Your Best Life Now – Part III

Your Best Life Now – Part III

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Part I   Part II

In his best-selling book, ‘Your Best Life Now,’ Joel Osteen addressed the necessity of faith to prosper. He shared that one fellow told him that God will bless who He wants to bless. Osteen wrote, “Unfortunately, that’s just the opposite of how God operates. God works by faith. You must believe first, then you’ll receive. Maybe you’ve been waiting on God to make a move, but God is waiting on you to stretch your faith. Make room in your own thinking, and then you’ll start to experience some of His supernatural increase.”((Osteen, Joel. “God Has More Instore” Your Best Life Now, Warner Faith, 2004, p33)) In the context of needing faith to prosper, I have some scripture to consider. Remember when Jesus told Peter to go fishing to get the temple tax? Did Peter need faith for that? Matthew 17:24-27 Or the man lowered through the roof by his friends. There was no mention of his faith healing him. Luke 5:17-26 One more example is the man healed by the pool of Bethesda, and he did not even know who Jesus was. John 5:1-15

The prosperity gospel is a theodicy. What is a theodicy? It is an explanation for the problem of evil. Why are a few wildly wealthy, and the rest are poor or drone through life in a middle-income bracket? Because the rest don’t give enough, trusting in God. Why are some stuck working at McDonald’s and not C.O.’s at large cooperations making a six-figure income? Because they lack obedience. Why do some have infants die in their cribs, and others seem to lead blessed lives without a loss, struggle, or illness in their family? They don’t express a Godly joy in all circumstances or have hidden sin that hinders healing in their family.

The prosperity gospel takes a snapshot of the world and draws lines to the hardships, illnesses, deaths, tragedies, and losses we experience. Connecting on the other end of those lines is lack of faith, greed, disobedience, and lack of joy. Those lacks are on our backs; they are our fault because an all-loving God would not want any to suffer. We don’t have because we don’t do; that’s what the prosperity gospel teaches. For example, verses like Mark 11:24 “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (NIV) at face value seem to support prosperity teaching. But John makes it clear, 1John 5:14-15 if we ask according to His will, He will hear us. According to His will, not ours.

We don’t dictate to God how he is to manage His creation. In Prosperity Theology, the created become the creators. They create health, wealth, and prosperity according to their desires with no thought to God’s sovereign will. Paul recognized this, 2 Corinthians 12:7-9. Nevertheless, these preachers pluck scripture out of context and manipulate others to become rich or influential. 

Theologians and biblical scholars practice exegesis, which means drawing meaning from the text. Scholars look at the context, who it is written to, and the author’s intent. On the other hand, prosperity gospel preachers perform eisegesis; they don’t draw out meaning but draw in meaning using their own subjective sense completely unsupported by the text.

The Word of Faith, Health and Wealth, Name It and Claim It, Prosperity Gospel preachers all promise God’s generosity benevolence and here and now. They say God does not want us to be broke, ill, or experience suffering. John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” is another verse they will use to support their teachings. But if you read John 10 Jesus is talking about being a gate, a good shepherd, and laying down his life so his followers will have everlasting life. It is not about gaining wealth here on earth. One blogger wrote, “Jesus did say, ‘I came so that they may have life and have it in abundance’ John 10:10. In context, though, Jesus is contrasting himself with false teachers who are like a thief who ‘comes only to steal and to kill and destroy.’ If we take this literally, Jesus is saying that instead of taking from our homes and treasuries, he will fill them with abundance. However, should we read this verse literally? Is it possible Jesus is using figurative language to communicate spiritual truth?” It should be obvious Jesus is not talking about prosperity here and now.((Tamfu, Dieudonne. “The Gods of the Prosperity Gospel.” Desiring God, desiringgod.org, 4 Feb. 2020, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-gods-of-the-prosperity-gospel))

James 4:2 is a common verse used by the Name It and Claim It crowd. “You do not have because you do not ask God.” (NIV) Of course, they leave out the first half of the verse, “You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight.” What I have NEVER heard any word of faith believer is the next verse, James 4:3. The very next verse places a condition on what we ask for. “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Jeremiah 29:11 is probably the most misapplied verse I hear Christians toss out to those struggling. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Well-meaning Christians use it to encourage, promise that good news is around the corner and that everything will work out. Just a little exegesis and you will see that this was a letter to the exiles in Babylon, and it would be another 70 years before they would return home to Israel.

