For a greater part of my christian life, my understanding of christianity was shaped by the Charismatic and Word of Faith movement. The idea that God saves us to bless us with material wealth, divine health and a good life is characteristics of the movement. Prosperity, divine health is my portion! I am walking in blessings and divine health! These are but just a few cliches of the movement.
Fundamentally, the theology of the movement is anthropocentric, oppossed to Christianity been theocentric.
In the prosperity gospel, also known as the “Word of Faith,” the believer is told to use God, whereas the truth of biblical Christianity is just the opposite”God uses the believer. Word of Faith or prosperity theology sees the Holy Spirit as a power to be put to use for whatever the believer wills.
About three years ago, I began drifting from the beliefs of charismatism. The drift was precipitated by a number of books I read by Charles R. Swindoll. One of the titles that made a difference in my life was; “So, You Want To Be Like Christ? Eight Essentials To Get You There”. That book disturbed my theology. My drift however, was gradual, at a snail’s pace, as I had not fully grasped what was wrong with the prosperity, health and wealth gospel. Many of my friends held to those beliefs and still do, and not having the right knowledge to counteract it, I kept what I had encountered to myself.
During the same period also, I was exposed to Reformed Theology. My world was thrown into complete chaos–positive chaos if there is a phrase like that. All the beliefs I held before were challenged. All my “heroes” were being described as false teachers. That was too much to take. But gradually, dedicating myself to reading and studying the Bible, the puzzles started falling in place. I haven’t fully grasped all there is to the Christian faith, but I have gained some understanding I believe I can share.
Of prosperity and divine health, I have come to three conclusions of what’s behind this heresy.
1: A Depraved Mind Deprived Of Truth
1 Timothy 6:3-10
There is no place in the Bible believers are promised prosperity and divine health. To believe God saved us to prosper us is a sign of a depraved mind. The proponents have corrupt minds and corrupt the minds of their followers. They are greedy. They pry on the innocent, using their position of influence to lead people astray. They are robbers who fleece the sheep for selfish gains. They are deprived of truth not understanding the truth of God’s word. Anyone who believes and accepts the prosperity and divine health nonsense is clearly guilty of thinking godliness is a means of gain.
The Bible clearly warns the love of money is the root of all evil. Yet, point this out to the proponents of the prosperity gospel and they will in turn inform you “it is the love of money that is evil not money”. Very well said, money indeed is not evil, but the love of it. But how can one have money at the root of their theology and yet deny they love money? If you believe in the prosperity gospel, you love money! However you try to look at it, you love money. At the root of your desire for riches, is the love of money. You want to be rich, and you desire that so much, don’t you? The diagnosis: you love money.
2: A Low View Of Scripture
To believe Jesus Christ died to make you prosper and successful is a blatant lie. It is a result of under- valuing the weight and glory of Holy Scripture. Much of the proof texts used to propagate prosperity and divine health are complete mishandling and distortion of the word of truth. I will examine two popular ones:
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.(2Corinthians 8:9).
“Though he was rich,yet for your sake he became poor”…This in no sense speaks of material prosperity. The riches been spoken about here is the glory He left behind in heaven, putting aside His divinity to live the life of a human being. If we are to interpret the riches here as something earthly, the question we must answer is that, “where He came from, i.e. heaven, was there transactions of money which makes Him rich?” No, the riches is the glory He laid aside to become human and live amongst us. (Phillipians 2:5-9).
“so that you by his poverty might become rich”: All human beings by virtue of our sins are wretched and separated from God’s glory (Rom 3:23). To be separated from God’s glory makes us poor and souls deserving of God’s wrath. But Jesus stepped in; He descended from His glory to make us who will believe in Him, rich, not in terms of material blessings; but reconciliation unto God and restoration from from our sinful state to live lives glorifying to God.( Eph 1:3-4) When we read riches as material blessings, we under value what God did for the Christian through His death and resurrection. He died to reconcile sinners to God, not to make sinners rich.
The next popular text representing divine health is a little phrase “By his wounds you have been healed. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness . By his wounds you have been healed.For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”(1Peter 2:24-25).
“By his wounds you have been healed” is another blatant abuse of the text to say what it is not saying. That phrase in the context it appears says nothing about physical healing. The healing in the context is simply forgiveness of sin in Christ. The context is so clear, I wonder how we twist it. Sin is a disease, a disease that separates us from God. And by Jesus’ wounds on the cross, we were healed of the disease of sin and brought back into fellowship with God.
3. Disregard For Sound Doctrine
Sound doctrine–rightly dividing the word of truth has been replaced by messages to entertain and stimulate itchy ears. In the last days, we are told “people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”(1Timothy 4:3-4).
We indeed are living in the days and the descriptions above fits many church folks. What their Pastor or spiritual leader says is the truth and they won’t hear anyone else, not even when you point them to the truth as revealed in the Bible. Paul admonishes Timothy to “…flee these things”(1Timothy 6:11). Why will you not flee from that which will lead you “…into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.”(v9).
In conclusion, we must indeed work and be good stewards of what God blesses us with. We must however not approach God with the false notion of prosperity. God doesn’t owe us anything. But if by His Sovereignty and Providence, He gives us riches to enjoy, we must live our days in gratitude and generosity:
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.(1Timothy 6:17-19).