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Prosperity Gospel: Where Does it Come From?

I have searched the gospel messages of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and have not been able to find where Jesus preached about material prosperity. Jesus preached about spiritual prosperity, and the kingdom of God. Jesus preached no sermon about material prosperity. The more I searched the gospel, the more I found evidence to the contrary. The next question is, if it did not come from Jesus, where did this prosperity gospel come from?

As this July 2011 was going to an end, my spirit was constantly being bombarded by the need to write this article. I had ignored the Lord’s messages regarding this issue. Now, I am cornered, and I do not have the choice but to write about this misconception that is polluting the body of Christ today. Some people in the secular world are making mockery of the mega church preachers who pocket a larger percentage of the church revenues as salaries while many in the church are suffering due to financial hardship. Yet, when you turned on the television the slogan continues, "Send me your money! God will bless you!" I overheard that some people were responding to a well-known female preacher that if she needed money, she should sell her private jet. I believe Jesus wants us to live a comfortable life as his messengers. I do not have any argument against living a decent life. But, I often question why we need to condone a super-affluent lifestyle at the expense of the ministry while many are going through serious financial difficulties due to the present economic hardship. When Jesus started the ministry, did he ask his disciples to come to him and get rich in things of the world?

The gospel of material prosperity came from the justification of greed by those willing to steal the church’s revenues meant to serve the people in need. In the book of Acts, those disciples work together and use the church revenue for the good of all. They created a community to serve their congregation. Today, the same greed that brought down the Wall Street has infected the church as a raging cancer. That cancer is GREED! The reason why many people are suffering in some of the developing countries with large oil revenues is not because the countries are poor. The leaders are embezzling the oil revenues and putting them in their own personal banks. They are building treasures for themselves while the common people are suffering. The outbreak of political unrest in the Middle East by the common people was the same reason. Dictators were taking the countries’ revenues and pocketing them. Similarly, inside the church today, the same poison is polluting the gospel message of Christ. A wonderful unspoken gospel is, "Justify my greed!"

When Jesus went to the cross, he had nothing to his name. Everything he had was taken away from him. Even the clothes on his back were stripped off him, while they publicly exposed his privacy to shame him for the sins of humanity. That was why Jesus commented that they cast lots on his clothes. That was all he had, and nothing else. Today, prosperity preachers are justifying greed in the name of Christianity and we wonder why some of our Christian college students are questioning our Jesus. How can a preacher be flying in private jet and living in a multi-million dollar mansion, and begging poor people for more money in the name of Christ? While the poor man is struggling to put food on the table, should he be happy to give up his food to send money and sustain the super-affluent lifestyle of a preacher? Does this make any sense? However, I am not against tithing in the church for the good of the congregation. The important issue is what we use the church revenue to do? Fill the pockets of the preachers, or to promote the kingdom work.

While searching the Bible here are 10 major points why Jesus did not preach the prosperity gospel.

Behind Every Illicit Pleasure, There is a Razor Blade

There is nobody who ever had more money than Solomon. He had access to more women than any king that ever lived. Despite all his riches and glory, King Solomon was very poor in the Holy Spirit, and he suffered from depression. The same riches and glory he possessed, never fulfill the void within him for the Holy Spirit.

In his words, Solomon said,

"So I became great and excelled more than all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me - - - Then, I looked on all the works that my hands had done, and on the labor in which I had toiled. And indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 2:9-11).

Samson in the book of Judges decided he was going to allow the pleasure of sex to drive his life despite he was a Nazirite to God from the womb - separated for God’s purpose. He lost his anointing at the feet of lustful desire. In the end, he also lost his life. The lust for pleasure is no different from the lust for materials things that is presently destroying our society. The same omen of evil that brought down the Wall Street is presently infecting the body of Christ. I believe the shaking in the church is yet to come!

God Warned the People About the Danger of Material Prosperity

Why will Jesus be preaching material prosperity when he knew that the devil was going to use money as the tool to oppress people in the end time? There is an omen of evil associated with material prosperity that makes people forget God. Even God himself warned about this. And some times rich people blaspheme God because of power, fame, and the joy of the flesh associated with the earthly riches.