Malachi 3:10 “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” Whoot! What a promise! Again, read that in context. Who was the author, who was he writing or speaking to, and why? This historical situation had to do with the Israelites not giving enough to the national storehouses, which were used to feed the priests of Israel. Because the priests were lacking, they had to take up farming instead of performing their priestly duties. Nehemia 13:10-13 So God was encouraging the Israelites to test Him by giving.

In a TIME poll, nearly 20% of Christians consider themselves part of the prosperity gospel movement. Over 60% believe that God wants you to be wealthy. And sadly, almost 1/3 of Christians polled believe if you give your money to God, He will bless you with more money.((Van Biema, David. Chu, Jeff. “Does God Want You To Be Rich?” Time Magazine, content.time.com, Sept. 10, 2006, http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1533448-2,00.html)) As John Piper put it, the prosperity gospel “elevates the gifts above the Giver.” He went on to say, “God is most glorified in you when you are most satisfied in Him, in the midst of loss, not prosperity.”((Piper, John. MatthiasLot, “John Piper and the Prosperity Gospel” Online video clip. Youtube, 5 Dec. 2007. Web. 16. Oct. 2021 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTc_FoELt8s))

Did Paul ever name it and claim it? Show me one, just one verse that Paul tells us to use to become wealthy or change our circumstances. What Paul did was pray and ask for prayer. Paul asked every single church he planted for prayer. He suffered physically throughout his ministry and was imprisoned multiple times, 2 Corinthians 11:22-28, yet he recognized the value of what he was doing reached beyond any earthy material gain or wealth. Philippians 3:4-8 As my pastor Mike Torok said one Sunday morning, “God does not just open us up and pour in spiritual maturity. Rather He works it in, like molding clay.”

In fact, Paul did not want to be identified as someone who did not work for his own provision. He provided for his own needs and did not expect others to provide for them. 2 Thessalonians 3:8-9

The prosperity gospel is not something Christians can just disagree on; it would not fall into an ‘in-house debate.’ Instead, the prosperity gospel undermines and compromises the Gospel, which is the reason Jesus came, to let us know He has a rescue plan. He did not come to make us happy and healthy, to remove all the burdens and tragedies of the life we experience here on earth; he came to save us because we are incapable of saving ourselves.

I see the prosperity gospel as cancer or a virus, and the preachers who promote it are super spreaders. People want to believe it’s true because it is a convenient formula. Or they find themselves in desperate situations and give their money away to these impostors who pose as men of God who hear from God regularly in dreams, visions, or the Holy Spirit moves them to speak.

I think of the Hindu beliefs of reincarnation. Suppose you were born into a poor family with no hope to rise out of your desperate circumstances; Hindus believe it’s because you were a horrible person in your previous life. The prosperity gospel has a similar theme but removes the boundary of various lives in the Hindu religion. If you are poor or suffering, it is because, right now, you don’t have enough faith, obedience, trust, or joy. Your misery is on you because you are not doing what these pastors tell you to do.

In the final chapter of Hebrews, the author sums up his council, Hebrews 13:5-6 “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'” (NIV) It is crystal clear wealth is not inherently evil unless you pursue it and make it a priority. In Matthew 6:24, He explains, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (NIV)

Finally, in Mark 10:17-25, Jesus speaks with a rich young ruler who desires eternal life. Jesus lists the commandments and the man proudly announces he has kept them all since he was young. Jesus recognized what was hindering this young ruler and called him out. “Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'” The young man walked away disheartened because of his love of money. How many prosperity gospel teachers would walk away from Jesus as this young man did?

God will never owe us because we fill our heavenly bank accounts with faith. Unfortunately, the prosperity gospel leads many Christians to a spiritual entitlement mentality. Our gratitude, joy, and thankfulness should be grounded in the person of Christ and what He has done for us, not in a change of circumstances we dictate to God.

