The first time I heard about prosperity theology was about two years ago at my church during a conversation with my church family. After hearing about it I began to wonder, “Is this something we should allow into our lives as Christians?” and “What does the Bible say about this?”
What is Prosperity Theology? Prosperity Theology refers to two possible beliefs. The more extreme one believes pursuing a relationship with Christ will lead you to be blessed financially and happy. The second possible belief of prosperity theology is that if we follow Christ we will no longer struggle with pain or sin, and that he desires for us to live a better life than He did when He resided on Earth.
After reading that you might be thinking, “Wow that sounds great”. But neither of those are beliefs that we should have as Christians. Read this article to find out why.
What Is Prosperity Theology?
Prosperity theology is the belief that if you follow Jesus your life will be the opposite of his. Meaning that once you believe in him, you will never experience bad health, pain, sin, or poverty.
Prosperity theology first began to rise in the 1950s in the U.S and has since grown in popularity. Prosperity theology draws people in by telling them that if they follow Jesus they will be blessed beyond their imaginations and that nothing bad should ever come to them.
It is very likely that prosperity got its origins of beliefs from a movement that began in the 1830s called new thought. Though new thought movement did not originally derive from Christian beliefs, as it grew in popularity it became a belief practiced by Christians. The core idea behind this movement is that if you retrained your brain to focus on the positive that all of your desires would be fulfilled and granted by God.
One of the most famous prosperity teachers stated this regarding his belief of what God wants for us.
It’s God’s will for you to live in prosperity instead of poverty. It’s God’s will for you to pay your bills and not be in debt.Joel Osteen
Another belief of prosperity theology is that if you are in poverty and struggling financially then you are disobeying God’s will for you and that you must fix your financial situation to get back in his good graces.
Viewpoints Of Prosperity Theology
Though the core belief for prosperity theology is that once you follow Christ you will be blessed, there are different variations of prosperity theology and viewpoints of it.
Word of Faith Movement
The Word of Faith movement is the belief that God desires for us to thrive in every aspect of our life and since we are created in his image we are little gods. The belief that we are little gods causes them to believe that we in ourselves have the power to change our circumstances and gain all that we desire.
This belief is often referred to as “name it to claim it”. Name it to claim it is the idea that since we have this power within us we can speak what we desire and receive it.
Often times we can make requests to God and state what we desire, but when we vocally declare something ourselves and expect it to occur then we are practicing Word of Faith.
Word of Faith also believes that if you are facing trials and struggling financially then you are not fully trusting God, nor are you living out your faith actively.
Prosperity gospel, also referred to as the health and wealth gospel, believes that once you make a decision to follow Christ, you will be blessed beyond all measure because we are to live a better life than Jesus during his time here on earth.
This belief comes from the idea that since we are God’s children we are royal heirs to the kingdom. Since we are royal heirs we must only be given and have the best in order to maintain our appearance, and be pleasing to God.
Those who believe in the prosperity gospel will usually not go to countries with high rates of illness or that are in extreme poverty or anywhere that involves hands-on work.
This is due to the belief that as children of God we are royals, and royals are not to get their hands dirty or put themselves in situations where they could be exposed to anything that is not good.
Prosperity lite is a less extreme view of prosperity theology. One of the core beliefs of prosperity lite is that once you come to Jesus you will no longer encounter bad days, bad health, or anything negative.
Prosperity lite also minimizes sin by saying that sin is something we no longer struggle with once coming to Christ and in itself is not that bad of a thing. It is also the belief that we will no longer endure pain once coming to Christ. He does not want us to have to through anything bad.
In the Bible, it states that we are to pursue being like Christ in all that we do.
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.1 Peter 2:21
Christ did not live an easy life. He was hated, tortured, and suffered so that we may be forgiven as well as having the wrath of God removed from us so that we may one day join him in heaven.
To believe that we are to live a life without suffering is unbiblical. Christ endured great suffering on the cross.
We are called to follow Christ’s steps which includes suffering.
If we teach others that once you follow Christ you will no long endure suffering, then we are setting them up for failure in their spiritual walk. Once they encounter spiritual warfare or something bad happens they will immediate question their faith because of what they’ve been taught to believe.
Through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.Romans 5:2-5
Suffering is not something we should be afraid of or use as a tool to see if whether or whether not we are striving in our faith.
Rather we should view it as a beautiful moment in our relationship with Christ because when we cling to God in our moments of suffering he grows us.
Another Biblical teaching is that God does have to bless us, we are undeserving of all that we receive from Him but he gives it to us despite our sin nature. Because we are unworthy of all that we have received, we should be good stewards with all of our blessings so that we may live out a life for God’s glory instead of our own.
