The Prosperity Gospel is the belief among some Christians that teaches financial blessing, and physical well-being are always the will of God for them. That enough faith, positive attitude, and donations to the right organizations will increase one’s material wealth. The prosperity Gospel reduces God to a cosmic Santa Claus: “If I’m a good boy or girl God will give me what I ask for.” The Gospel isn’t that simple; it is profoundly deeper, richer, and more important than to be just about material wealth. Our faith is not a transaction, “If I give this, I should get this.” Our salvation is a free gift from God, our giving to others and representing Him well is our act of worship. If our personal financial prosperity is our goal, we’ve missed the whole point.
When Jesus was in the desert, Satan offered Jesus material wealth and power if He would only bow down, Jesus was bright enough to pass on the offer. How many of us take the bait and swallow it whole.
Money is always a thorny issue for people. If you want to create an uncomfortable church service, talk about tithing. Jesus spent a great deal of time talking about worldly goods and our reaction to them. It’s a BIG deal, and people understand at a gut level that money is important. Money is the great scorecard the world uses to see who is winning. If we are a follower of Christ, we are not of this world. Our scorecard needs to be very different; we need to work towards different goals. We also need to expect different blessings from God. God does want to bless us, material blessings or physical health are not always in that mix of blessings.
Several years ago, after we had been in Mexico for quite a while, my wife was dealing with some long-term, severe, medical issues. We had been to a LOT of doctors and done countless tests with no solution in sight. Every couple of weeks, a small group from a ministry in our town would come by and pray for her. Prayer is always a good thing; we’ll take all we can get. After a few weeks, as they were finishing praying, one of the leaders indicated that is was my wife’s “lack of faith” that was keeping her from being healed. I was polite and held my tongue, in hindsight I wish I had thrown them out of our house (they were not invited back).
The church has a long history of godly, wonderful people living in poverty or suffering through great physical illness and challenges. No one would question the apostle Paul’s faith or the incredible works of his ministry. God used Paul to build the foundation of the church. Paul suffered greatly both physically and financially through his entire ministry. Maybe he didn’t have enough faith? Probably not. Paul still found immense joy and peace, not only in the midst of trials; Paul found joy because of the trials he was going through. Strong faith does not mean financial blessings; strong faith means joy in whatever situation we find ourselves. Our physical or financial state has no determination in eternal things. Everything here passes away, get used to it.
So how does this apply to short-term missions? Spending time with people of great faith in other countries, giving their all, who are still living in poverty, will kill your belief that doing the right things will automatically mean a big bank account.
If we go into missions with the idea that we know more, or we are more blessed because we have more money than the people we’re visiting, we are wrong, and we will fail. Most people, even if they believe that having more money indicates better people, have never thought it through or even realize they believe that. A person who is racist, never thinks they are racist; it’s just an underlying attitude that others see. Coming from the US culture that passes judgment by financial wherewithal, it’s easy to fall into the trap of judging others by their resources, even more so if we’re not aware that we are judging in this way.
By going on short-term mission trips and spending time with rock-solid pastors, missionaries, and other believers living on poverty, our false outlook when it comes to money is stripped away. It’s a cliche response from many people on a missions trip to say, “They’re so poor but so happy.” when talking about the people they are visiting. This is really saying, “I thought to have more money was always better, why are they happy?” At the same time, they will say, “I now realize how blessed I am” indicating they think the other people are not as “blessed” because they don’t have hot water, a solid house, the latest I-phone, or any of the things we equate with “blessed.”
We need to go into missions realizing we are all poor, we are all wounded, we are all deficient in many areas, but that is irrelevant to the Gospel. By working alongside pillars of faith in other countries, it strips bare our misguided beliefs about what money is, what it means, and what our attitude about it should be.
Prosperity is not a bad thing, but if our faith is based on prosperity, we are building our lives on a false Gospel.
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“If we go into missions with the idea that we know more, or we are more blessed because we have more money than the people we’re visiting, we are wrong, and we will fail.” So true! We must go with the heart of a student-servant, not a “know it all” American. As to affluence… I just came back from Uganda, where everyone, Christian and non-Christian have so little but are so much happier than Americans. Thanks for your post.
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My response DJ and your cohort Rick
Sometimes as a mom I feel like I have to defend my family. This time I am doing something really stupid….I feel like I have to defend my God. Now pick yourselves up off the floor and quit laughing. I know, Rick is shaking his head in shame. I’m not sure you understand the Prosperity Gospel in the same way I do. No I’m not implying I’m smarter. MY prosperity Gospel’s goal is not to accumulate, but to GIVE. DJ, the next time you set on your deck, drinking coffee, at your beautiful house, think about how Prosperity built your house. Ill share another example. Recently a minister of Prosperity spoke at our church. He gave pastors daughter (age 12) $100. He THOUGHT he saw her put it in the offering ; she didn’t. He gave her another $100. After church there wasn’t much time before he needed to leave so Pastor took him across the street to Freddys Burger. Mr Prosperity put $60 in the tip jar BEFORE they ordered. During the course of their meal Mr Prosperity gave away $1000 to different patrons. That’s just a small example of the God of prosperity I’m learning how to serve. My heart is to be a HUGE giver. My income is set and meager. But supernaturally I’m beginning to see finances change. This month I gave away more than I’ve had to live on some months. In January I made a list of ministries I want to support in a BIG way. It came to $38,000 A MONTH. HA, that’s more than twice my annual income. I said all that to say this….if you are totally opposed to the prosperity gospel let me know. I can take DOFO and ICON off my list. I’m sure that threat ruined your day. Lol. I love you and your ministry. I want you to prosper FINANCIALLY and I’d be honored and humbled if God allows me to support you. Until then, I prayerfully support you. Thx for listening to this servants heart.
Jesus makes it pretty clear He is concerned with matters of the heart. Where your treasure is, there is your heart. And, He makes it rain on both the righteous and the wicked. If we use worldly prosperity as a measure of faith, we’ve grossly missed the point. But, if we think God is not the one who “makes it rain” we’ve also missed the point. Sometimes I think God brings financial situations into people’s lives to challenge them, to show them who they really are. When you can walk in the faith of His goodness while wondering where your next meal will come from, you’ve been greatly blessed with faith (which even that is a gift from God). And, when you can take the abundance which the Lord has given you and, by faith, sow it back into the Kingdom, you are again greatly blessed. Our good Father is not at all opposed to financial, temporal blessings – kind of like I am not opposed to giving my kids cookies. But if that becomes their (our) focus and purpose, and measure of “good standing” rather than a close intimate relationship, we are missing out on the best stuff for a short term sugar high and our heart is misplaced. Enjoy the blessings (He enjoys giving them), share with others, and don’t measure your worth (or anyone else’s) by the patterns of this world.