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Your Best Life Now – Part III by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Your Best Life Now – Part II

Your Best Life Now – Part II

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Part I   Part III

Rick Warren, a prominent pastor in Southern California thinks the prosperity gospel is rubbish. He understands being a Christian means sacrifice and recognizes the prosperity gospel preachers for what they are. “This idea that God wants everybody to be wealthy?” he snorts. “There is a word for that: baloney. It’s creating a false idol. You don’t measure your self-worth by your net worth. I can show you millions of faithful followers of Christ who live in poverty. Why isn’t everyone in the church a millionaire?”((Anderson, David. “Does God want you to be rich?”, Religion News Blog, religionnewsblog.com, 11 Sept. 2006, Web. https://www.religionnewsblog.com/15897/does-god-want-you-to-be-rich)) No question Rick Warren is wealthy, but unlike other mainstream pastors of large churches, he donates 90% of his income to other charities. This leaves him with just 10% of his income, still plenty to live comfortably. The names I listed in Part I certainly don’t donate most of their income but keep it to purchase Gulfstream jets, yachts, and multiple homes all over the world.

The prosperity gospel has done enormous damage to the economic well-being of thousands of American’s. In addition, it has negatively impacted millions who have had to help carry the burden of friends and family that have unwisely donated to the prosperity gospel teachers. All the while, the popular preachers of this false doctrine rake in millions, year after year.

Some of these pastors at the Trinity Broadcasting Network have challenged people to donate by maxing out their credit cards. Then they promised listeners God would honor this step of faith and pay off the credit charges at the end of the month.((Editorial, “The Prosperity Gospel Preys on Poverty” New University, newuniversity.org, 23 Nov. 2009, https://www.newuniversity.org/2009/11/23/the-prosperity-gospel-preys-on-poverty/)) So how do you recognize this false gospel when presented to you? On the surface, it can be hard to spot because it is often slipped in a message that otherwise holds truth and wisdom. There are some key phrases or words that might tip you off. For example, abundant living, hearing from God, blessings moving or gravitating in your direction, joy, wealth, health. Claims that your life moves from poverty to prosperity, sickness to health, supernatural increase, and debts disappearing. All under the guise of following Christ. Yet scripture is clear that we will experience suffering. Romans 8:8John 16:33Philippians 1:29

Let’s look at some of the statements and see if you can recognize truth and error.

Creflo Dollar, a popular prosperity gospel preacher, wrote, “One way to gain access to the financial blessing that are found in the Bible is to begin tithing, or giving 10 percent of your gross income to the Lord as well as giving offerings… I have discovered that tithing allows you to hear from God more clearly about what you need to do to prosper in your specific situation. God knows a million ways to get you out of debt and into abundant living…”((Dollar, Creflo. Reason #10: Religion Teaches That Money Is The Root of All Evil. Why I Hate Religion, Faith Words, 2015, pgs. 10-11))

So there it is; if you tithe more, you will hear from God more clearly. Where does scripture teach that if you tithe, you can hear God more clearly? It doesn’t. Deuteronomy chapter 4 talks about hearing His voice, but it has to do with idolatry, not tithing. Deuteronomy 4:35-36 I would add concerning the title of Creflo Dollar’s #10 reason, is false. Scripture does not teach that money is the root of all evil. It teaches the love of money is the root of all evil1Timothy 6:9-11 This is commonly taught with prosperity gospel preachers, that money is the root of all evil, yet they continue to roll in the dough that people send into their ministry. Creflo Dollar has an F rating with Ministry Watch and just a few years ago launched a campaign to raise funds for a 65 million dollar jet he wanted to use to travel the world sharing the gospel. He would not answer why his efforts could not be accomplished flying coach with United or American Airlines.

