillment, instead of being directed by the Holy Spirit. Jesus specifically warned his followers against this type of thing when he said, "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of Heaven against men; for you neither go in yourself, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in" (St. Matthew 23:13).

While some preachers are flying in private jets, some church members are losing their homes. The same church could not come to their financial rescue like the time of Paul in the book of Acts. Members are therefore being told that if they are not rich, either they do not have enough faith, or they are not dedicated to serving God. Consequently the gospels of the Holy Spirit directing our life, motivation for a closer walk with Jesus, and living a life of contentment, preached by Jesus were let out the window. I am not against church members giving offerings and tithes in the church, but the focus of a preacher should never be to raise more money, but to preach the gospel message of Christ. If Christ has sent you on a mission, he will provide a financial means to accomplish his purpose. This is a well-known fact to messengers who walk in the Spirit of God instead of those walking in the spirit of greed. This year, 2011, Andrew Womack, a television evangelist and Bible teacher made mention of preachers scamming people of their money in his series called "Why, When and Where to Give – Financial Stewardship." He urged people not to give money with the expectation of getting something back from God. He said that people should not be on a quest to manipulate God to bless them. He alluded to some preachers scamming people of their money by telling them to donate their money and expect to receive miracles from God. He explained in his argument that this was a deception because people were being asked to give for the wrong motive. He suggested that people should give to those who have impacted their lives and also give where they feed.

When some preachers have attained a celebrity status, common people can no longer reach them. They have forgotten that God tends to give his secrets to ordinary people. The same way the secular world treats ordinary people is the same way celebrity preachers treat ordinary people – they have no significance. Mary, the mother of Jesus made a prophecy welcoming the forthcoming Messiah to the world with her poem of praise to God saying, "He has put down the mighty from the thrones, and exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he had sent empty away" (St. Luke 1:52-53).

"With your wisdom and understanding, you have gained riches for yourself, and gathered gold and silver into your treasuries. By your great wisdom in trade, you have increased your riches, and your heart is lifted up because of your riches" (Ezekiel 28: 4-5).

Sometimes, the deceitfulness of celebrity status blindfold some preachers from seeing and appreciating the manifestations of God in common people.

Instead of prosperity gospel, Jesus told his followers that they should expect tribulations, but inside him they should expect peace (St. John 16:33). When Christians on the quest for prosperity encounter storms of life that are inevitable, some walk away from their faith. When Christian college students encounter opposition to their faith without solid spiritual maturity, they walk away from their faith. When earthly riches not knocking at their doors, many of them will also walk away from their faith. Prosperity gospel has therefore poisoned some Christians’ mind leading them away from God and getting them stuck in the flesh.

"For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (I John 2:16).

Peter warned against lusting after the flesh, "Abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul" (I Peter 2:11). He was saying that people should be careful lusting after the flesh that may later be poison to the soul.

The same preachers that are supposed to be leading people away from lustful desires and the same ones leading people into the fleshly bondage. Because of Greed, today’s church is no longer different from the secular world in relentless pursuit of money. Whether we believe it or not, our world is falling apart right before our face. The destructive force is not coming from government’s financial deficit people are deluding themselves to believe. The force is coming from man’s lustful desire for GREED. Man is in love with GREED, the same will lead many to perish. GREED was what created the government’s financial deficit in the first place. This is an illness that is not curable with medications like other illnesses. But, it is an illness that may eventually bring the whole nation down.

There are people in power who support this gospel of greed for businesses, at the expense of the people. We all need to be careful about the same thing that happened in history that was well narrated by the book; A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. The poor were so oppressed by the rich and a social revolution took place in France. The rich and well to do were put on trials and the guillotine went into action. Many rich and well-known people were either imprisoned or were beheaded. I hope we would never have to get to that point as a nation. But there is handwriting on the wall. As we see the Middle East exploding into a social revolution, can we as a society learn from this? Could these events in the Middle East be mirrors that God himself wants us to see as a prevention of future economic turmoil in the U.S?

The same gospel of Jesus some Christians are running away from offers the solution to present day crisis of greed. Jesus said, "Verily I say unto you, it will be easier for a camel to enter the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God" (St. Matthew 19:24). Today, the same poison of the love of money, destroying the secular world, is the same poison polluting the body of Christ. What did Jesus tell the rich young man? "Sell everything you have, give to the poor, come and follow me" It was the best exchange rate ever offered ballooning his account in Heaven. But the rich young man rejected Jesus offer because people, even today are used to confusing earthly treasures with eternal treasures.

I do not believe in prosperity gospel because of what Jesus told me in response to my question of asking him for money. In my book Closer Walk With Jesus, the first visitation of Jesus was about the answer he came to give me about my personal request. Jesus responded with Matthew 16:24, "Deny yourself, take your cross and follow me."

Why did Jesus respond this way? Jesus did because he has already seen how the lusting for money feeds the flesh and destroys man’s quest for spiritual prosperity that brings us closer to God. This is the reason why many Christians today do not walk in the Spirit of God. Our quest for money, power and fame to feed the desires of the flesh is too great. Besides, Jesus never preached material prosperity. There are people in the body of Christ who are presently polluting the message of Christ by introducing material prosperity to justify their own personal greed.

Why did God warn us about greed in the book of Isaiah? "Yes, they are greedy dogs which never have enough. And they are shepherds who cannot understand. They all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his own territory" (Isaiah 56:11). When I received this message while writing my book, Closer Walk With Jesus, chapter #38, I knew God was directly addressing the sin of greed in the nation. Unfortunately, many Christian organizations are joining in the sin of predatory capitalism by scamming people of their money in the name of Jesus. Some Christians have been pushed to buy things they could not afford because they wanted to show off that God was blessing them. They fall into the hole of the deceitfulness of riches. In essence they would buy things to show off that they were being blessed, getting in serious debt. Regardless to how any preacher wants to justify GREED, Jesus never preached material prosperity, but spiritual prosperity. The pornographic desire for the lust of money is destroying the gospel message of Christ in many churches today, leading members away from their spiritual relationship with Christ. A Christian cannot be in bondage with the flesh, and be expected to experience an amplified life in the Spirit of God.

By Yinka Vidal, author, Closer Walk With Jesus