10 Reasons Why Prosperity Theology Is Dangerous
Prosperity theology in itself is unbiblical, so we must be aware of the negative impacts it can have on us as well as how to identify it when it is being taught to us.
1) Teachers of prosperity gospel will not always claim it: Preachers who believe in prosperity theology will not always claim it, so use caution when attending a new church or listening to a sermon by a new preacher. If they do not speak about isolation, pain, grief, sin, or the gospel in its entirety proceed with caution so that you are not allowing false doctrine into your life.
2) Prosperity gospel is being exported overseas: Prosperity gospel is widely practiced in Africa in the bigger cities due to prosperity teachers from the U.S going over there and teaching. Due to this, the people in these countries are not being raised up to fully follow Christ, they are instead taught to give to these teachers and follow Christ so that they may no longer suffer or live a life in poverty.
3) Mindset of me instead of we: Prosperity theology teaches us to desire only the good in our lives and that Jesus wants us to have access to all that we’ve ever wanted us. This causes us to live in a mindset of me instead of we. Christ desires us to be united as one family in Him, not want to desire things for ourselves. We must be willing to share all that God has given us with those around us so that we can help build each other up as a family.
4) Everything I own is mine: Those who practice prosperity theology end up believing all that they own is theirs which is not true according to the bible. All that we own is God’s including our money. We are called to be not of this world, so when we see all of our possessions as solely ours we are giving in to the desires of this world.
5) Prosperity is about possessions and happiness instead of God’s glory: Prosperity theology teaches you that you prosper through riches and happiness, but Ephesians 1:3 states that we prosper in life through the spiritual blessings that God has given us. We must have a biblical view of prosperity to thrive in our faith, rather than the world view of prosperity.
6) The Bible warns about prosperity theology: Prosperity gospel is something we are warned about by Paul in 1 Timothy 6:3-10.
If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing.
They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.1 Timothy 6:3-10
The Bible is not a choose your own adventure book, we can not just simply choose what we want to believe from it or change what it says in order to gain what we want. We must apply all of which God has commanded us to do in his word and use it as a handbook for our lives.
7) We celebrate bible characters who suffer: The Bible is filled with characters who did not have it easy. They went through struggles some of which we could never imagine. God used their struggles to grow them according to his purpose that he prepared in advance for them to do. In Hebrews 11 we see Abraham, Joseph, and Moses celebrated for their faith throughout even the most difficult times of their lives.
8) Prosperity theology is man-centered instead of God-centered: Prosperity theology tells us to live a selfish life focused on our own wants and needs in order to fulfill our own goals for ourselves, this is not biblical. We are told in the Bible that this life is not our own, our focus in this life should be fulfilling God’s plan for us in order to bring Him glory.
Prosperity Theology Teachers
This list is to not bash the teachers of prosperity theology but to open your eyes to those who teach it so that you may be extremely cautious before allowing them in your lives.
- Joel Osteen
- Creflo Dollar
- TD Jakes
- Joyce Meyer
- Paula White
- Fred Price
- Kenneth Copland
- Robert Tilton
- Eddie Long
- Juanita Bynum
- Paul Crouch
These are not the only teachers of prosperity theology, so do not just assume that everyone else is someone you can trust to lead you in your spiritual walk. When determining if someone a teacher you should trust do the following: Ask yourself where is this in the Bible?
Pay attention to whether or not they actively give back to the community, do they mention suffering, sin, and pain when teaching or do they just focus on joy.
I always recommend going to a trusted mentor or pastor and having discussions about prosperity theology so that you can be even more aware of what to look for.
Why It’s Important To Understand
Though prosperity theology is in itself unbiblical, it is still important to understand so that you will be able to call it out when you see it. God does not want us to live a life where we automatically dismiss anything that is not of Him, but instead to bring it to light so that everyone may see who He truly is.
We must be aware of prosperity theology, so that we may also understand why it is unbiblical and be able to properly explain it to someone else who believes in it.
Prosperity theology is incredibly popular not only in the U.S but also in several different places within Africa.
If we just go up to someone and tell them that everything they believe is wrong without biblical evidence they are less likely to turn away from their current beliefs and follow scripture.
God’s Word is solid evidence and should be the basis for all of our theology, so when we use to show that scripture does not support a certain belief we are able to open others’ eyes to who our God really is.
If you are reading this and currently practice/ believe in prosperity theology please know that this does not make you a not saved. Once you confess with your mouth that Jesus is your savior, accept him into your heart, and repent for your sins you are saved.
However, since Jesus is your savior you must live out His word and follow his teachings.
Dear ones, please do not just believe something because it is nice or popular. Take it to Scripture and determine if this is a Godly belief or a worldly belief.