Is the so called Prosperity Gospel a false teaching? If the Apostle Paul is here today, what would be his respond to this question?
1Timothy 6:5 (NLT), “These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy. Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.”
Paul said that true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. The key word is contentment. Dictionary defines the word content as: to appease the desires of, to limit (oneself) in requirements, desires, or actions.
However, where do we draw the line when someone has crossed over contentment? Who sets the rule? Who is our arbiter? There is a saying, “Different folks, have different strokes.” We are not the same when it comes to contentment. Some are content driving Honda Civic; while others are content driving Mercedes Benz. Others are content working under a boss; others are content being the boss.
One of the practical objectives of Prosperity Gospel is to change the behavior of the Christian world regarding the poor life styles of the ministers of the Gospel of Christ. For the past centuries, a Pastor has always been viewed as a poverty stricken man of God. He was the jack of all trade in a church with almost no money in his pocket. Back then Poverty Gospel has been accepted as part of the truth of life. However, this is not so. Poverty Gospel is a result of unbalanced teaching of the Word of God.
In this present age, Prosperity Gospel is much accepted because it promotes hope, and it gives the poor another chance to get out of poverty. The message has given the poor a fresh air to breath. It gives motivation to change their lives from being a pitiable to a respectable person. Literally, Prosperity Gospel has become the good news to the poor. Nobody can deny it. As a matter of fact, people who read self-help books and attend success seminars are those who want to change their lives for the better.
And here, we have the Bible in our lap teaching us and motivating us that God has something better for us. It is a fact that countless have benefited from the Prosperity Gospel. People have dreamt again to go beyond anyone can imagine. The church has awakened and has come to the realization of the evil of the Poverty Gospel.
Now, if you live in a third world country, where poverty is all you know, Prosperity Gospel will give you a new beginning, it will inspire you to try something new to better yourself. However, if you live in a nation with almost every household has a desk top computer and a flat screen TV, or when everyone has a choice between McDonald and KFC for a midnight snack, Prosperity Gospel for you appears to be another preacher’s scam.
What went wrong with the Prosperity Gospel? Obviously, it suffocated because of the abuse of the message, and the greed of the messengers. That is the tragic of this wonderful message of change.
Paul warned Timothy, “…To them, a show of godliness is just a way to become wealthy (1 Timothy 6:5).”
It is true that the message of the Prosperity Gospel has become a scheme to gain unreasonable wealth, wealth for personal use instead for helping out the poor members of the Body of Christ and the poverty stricken humanity.
Money is not evil, but the love of it. As a matter of fact, the Book of Proverbs has cited incredible wisdom in acquiring wealth, and reveals positive influence of money in one’s life. Again, the real culprit is the desire to be rich. Paul said that those who desire to become rich fall into temptations.
“Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare … for the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil … (1Timothy 6:9-10).”
Also in this present generation, you may think that Prosperity Gospel is guilty of a spiritual crime. That is not true. Countless ministers and ministries, who condemn prosperity gospel, are also culpable of the same spiritual crime.
It is sad that many of Christian ministries of the western world have turned into a capitalist’s accomplice. They have become money changers. They have put a price tag on the gospel. They have been selling the gospel from a meaningless book to a worthless song in the name of God. Once again, greed has crept in.
There is a deceiving spirit of corporate greed in the church these days. Corporate minds have crept into the church without resistance. The color of money has blinded the undiscerning spirits. Prayer meetings have transformed into a merchant’s meetings and the Word vanished in the deceptive commerce of greed. The disciples have become businessmen and entrepreneurs. The church has become a huge department store. They sell everything.
Now, let’s see how the Apostle Paul takes his spin on wealth and money as a man of God. You see, joining the labor force of God is a result of responding to God’s calling. The truth is no one is qualified in that service. However, the Lord is the one who qualifies. Paul knew this truth prior to the start of his ministry. He did not qualify himself. God did.
Paul reminded us that God called him, qualified him, and placed him in the ministry. God is his Employer. God signs his paycheck. Paul was not a hireling who works from eight to five. He was never under the mercy of a financial administrator. Nobody could fire him. He was never out of job. He cannot be laid off. For Paul, there was no bad or good economy, for him it had always been good. He was able to survive the bad times and the good times.
2 Corinthians 3:5-6 (NLT), “It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant.”
Paul said that God examines the motives of our hearts, and everybody has to take the money test.
“For we speak as messengers approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News. Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts. Never once did we try to win you with flattery, as you well know. And God is our witness that we were not pretending to be your friends just to get your money!” (1 Thessalonians 2:4-5)
Paul has all the right to receive financial or material blessings from his audience in return. His justification is the Old Testament practice and from the principles of the word of God. Paul also knew that the ministry of the Gospel of Christ is costly, that there is money involved in this cause. However, Paul declines to claim his right for the sake of maintaining his integrity and to remain blameless, and most of all, the opportunity to preach the Gospel of Christ.
1 Corinthians 9:3-18 (NLT)
“… Or is it Barnabas and I who have to work to support ourselves? … Since we have planted spiritual seed among you aren’t we entitled to a harvest of physical food and drink? … But we never used this right. We would rather put up with anything than be an obstacle to the Good News about Christ.”
“ … In the same way, the Lord ordered that those who preach the Good News should be supported by those who benefit from it. Yet I have never used any of these rights … In fact, I would rather die than lose my right to boast about preaching without charge.”
“ … If I were doing this on my initiative, I would deserve payment. But I have no choice, for God has given me this sacred trust. What then is my pay? It is the opportunity to preach the Good News without charging anyone. That’s why I never demand my rights when I preach the Good News without charging anyone.”
At the latter part of Paul’s ministry, in Acts 28:30, “For the next two years, Paul lived in Rome at his own expense.”
Paul lived in Rome at his own expense. What a great apostle who preaches the real prosperity message. That’s the way he operates.
It’s easy to understand if you as a man of God can live in multi-million dollar property at your own expense. However, it is too much to comprehend if you live in the same place at the expense of the poor and needy members of your congregation.
The Apostle Paul is probably on ballistic when a man of God names his price for a less than an hour preaching of the Word of God.
Jesus did not receive any offerings after His preaching along with signs, wonders, miracles, and healings, and so forth. As a matter of fact, after His powerful teaching, Jesus fed His thousands of listeners for free. No charge at all.
Paul said to imitate him. You have to be called by God and separated for Him to work in His ministry. God will give you the ability to live like Paul. Paul never worries when it comes to money. He said the he earned his own money by using his hands in labor.
Although Paul can use some of his follower’s money, he chose not to for the sake of the Gospel of Christ. His joy is the opportunity to preach the Word of God. He will rather pay you so you could spend a little time with him and hear him preach the Gospel of Christ.
Surely I could hear Paul saying, “But for me, my God shall supply all my needs according to His richest in glory through Christ Jesus.”
In fact, Paul might end something like this, “And uh, excuse me; I don’t need your money anyways.”
In Matthew 19:16-21, a rich man asked Jesus what he needs to do to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus told him to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor, and then follow Him. The rich man went away sad because he had many possessions.
You see, the rich man failed the money test. It is not wrong to have wealth in this world; however, wealth is here to share. Even in the Old Testament, God’s heart is always reaching out to the poor.
God have mercy on us.