Benny Hinn, who has made hundreds of millions preaching a prosperity gospel, wrote, “That’s how our Father in heaven operates. He will satisfy our desires when we obey Him…This is just how our loving heavenly Father relates to us. We read in Scripture: Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Ps. 37:4“((Hinn, Benny. The Loving Giving Father, The Biblical Road To Blessing, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997, p. 22))

Does God give us anything we want? Obviously not, but when He becomes the priority in our life, our desires for earthy pleasures move to the back burner. One commentator wrote, “He will give us our desires when they first are shaped by a delight in the Lord. To receive this promise, we must first meet the conditions attached to it: By loving God above all else, our desires will become what he desires for us. Then our greatest longing will be to conform our lives to his will.”((Zondervan, “Psalms” Quest Bible Study Notes. Shelley, Marshall; Elshof, Phyllis Ten, Zondervan, 2011, p.781))

Benny Hinn uses Psalm 37:4 to tell us if we obey God, He will satisfy our desires. But, I have to ask, how did that work out for the disciples? Does Hinn question how much they loved Jesus and obeyed their Lord? Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, was beheaded after being imprisoned in a Roman dungeon. Peter was crucified upside down, and the Roman historian Josephus wrote that James was stoned and beat to death. All of them but John suffered the death of a martyr. I personally know many Godly men and women who have suffered greatly.

Robert Heidler and Chuck Pierce wrote a book titled Following The Laws of Giving and Multiplication. Both are prosperity gospel preachers who claim the more you give, the more you will receive. Robert Heidler wrote about Church Pierce, “Over the years, I have seen what Chuck does when he is faced with financial lack. He gets out his checkbook and starts writing checks! He begins giving money to people. He says, ‘Lord, who should I give to? Who’s in need?’ He will give until his bank account is empty. But he knows that the next day, money will start to come in, and it always does.”((Pierce, Chuck. Heidler, Robert. “Following The Laws of Giving and Multiplication” A Time To Prosper, Chosen, 2013, p. 222))

I would have two questions for Chuck. Why stop giving? If the funds are simply replaced and even multiplied by God, why would you stop giving? Or what caused the financial lack? Following their principle of ‘multiplication Through Giving,’ did Chuck stop giving? Is that what caused the financial lack? It should be easy to spot the absurdity Pierce and Heidler are promoting. If we multiply our finances through giving, why would anyone ever stop giving and experience financial lack? The absurdity of this would be obvious to 5th grader.

Jesus gave us the absolute best investment strategies when he advised us to store up treasures in heaven where nothing can destroy it, and it will never lose its value. Matthew 6:19-21 

Fred Benzel, a pastor in Lincoln, California, wrote in his book, The Force of Joy, “Unless your hands and feet are in stocks and your mouth is taped shut, you too possess the power to unleash incredible miracles to flood into your life. Your outlook can change toward a peaceful and overcoming lifestyle. Wealth and health can be in your house. Your marriage and family life can be blessed. All these blessings and more will gravitate in your direction if you will learn to exercise this wonderful truth of joy through rejoicing.”((Benzel, Fred, “The Force of Joy” The Force of Joy, Tate Publishing and Enterprises, 2011, p. 12)) Benzel tells us if you “practice unleashing this powerful force”((Benzel, Fred, “The Force of Joy” The Force of Joy, Tate Publishing and Enterprises, 2011, p. 12)) You will experience respect, admiration, healing, and wealth filling your bank accounts. But, again, I would ask, where does scripture teach this? Where is an attitude of joy a power we can generate and use to control our wealth? Certainly, scripture teaches us to be joyful or thankful in all circumstances, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Romans 14:17 Hebrews 12:28 but that is to reflect a Christ-like heart, not gain financial wealth. Nowhere in scripture does it teach that having joy is a formula to fill our bank accounts.

Jesse Duplantis was participating in a ‘Victorython’ ( code word for a fundraiser) for Kenneth Coplan’s ministry, said, “The reason Jesus hasn’t come is because people are not giving the way God told them to give.”((Klett, Leah MarieAnn. “Kenneth Copeland Advises Ministries to Find Other Ways to Travel to Avoid Airline Vaccine Mandates: ‘Mark of the Beast’.” The Christian Post, 24 Sept. 2021, https://www.christianpost.com/news/kenneth-copeland-asks-for-money-for-private-jet.html.))There you have it. Duplantis informs us Christ has not returned because we are not giving enough to their ministries. Where in scripture does it even suggest God’s people must give more of their finances to expedite the return of Christ? This kind of teaching is not only heretical but ludicrous!

