When I think of the prosperity gospel, I do so not as a detached observer. I spent most of my 20s attending a Pentecostal church. While the church did not officially subscribe to prosperity theology, many of my friends embraced it to varying degrees. Here are seven things that are dangerous about the prosperity gospel.
1. It is false
This is a serious problem. Christianity is not a religion of good feelings, it is a religion of truth. Jesus himself is described as Truth. Once a person embraces falsehood, they are going in the opposite direction from Jesus.
2. It destroys faith
It is ironic that a movement that prides itself on faith can have the opposite effect on Christians. I have watched a young man devastated in his faith after a faith healer pronounced him healed even though he was quite sick. I don’t know if that man is still a Christian. There have many Christians who have been told that it is their fault that they are sick. They conclude either God does not like them are there is no God.
3. It is dangerous for pastors
Since God supposedly wants all Christians to be rich, things better start with the pastor. There is a lot of pressure on the pastor to demonstrate the promised lifestyle. This can easily lead to a lifestyle of greed and even sin beyond money. There is a reason why televangelists have moral failures so often.
4. It requires horrible hermeneutics
It is painful to listen to prosperity preachers. They are often talented communicators but their biblical interpretation is… imaginative. I have heard some pretty amazing things come from preachers who were seeking the prosperity message in the Bible. For those trained in biblical interpretation, it is difficult to sit through.
5. It ignores what the Bible says about poverty
Both the Old and New Testament have much to say about how God’s people should treat the poor. Nowhere does it say that the poor should give the evangelist the little they have in the hopes of getting rich. Our job is to help the poor and not to take advantage of them. The Bible also says the poor are blessed which is the opposite of what the prosperity gospel says.
6. It ignores how God can use illness
It is true that Jesus healed many people. However his healing never came with the message that healing was a gift for everyone at every time. I am no cessationist. I believe that God still heals. But I also see that God uses illness in positive ways. There are some people who do not discover God until they are sick.
7. It is an embarrassment
I have never seen a televangelist on the air and hoped that my non-Christian friends were watching. Let’s face it. They are weird. Some of their followers would attribute their strange behaviour to the “anointing.” I think they are just bizarre. Unfortunately non-Christians do see them and judge the entire Church by them.
These are just some of the problems with the prosperity gospel. I am not saying that all people who follow the prosperity gospel are not Christians. You can be a Christian and still be misled by error.The rest of the Church needs to be aware of what is happening and be prepared to respond with love and truth.