Prosperity Gospel is Not The Gospel
- April 28, 2017
- Jared Odenbeck
The prosperity gospel, which proposes that the LORD wills health, wealth, and well-being to those who love and obey him, stands in direct opposition to New Testament teaching and forms a dangerous undercurrent in much of western theology. This type of false and heretical teaching has seeped into the church in increasing measure over the past decade and threatens to compromise many of the most essential components of the Gospel. American culture places heavy emphasis on the accumulation of money and possessions, and prioritizes comfort and security above most everything else. I find that American culture increasingly flexes its authoritative muscle as it grips the church with concerns over things that don’t matter, and frankly, are not of Heaven (Colossians 3:2). We substitute the essence of Christianity – to throw off the old man by Christ to put on the new and die to ourselves so that we might become love and quit serving our own desires and preferences – for things of the world that are passing away (1 John 2:17).
I have a friend, who is a full-time missionary, headed to Jordan in the Middle East. A couple weeks ago, he told me that he felt guilty for leaving to Jordan because he felt as he was escaping the challenges that American culture poses to authentic Christianity. In his mind, it is far easier to be a Christian in Jordan than it is in America. In Jordan, if you are a Christian, you will face persecution daily. If you believe the Gospel halfheartedly and are not wholly convinced of it, you will renounce your faith in no time. In America, however, you can live comfortably in the complacency of belief.
There is no consequence for believing here in America. This is a great freedom that must be enjoyed with great caution, for it breeds a culture of complacency and comfort, which is not Christianity, if we are not cautious. For this reason, the church in India pray that American Christians would come under persecution, not for the sake of our harm, but for the sake of receiving more of Christ and experiencing the sufferings of Christ and authentic belief. Tragically, we thirst after things instead of a drink of Living Water (John 4:14). We desire a life of comfort and ease because we long for the easy gate, since many enter by it, though it leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13), instead of entering by the narrow gate which leads to life, though the way is hard (Matthew 7:14). We know little to no suffering. We do not know the cost of belief. We do not take up our cross daily to the degree to which Christ would have us. For these reasons, I am afraid for the American church.
We cannot serve the prosperity gospel and the true Gospel, for we cannot serve two masters. A desire for prosperity is not of God, as 1 John 2:16 explains that “all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” I have had desires to be successful. I have thirsted after it and found it as an empty and broken cistern that can’t satisfy me. The longings of the world breed competition and striving. There is no end to riches. There is no end to lusts. There always has be more. And when there is more, our longings don’t cease.
So, then, how do we lay aside every weight (Hebrews 12:1), such as the desires of the world and the cultural tides that aim to sweep us up? When we desire worldly prosperity, what must we do? We must cling to Christ as our supreme treasure, desire, aim, and place of satisfaction and comfort. For despite all of Solomon’s lavish wealth and possessions, “…something greater than Solomon is here” (Luke 11:31). We will find the fulfillment of our desires when we seek and find the one who knows them. We must enter by the narrow gate. We must seek to die so that we can live (Romans 8:13). We must lose our life so that we can find it, hidden in Christ (Matthew 10:39, Colossians 3:3).
Jesus promises that “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). Abide can be defined as to stick to, or hold to, which would mean that Jesus says “attach yourself to me, and have my words attach to you.” To abide in him is to become one with him. When we become one with him, his desires become our desires. This is why he calls us to abide in him. He has much to give us, but unless we know him so intimately that we are one with him, we will fail to recognize even our own desires.
Go find your true desires. Go find your life. Go find him.