Gloria Copeland, the wife of Kenneth Copeland, wrote in her book, God’s Master Plan for Your Life, “If you research God’s Word, believe it, and obey it, it will totally revolutionize your life from the inside out. It will take you from poverty to prosperity, from sickness to health. It will take you from failure to success in every area of life.”((Copeland, Gloria. “Seek And You Will Find” God’s Master Plan For Your Life, Putnam Praise, 2008, p. 56)) It is true, of course, believing in God’s word can revolutionize your life, but the truth of that statement takes a sudden left turn when promises of prosperity appear.

Another example in reference to being obedient comes from a popular local Facebook Christian who wrote, “Then all of the sudden things shift! Unfavorable circumstances change to favorable, debts disappear, peoples unfavorable views of you shift, judgments against your life are wiped out, desperate financial circumstances change and disease vanishes!”((Pontious, Daniel. Prosperity Through Obedience, Facebook. 2018. Nov. 20, 2020)) It is incredible what people claim and others embrace as truth. Despite asking numerous people for proof of healing, for evidence of debts disappearing, I have yet to find even one. James 1:26 This is rubbish, and people lap it up like a hungry kitten given a bowl of milk.

To be clear, I am not a cessationist. I believe in miracles; I believe that God can heal miraculously and turn around the lives of those who find themselves in difficult financial situations. However, I don’t believe there is any formula that forces God to act. We can’t manipulate God to bless us in any realm. Be aware of those who self-talk. They share visions, dreams, and experiences that can’t be confirmed but often suggest future changes and blessings will flow your way if you do x, y, or z.

There is a subtle yet significant difference between shameless desire and shameful desire. C.S. Lewis helps us clarify the difference. He wrote, “There are rewards that do not sully motives. A man’s love for a woman is not mercenary because he wants to marry her, nor his love for poetry mercenary because he wants to read it, nor his love of exercise less disinterested because he wants to run and leap and walk. Love, by its very nature, seeks to enjoy its object.”((Lewis, C.S. Harper One, “Heaven” The Problem of Pain, Harper One, 1940, p.100)) How does financial gain, debts disappearing, and healing demonstrate our love of God? What is their object? Their focus? Christ or gain? Christ is simply a means to an end; their ‘object,’ as C.S. Lewis puts it, is increase.

Joel Osteen wrote concerning giving even when it is difficult, “He’ll start increasing your supply in supernatural ways. God will take that 90 percent you have leftover, and He’ll cause it to go further than the 100 percent with which you started…That means He’ll keep the enemy off your money, off your crop, off your children, and away from your home. He’ll make sure you get promoted. He’ll cause you to get the best deals in life. Sometimes, he’ll keep you from sickness, accidents, and harm that might cause other unnecessary expenses. All kinds of blessings come your way when you honor God in the area of your finances.”((Osteen, Joel. “The Seed Must Lead” Your Best Life Now, Warner Faith, 2004, p256))

All of the examples I used above are patiently prosperity gospel examples. Does that mean everything they have taught or written should be dismissed? No, having listened to sermons and read their books, you can find truth, wisdom, and solid biblical advice, but you should be on guard and look for the feel-good gospel they all embrace to some degree. Any time a teacher or preacher says, ‘if you do this, God will do that,’ the alarms should be blaring in your head.

The prosperity gospel steals from many who are desperate for answers or are in dire circumstances and are frantic for a miracle in their life. Mother Teresa is the antithesis of Olsteen, Copeland, Dollar, and many others. She worked in the filthiest slums of Calcutta with Matthew 25:40 on her mind. Those she helped were Jesus in disguise.((Towey, Jim. author’s interview with Mother Teresa’s attorney, published as “Jesus in His Distressing Disguise,” Charlotte World, 6 May 2005))

How revealing it is that Joel Olsteen named the title of his book “Your Best Life Now.” My best life will not be what I am experiencing on this earth but in the life to come. No amount of money, material wealth, or admiration from those around me will change that truth. Jesus came to earth for spiritual reasons, not for material reasons. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Part III will take a closer look at some of the common scripture they use to support their teachings.

