I’m not a big fan of the prosperity gospel. Personally, I have not been influenced greatly either way with the prosperity gospel but there are several considerations we should notice and reflect on. So, I’m going to try not to be harsh, but observant and faithful to the message of the Bible.
The first consideration we should take is, “What is hiding in plain sight?” Think about it for a moment: What is hiding in plain sight about the prosperity gospel? If the prosperity gospel was the Gospel itself, we wouldn’t have to call it the prosperity gospel; we would know we are all talking about the prosperity gospel when we say the word Gospel. But we don’t. We have to indicate that we are talking about a different kind of gospel. A different kind of news. This distinction already sets the tone for the wary Christian. “What’s different about this gospel than the regular Gospel?”
The second consideration follows from the first, “What is the prosperity gospel?” Fortunately, this is not difficult to unpack. The context that this word normally is associated with is drawn from other synonyms that clarify the meaning. You’ve heard of the, “Health, wealth and prosperity gospel.” That is what the prosperity gospel is defined by: receiving health, wealth and prosperity. The idea is that God provides material prosperity for those he favors. Also, according to Wikipedia’s entry on “prosperity theology,” it centers around the idea that "believers have a right to the blessings of health and wealth and that they can obtain these blessings through positive confessions of faith and the 'sowing of seeds' through the faithful payments of tithes and offerings.”
The third consideration we should take as Christians is, “Is this taught in the Bible?” Notice the consideration is NOT, “Are there bible verses that teach this?” or “What verses can I find that will back up my position?” The reason we believe what we believe in the Bible is because of the intention of the author(s) who wrote it. Some verses that the prosperity gospel proponents advocate in support of their view are Malachi 3:10; Deuteronomy 8:18; John 10:10 and 3 John 1:4. Do these verses teach that the believer in Christ is entitled to health, wealth and prosperity? Not as the leaders of the prosperity movement would have you believe. In each of these verse’s respective contexts there are unique situations that are driving the writer to say what he says. (Side note: The Bible also does not teach that God absolutely does NOT provide a degree of “health,” “wealth” or “prosperity.” So, please don’t misunderstand me.) In these contexts God is either providing a certain way for a certain reason or is promising spiritual “prosperity” that is found in Christ.
While it may seem that I am going easy on the prosperity gospel, you need to know that it is absolutely not taught throughout the Bible. As a general rule doctrines or teachings of the Bible should be established by their continued teaching and affirmations or examples found throughout the Bible. We should not create an idea and then feed it using whatever Bible verses we can find. Remember: the contexts determine the meaning of the verses and the verses that are used to support the prosperity gospel are not aligned with their proper contexts. That is why they are able to say what they can say: they have changed what the Bible verses actually meant by the original authors.
Promising health, wealth and/or prosperity to a believer when the Bible does not promise such things is dangerously misleading to the “un-Bibled Christian.” The promises from alleged health, wealth and prosperity verses are GREATLY outweighed by the verses that promise troubles, trials and suffering!
Consider promises such as “in this world you will have trouble (John 16:33); “consider it pure joy … whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2); “do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering” (1 Pet 4:12). The Bible never denotes money or celebrity status as a sign of God’s blessing (2 Cor. 6:3–10). Trouble or struggle in our lives does not evidence the lack of God’s blessing upon us or our families.
In 2 Corinthians 6:3-10 Paul writes, “We do not give anyone an occasion for taking an offense in anything, so that no fault may be found with our ministry. But as God’s servants, we have commended ourselves in every way, with great endurance, in persecutions, in difficulties, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots, in troubles, in sleepless nights, in hunger, by purity, by knowledge, by patience, by benevolence, by the Holy Spirit, by genuine love, by truthful teaching, by the power of God, with weapons of righteousness both for the right hand and for the left, through glory and dishonor, through slander and praise; regarded as impostors, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well-known; as dying and yet – see! – we continue to live; as those who are scourged and yet not executed; as sorrowful, but always rejoicing, as poor, but making many rich, as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”
Paul understood that the true Gospel is not the possession of wealth, material or prosperity; whatever that means. But the true Gospel is the possession of Christ and repentance within the believer! The prosperity gospel takes the focus away from Christ, away from the Cross and puts it on possessions and our status within our lives: the very thing Paul warned the Corinthian church to stay away from. Read Paul’s letters to Corinth and you’ll see evidenced that Paul is fighting a lot of what the prosperity gospel people are promoting.
In short, the prosperity gospel is bankrupt of truth and power. The prosperity gospel short changes the believer into thinking that he/she should be in possession of prosperity when rightfully they will be in possession of persecution because they have purposed to please Christ in all aspects of their lives regardless of possessions or position or power.