God already knew that man’s passion is contaminated at the level of his desires by the devil. The more we embrace the pleasure, the closer we get to the domain of the devil. At the peak of our excitements with pleasure, we open the door for the devil. God did not ask us not to have pleasure, but in moderation. The devil is the one who infected human soul with the virus of greed and lust. God created a perfect man. Consequently, God warned us, "Lest when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses, and dwell in them. And when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiply, and all that you have are multiplied, then your heart if lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt from the house of bondage - - - if you by any means forget the Lord your God - - - I testify against you this day that you shall surely perish" (Deuteronomy 8:12-19).

Christians Are Warned Not to Love the World

As Christians we have been warned not to love the world. How can we explain our illicit affairs with earthly treasures at the expense of our eternal salvation? How can we preach, "God will bless you" message and at the same time preach that God does not want us to love the world? God knows the lure of materialism and how it can seduce people from God the same way the devil seduced Eve from God.

St. John in his own words, "Do not love the world, or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever" (I John 2: 15-17).

God Curses Preachers Feeding Themselves and not the Flocks

As preachers, we are God’s shepherds and have been given the assignment to feed the flocks. If we refuse to feed the sheep, God will bring us to judgment. Those shepherds who are enriching their personal pockets at the expense of the flocks will one day face painful judgment of God.

God speaks in his own words, "Woe (curse) to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves. Should not the shepherd feed the sheep? You eat the fat and clothe yourself with wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flocks. The weak you have not strengthen, nor have you healed those who are sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost, but with force and cruelty you have ruled them" - - - Thus said the Lord God, "Behold I am against the shepherds who fed themselves, and did not feed my flock" (Ezekiel 34:3-10).

God Condemns Greed

The church today is no different from the secular world in pursuit of money, power and fame. There is a relentless pursuit of money inside the church. We have accepted that the more money a church makes, the more successful the church. This is not true. Material prosperity has no place in the kingdom of God.

Here is what God says about greed, "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 own gain, from his own territory" (Isaiah 56:11).

Jesus Preached Against Material Prosperity

In this section of the article, I want Jesus Our Loving Savior to comment on the so-called prosperity gospel.

Jesus in his own Words:

"Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added to you" (St. Luke 12:31).

"Sell what you have and give to the poor, provide yourself money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that will not fail, where no thief approaches, nor moth destroys" (St. Luke 12:33).

"Do not lay up for yourself treasures on earth, where moth and rust can destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal" (St. Matthew 6:19-20).

"If you want to be perfect, go sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me" (St. Matthew 19:21).

Jesus’ Answer to a Critical Question

A few years ago, when I was in financial difficulty, I asked Jesus to give me a million dollars. Actually, I was praying to God. I made a bargain with God in that prayer that I would spend some of the money for the Lord. After my prayer, Jesus appeared and said,

"If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me" (St. Matthew 16:24).

Jesus delivered the message himself without a doubt about what he meant. I saw him looking directly at me when he delivered the message. This testimony is documented in my book, Closer Walk With Jesus, just released this summer 2011. One thing that happened after Jesus visitation was, he gave me all I needed, and not what I wanted. I did not get a million dollars from Jesus, but he gave me all I needed to live a simple life. Perhaps Jesus wants the body of Christ to know the quest for money in the ministry is currently polluting his gospel message. One thing I cannot do is to lie on Jesus without facing serious punishment from above. He who has ears let him hear what the Spirit is telling the body of Christ.

Failure of the True Gospel Message in the Church

Preaching the gospel of material prosperity today in the U.S. had gotten many Christians in financial trouble. They are motivated to buy things they cannot afford in order to show off to people they are being blessed by God. Many Christians therefore come to church looking for financial prosperity from God. If they do not receive money as they have requested, they become disenchanted saying God has refused to listen to their prayers. In the quest for these material things, we sidestep the very and most important reason for the gospel message of Jesus Christ relating to a life in the Spirit of the holiness of God. We exchanged the quest for a deeper relationship with God, with an unquenchable lust for riches. A relentless quest to become rich inside the church has destroyed the values of the true gospel message of Christ. Many of the messages of Christ about helping the poor, loving God and others, kindness to others, desires for forgiveness, compassion for those that are suffering, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, saving the homeless, nursing those that are sick, and many others have been pushed aside to achieve material prosperity. Why? Because all other important messages Jesus preached about helping others are very contrary to the principle of predatory capitalism that some churches are currently involved. Kindness to others is based on love while predatory capitalism is based on greed, hate and selfishness. Consequently, the gospel messages of Christ have been reduced to just slogans, and are losing their effects, even inside the church. This is the more reason why the devil is presently gaining grounds against Christians in the public arena. The hypocrisy of the church is actively destroying the gospel message of Christ. We have replaced the quest for an intimate relationship with God, with our intimate relationship with more money at the expense of the ministry.