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Your Best Life Now – Part II by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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Your Best Life Now – Part I

Your Best Life Now – Part I

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Part II   Part III

Christianity Today featured Costi Hinn’s conversion story in 2017. After that, Costi Hinn began to receive hundreds of e-mails from people who had suffered at the hands of his uncle’s (Benny Hinn) ministry. Hinn recalls one man and his wife who were childless but were told to sow a seed of faith in the ministry of Benny Hinn. They began to give to Hinn’s ministry, but nothing happened. They continued to give, each time praying this was the step of faith needed to start their family. In the end, they gave all they had to Benny Hinn and were left penniless and childless.((Hinn, Costi, A Dangerously Abusive Theology, God, Greed, and the Prosperity Gospel, Zondervan, 2019, p. 150))

This is one brief example of what the prosperity gospel does, but Costi Hinn goes on to tell other heart-wrenching stories in his book that exposes his uncle’s false ministry. Yet Benny Hinn is just one of the hundreds of prosperity gospel preachers who have become millionaires from the pockets of their followers.

What is the prosperity gospel? The prosperity gospel, also known as prosperity theology, word of faith movement, or name it and claim it movement is a belief among some Christians that God will increase their material wealth, physical health, and well-being if they give financially, speak positively, or behave in a particular way.

Should we give to our church? Of course! That is not what I am saying, but we don’t give attaching an expectation that God will somehow give it back to us tenfold or bless us in some way. 1Timothy 3:2-3 Nor am I saying there is anything wrong with being wealthy, but contrary to what prosperity gospel teaches, it is not God’s desire for all of us to be rich. 1Timothy 6:10 Remember, the only disciple who was overly concerned with wealth and money was Judas. Luke 12:15

It should be noted the giving emphasized by preachers of this false gospel stress the offering to be monetary. You don’t hear them emphasize how God will bless them financially if they teach a Sunday school class, serve as an usher, volunteer in child care, clean up after lunch at a church function, or give to other charities. Instead, it is almost always in terms of money donated to preachers specific church or ministry, having greater faith, or changing your attitude.

In the prosperity gospel, you will find two lines of thought. One is if you pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ, you will be blessed financially. The other is struggles with pain and sin in our lives will fade and will see difficult times turn into joy, delight, satisfaction, and pleasure. 

Unfortunately, those who embrace this kind of teaching are inevitably disappointed and find their faith wounded because the sugar daddy in the sky did not deliver. Paul tells us we will suffer, but from that, we will develop our character, becoming more Christ-like. Romans 5:2-5

Scripture is filled with Godly characters who suffered. Remember the poor widow who put in her last two small copper coins? Mark 12:41-44. Nothing more was said of her. Nor does scripture imply that her life suddenly turned around and she lived in great abundance. She gave all she had, not because she expected a ten-fold return but because it would honor God. You see, God measures our gifts not by the amount given, but by the amount kept coupled with the attitude in our hearts. 2Corinthians 9:7 1Chronicles 29:14

In Part II of this blog, I will look at some prosperity gospel preachers and then examine what they are saying. Just remember, when you place yourself under someone who you hope will lead you in your spiritual walk and efforts to become more Christ-like, ask the following question: Where is that in scripture? Don’t just assume it is there. If it is in scripture, is it out of context? Do they talk about how difficult the Christian walk can be, 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, or do they preach joy, wealth, abundance, and your life overflowing with God’s blessings? Do they continually toss out words of victory, expansion, and promotion, and all of it is just around the corner? Do they teach lifting each other up, meeting the needs of others, supporting one another in times of trials, Galatians 6:2, or do they focus on how you can turn your sorrow into joy and your debt into wealth? Do they teach how suffering enables us to minister to others, 2 Corinthians 1:4, or just focus on ways of ending your suffering, your trials, and your tribulations?

Keep in mind the prosperity gospel is often laced with truth and scripture. Preachers of this heresy often have wise words, truth, scripture, and common sense advice that would benefit many. Yet all of them also preach a false gospel. A gospel that proposes that God will bless you financially if you behave a certain way and do certain things.

It is essential to recognize the prosperity gospel because it is unbiblical and ultimately steals from tens of thousands who don’t know any better. Here are a few names you may recognize as prosperity preachers: Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, TD Jakes, Kenneth Copland, Benny Hinn, and Robert Heidler.

