The Distasteful Prosperity Gospel

The so–called prosperity gospel is a corrupt and repugnant mis–reading of the gospel, completely incompatible with the teaching of Jesus.

Rev. Yme Woensdregt

In the last three weeks, I’ve sketched out an emerging portrait of Jesus. We saw the human Jesus, a peasant living among other peasants under the brutal rule of the Roman Empire in 1st century Palestine.

Given that kind of portrait, it should come as no surprise that in my opinion (humble or not!), the so–called prosperity gospel is a corrupt and repugnant mis–reading of the gospel. It is completely incompatible with the teaching of Jesus.

It is true that there are hints of it in the Old Testament, and particularly in Deuteronomy. For example, Deuteronomy 7:12–14 reads, “If you heed these ordinances, by diligently observing them, the Lord your God will maintain with you the covenant loyalty that he swore to your ancestors; he will love you, bless you, and multiply you; he will bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your wine and your oil, the increase of your cattle and the issue of your flock, in the land that he swore to your ancestors to give you. You shall be the most blessed of peoples.”

That passage, and others like it, seem to draw a straight line between obedience to God and blessings for God’s obedient people. But we need to be careful about such readings. There are other words in Deuteronomy such as, “Give liberally and be ungrudging when you do so, for on this account the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake.” (15:10) In other words, God’s blessings are not meant to be hoarded; they are to be shared liberally, cheerfully, ungrudgingly.

But this kind of thinking is not found in Jesus’ teachings. Jesus said things like “You cannot serve both God and money” or “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” or “Sell all that you have and give it to the poor”.

The so–called prosperity gospel is an insipid heresy which has, regrettably, grown in popularity among Christians in North America. It teaches that God blesses those whom God favours with material wealth. It is not surprising that it has boomed in recent years. Simply put, it fuels human greed.

Three televangelists are commonly viewed as founders of the prosperity gospel movement—Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland and Frederick K.C. Price. This movement took hold in the 1970’s and 1980’s (how recent it is!). Oral Roberts was one of the best–known proponents of prosperity theology. In 1987 he told his television flock that God would call him home if he didn’t raise $8 million in a matter of weeks. He raised $9.1 million.

The trend continues with hucksters like Joel Osteen, the 53–year–old head of Lakewood Church in Houston. His TV ministry reaches more than 7 million viewers; his books have sold millions of copies. “God wants us to prosper financially, to have plenty of money, to fulfill the destiny He has laid out for us,” Osteen wrote in a 2005 letter to his flock.

As crass as that may sound, Osteen’s version of the prosperity gospel is more gentle (and decidedly less sweaty) than those preached by such co–religionists as Benny Hinn, T.D. Jakes and the appropriately named Creflo Dollar (I swear, I’m not making this up.)

Teaching the faithful to store up treasures on earth as a primary goal of faithful living is completely at odds with the teaching of Jesus. The prosperity gospel turns Christian faith into a vapid club which blesses greed with a doctrine that amounts to little more than a spiritual Magic 8 Ball: If you pray the right way, God will make you rich.

But if you’re not rich, then what? Does that mean God has cursed the poor? Have they somehow been less faithful than the rich? And if God were so concerned about Mercedes and mansions and material gain, why would God’s son have been born into poverty? Why would Jesus have been a peasant?

Nowhere has the prosperity gospel flourished more than among the poor and the working class. Told that wealth is a sign of God’s grace and favor, followers strive for trappings of luxury they can little afford in an effort to prove that they are blessed spiritually. Some critics have gone so far as to place part of the blame for the past decade’s spending binge and foreclosure crisis at the foot of the prosperity gospel’s altar.

Jesus was born poor, and he died poor. During his earthly tenure, he spoke time and again about the importance of spiritual wealth and health. When he talked about material wealth, it was usually part of a cautionary tale.

Yme Woensdregt is Pastor at Christ Church Anglican in Cranbrook

Just Posted

The Kootenay International Junior Hockey League met for their AGM and announced a number of new initiatives, new awards and changes in their executive committee, as well as the starting date for the 2021-22 season. Paul Rodgers file.
KIJHL announces start dates for 2021-22 season

Season set to begin Oct. 1 with league still following all health guidelines

Calvin Dickson photo.
Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for East Kootenay

Conditions favourable for the development of thunderstorms, hail and heavy rain

The Independent Investigations Office of BC is looking into a Castlegar incident. File photo
Police watchdog investigating Castlegar incident

IIO: Woman sustained a reportedly self-inflicted injury

Mount Baker Secondary School in Cranbrook.
Graduation ceremony in the works for MBSS Class of 2021

The Mount Bake Secondary School Class of 2021 will have a graduation… Continue reading

After being forced to cancel in 2020 due to the pandemic, the Wasa Triathlon is being organized for August. Bulletin file photo.
Information released for Gerick Sports Wasa Triathlon scheduled for August

In 2020 the COVID pandemic forced the Gerick Sports Wasa Triathlon to… Continue reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

B.C. ambulance station in Revelstoke is expected to get a new system called the Scheduled On-Call (SOC) this fall. (Liam Harrap - Revelstoke Review)
B.C. ambulance changes could put Revelstoke residents at risk, warn local paramedics

Paramedics said to expect a substantial increase in ambulance response time starting this fall

The BC Ferries website went down for a short while Monday morning following a provincial announcement that recreational travel between health authorities can resume Tuesday. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries’ website crashes in wake of provincial reopening announcement

Website back up now, recreational travel between health regions to resume as of Tuesday

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

FILE – Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. watching U.K.’s COVID struggles but don’t think province will see similar pitfalls

Studies show that one dose of vaccine is only 33 per cent effective in preventing B.1.617.2 spread

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Most Read