What do preachers such as Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin and Oral Roberts have in common? Well, they all preach some form of a Gospel message known as “prosperity”, “health and wealth” or “name it and claim it.” Take a look at Joel Osteen for instance. He professes that “as children of God, we are over-comers and more than conquerors and God intends for each of us to experience the abundant life he has in store for us.” He, along with many other well known televangelist, teach that if we are a believer in Christ and his follower, then we are promised to have wealth and good health in our time spent on earth. In other words, a Christian is promised worldly prosperity and deliverance from sickness in this lifetime. All we must do is go out and claim it for ourselves. But, is this true?
Anyone who studies the Bible should be able to see right through these preachers claims. They prey on people who are desperate, gullible or in need, while tugging at their emotions. Rarely do they ever teach how to obtain eternal riches or speak about sin and the existence of hell. It’s all about physical health and worldly wealth, while asking their audience to send them money. They explain that the more seed (money) you plant, then the more riches and physical healing will come your way in this life. Of course anyone who reads Scripture knows that God’s word teaches nothing about a “name it, claim it” gospel and to send me some dollars. If we look at God’s word, St. Paul teaches us to beware of these false teachers; “For there are many insubordinate men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially the circumcision party; they must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for base gain what they have no right to teach (Titus 1:10-11).” The doctrines of these false teachers are designed to stimulate people with enthusiasm. The more emotion, the more dollars. If they can make ’em feel good, tell them how great they are and how all they need to do is learn the “secrets” of God’s prosperity. The only problem with this is that this “secret,” is to send them more cash, to “sow more seeds” (the money kind that is).
If the prosperity gospel preachers are right, could we not infer that Jesus himself would have been rich with worldly things? Didn’t Jesus plant enough faith seed to become rich or even moderately comfortable? Well, we do not know how much money Jesus ever made, but we know he gave his all to serve His Father in heaven. No man in the history of the world ever gave so much. But his giving of himself did not make him rich in this world’s goods.
What does the Bible actual teach on this subject?
Jesus taught: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . . do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing (Mt 6:19-20; 25)?”
John wrote: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever (1 Jn 2:15-17).”
We as Christians should not expect the treasures of great health and fabulous wealth in this life. That is not to say that a faithful Christian cannot be graced with such blessings, but we should not expect it. Jesus did not promise such blessings in this life, and we are not owed them. In fact, when the Christian faces difficulties in this life, God may not remove them, even though we prayed that he would. St. Paul recognized this when he wrote of a difficulty he faced in his own life: “A thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor 12:7-10).”
Scripture tells us there is a glory in suffering:
“He who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt 10:38-39)
“We are fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Rom 8:17-18)
“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.” (Phil 1:29)
Through our own suffering we can show Jesus our love for him. Suffering provides us the opportunity to love God by loving our neighbor. St. Paul recognized that, through his own suffering, he was loving others—the body of Christ, the Church. Paul says, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church (Col 1:24).”
So, as a follower of Jesus, he never promised that we would all attain earthly riches and perfect health in this life, but that we would have to carry a cross at times. It is these trails we face that opens up opportunities to be more fully united with God.
Until next time, God bless.