Ministry Watch is an organization that reviews Christian ministries based on their financial accountability and transparency. Ministry Watch awarded Creflo Dollar Ministries an F rating and has added it to their Donor Alert listing. What constitutes an ‘F’ grade from Ministry Watch? Their failure to comply with three requirements.

  1. Public form 990 – which highlights revenue, expenses, executive salaries, etc. All self-reported.
  2. Public financial statements – These are created by an independent accounting firm which gives greater assurance that the dollars reported are accurate and true.
  3. They are members of ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability).

Failure in all three standards results in a transparency grade of F. Below is a list of some, but not all. I included the governing board size that should add some accountability to any organization. According to Amy Guettler, who writes for small business’ chronicled, “Nonprofits endeavor to represent the public’s best interests, and whether they focus on issues such as health, education, social welfare or global humanitarian outreach, the primary purposes of the board of directors is to ensure the organization is on track with regard to meeting its goals, as well as to craft policies in support of those goals.”((Guettler, Amy, Purpose of a Board of Directors for Nonprofit Organizations, Small Business Chronicled, smallbusiness.chron.com N.D. https://smallbusiness.chron.com/purpose-board-directors-nonprofit-organizations-18782.html)) I would be suspect of any nonprofit that did not have a governing board to aid in accountability. Nevertheless, having an overseeing board does not guarantee a passing grade with Ministry Watch. All those below received an F.

Benny Hinn Ministries – Overseeing board size – 0

Creflo Dollar Ministries – Overseeing board size – 0

John Hagee Ministries – Overseeing board size – 4

Kenneth Hagin Ministries – Overseeing board size – 0

Kenneth Copeland Ministries – Overseeing board size – 0

TD Jakes Ministries/Potters House – Overseeing board size – 5

Joel Osteen/Lakewood Church – Overseeing board size – 0

Gospel for Asia – Overseeing board size – 7((Smith, Warren. “Ministries With an ‘F’ Transparency Grade” Ministry Watch. Ministrywatch.com. 3, May, 2021, https://ministrywatch.com/ministries-with-an-f-transparency-grade/))

Those who fall for the promise of a better life are ultimately disappointed by the lies they believe, but many give away all they have for healing and are left in financial ruin. Unfortunately, this false teaching is prevalent in the U.S. and has millions of followers. But so much more can be lost than a life savings.

Wesley Parker was an active 11-year-old boy who had diabetes and had to take daily insulin shots. His parents, Larry and Alice Parker, heard a word of faith preacher and were told to claim, confess, and trust in his healing. Three days later, their boy was dead because they withheld his insulin and blindly trusted in his recovery. They were instructed not to make any negative confession but proclaim Wesley’s healing. After Wesley fell into a diabetic coma and then died, they believed their son would be resurrected and held a resurrection service instead of a funeral.

“Promised a Miracle” is a true story. The Parkers threw Wesley’s insulin away and were eventually convicted of involuntary manslaughter and felony child abuse.((Mills, Nancy. “The Promise of ‘Miracle,’ a Tragic Tale of Faith Healing.” Los Angeles Times, latimes.com, May 17, 1988, https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1988-05-17-ca-2829-story.html)) The damage is not limited to financial ruin but can destroy lives and families.

Wesley’s father, Larry, was committed to the healing and trusted what he was told and that God would not have a choice. That in itself should raise a huge red flag for anyone following the prosperity gospel. Taking actions, adopting a certain behavior or attitude will cause God to do something for you. Ministry Magazine published an article about the Parkers and what the father, Larry, believed. “That’s why Larry said, ‘We’re gonna believe this all the way.’ He was going to fast, read his Bible, and pray until he felt he had the right to force God to heal his son. On one occasion Larry said, ‘The Scriptures promise healing. God has to stand on His Word.'((Marshal, David. “Promised A Miracle,” Ministry Magazine, ministrymagazine.org, 2001, https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/2001/02/promised-a-miracle.html)) 

Where in the scriptures does it promise that we can demand healing and force God to do what we want? It doesn’t unless someone is using a verse out of context.

Remember, the symbol of Christianity is the cross, not a feather bed.

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Your Best Life Now – Part I by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

 

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