There is a critical issue with lust for money like a drug of addiction. Those who are lustful over money are lustful over other things. Sadly those people tend to have serious problems with relationship void, or other issues unresolved or pain in their lives. They believe the lust for material things, money, or illicit relationship will eventually cure their hidden pain. It does not work. How many millionaires have ever announced they have enough money? Lust for money, power, materialism, or illicit relationship can never fulfill the inner void of man for God. This problem has now invaded the church and even mega church preachers are not sure how to handle the problem of lust for money.

Should We Live a Life Of Poverty?

When the question was placed before both Jesus and Paul whether a person should marry or not, the answer was simple. Some people are celibate by choice for the kingdom of God. Others are celibate from birth. There are people made celibate my men. Jesus said being celibate is by choice. Similarly, anybody can choose to be poor for the kingdom of God. Some Christian leaders take the oath of poverty. Please do not denigrate their sacrifice to justify your greed. Being poor is not a curse contrary to the false teachings of the prosperity preachers. Jesus actually declared that he was poor and homeless when a man requested to follow him. Jesus said, "Foxes have holes, bird have nests, but the son of man has no place to place his head" (St. Matthew 8:20).

How come we want to be like Jesus, but we are unwilling to suffer like Jesus?

I do not believe Jesus is against material prosperity. Perhaps there are Christians who will become rich, hopefully not at the expense of the congregation. However, the focus of living a kingdom life is to walk in the Spirit of God and not in the spirit of greed. The abundant life Jesus preached was not a life of superfluous affluence at the expense of the church members, but to live a life of contentment. Not all of us can be millionaires! Many people in developing countries have far less than we have in the Western World, yet they are happier, more joyful and contented praising God. In the West, despite all the big houses and cars, we are still dying of depression and lack of fulfillment. Read my article about the rich man who found joy in his poverty when he chose to be homeless.

Kingdom Life is Different From the Secular World

For those working in the kingdom for the Lord, Jesus preached a life of spiritual prosperity and a life of material contentment in the kingdom. What we should be doing is not stealing from the flocks, but to provide for them as God has commanded in the book of Ezekiel, and prepare them for the difficult days ahead. Everybody’s work will be brought to judgment, whether good or bad. I have often worried why Jesus told the story of Lazarus and the rich man. It appeared as if that story was in the secular world. Could Jesus be giving us mirror reflections of what some shepherds were going to be doing to the suffering sheep in their care? Do you believe you can live in a mansion on earth and have another one ready for you in Heaven? Can you have it both ways?

Only God himself can answer that question.

According to the latest report, Heaven is now accepting a storage place for our earthly possessions to be shipped to Heaven – if you believe that statement; you’re not reading your Bible.

As I finished this article, I was still wondering if this is what the Lord wanted me to share with the people. It was Saturday July 30, 2011, and I turned on the television. One of my favorite television preachers, Pastor David Jeremiah was preaching about the book of Galatians. He explained that those who wanted to derail Paul’s ministry accused him of preaching a different gospel. Paul used the first part of his letter to Galatians to explain that he was not preaching a different gospel. He was preaching the same gospel he received from the Lord which is the same gospel other disciples were preaching. Pastor Jeremiah then commented that some preachers today are preaching a prosperity gospel which they cannot apply in developing countries. He indicated that God did not create one gospel for the rich nations and another for the poor nations. "There is only one gospel," he hinted, "and it is the gospel of grace." What a confirmation of God’s divine message!

"And behold, I am coming quickly and my reward is with me to give to every one according to his work" (Rev 22:12).

by Yinka Vidal, author, Closer Walk With Jesus