a voice crying out in the postmodern wilderness

The Snake Oil of the Prosperity Gospel

The Snake Oil of the Prosperity Gospel

If you believe that God's will is for you to be rich and healthy, this is for you. If someone has told you - a preacher, a friend, a book - that Christians, if they're doing it right, are supposed to be wealthy and smiling I really want you to know something:

This is not Biblical.

I am no theologian and I didn't go to seminary, so I am not here to debate from some high horse, but I know enough to warn those I care about (you) when they have been fed garbage for breakfast. It's not just that the prosperity gospel is wrong, the prosperity gospel is evil. All untruths are untruths but some are darker than others - and this one is dark jet black.

If money is spiritual currency, we're playing a dangerous game. If rich people have more spiritual chips than regular folks like most of us or poor people, we need to know why that is. We need to look to Scripture as the ultimate arbiter of truth if we're followers of Jesus.

Jesus said it's easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. Now I don't think that means all rich people are doomed or that we should be poor (the latter is an opposite falsehood called the poverty gospel). I don't feel comfortable putting words in Jesus' mouth, but I think His intent was to explain the high danger of having a lot of money.

If the prosperity gospel were true, God would be putting us in grave eternal danger given Jesus' repeated warnings on money.

History also reinforces the falsehood of the prosperity gospel. The great saints of old often died poor and destitute, some of them being crucified or beheaded. They didn't die of old age in their mansion while choking on caviar. Jesus Himself was poor.

With any Biblical literacy, it's easy to see that the prosperity gospel is false. Purveyors of this snake oil - pun intended - will cherry pick verses about working hard and gaining wealth and use these as cornerstone promises, missing the treasure of Jesus altogether.

In our work, if we listen to Jesus and lay up treasures in heaven by loving others deeply and at great cost to ourselves, we will find meaning and purpose and we'll draw up near to Jesus through the Spirit. On the other hand, if we work to lay up treasures here on earth, we'll get on a treadmill of exhaustion that eventually leads to our feet shooting behind us as our heads hit the treads. 

Working hard, smart, and treating others with respect may well earn you financial rewards. That's Biblical and stands to reason. But the point is not the financial reward itself - the reward is getting more of Jesus in our hard work and dependence upon Him. The money is a byproduct and not something meant to terminate on us so we can lay in our pool while our dolphin fountain sprays Silver Oak into our goblet.

"Gospel" means "good news." The prosperity gospel is not only false, it is intensely bad news. We can never get to the bottom of the bottomless pit of a quest for money. But working under the Gospel of Jesus Christ we will find freedom and purpose and more importantly, we'll get more Jesus. He is cooler than His stuff.


Photo credit: Axion23 via Flickr

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