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?” 1 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. 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. 2 So how do you recognize this false gospel when it is 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 8:8, John 16:33, Philippians 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…” 3
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 to begin with. Scripture does not teach that money is the root of all evil. It teaches the love of money is the root of all evil. 1Timothy 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” 4
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.” 5
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. 6
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 the way to multiply our finances is through giving, why would anyone ever stop giving and experience financial lack? The absurdity of this would be obvious to 5th graders.
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.” 7 Benzel tells us if you “practice unleashing this powerful force” 7 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 or force 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.” 8There 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, 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.” 9 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.
I found another example in reference to being obedient. A popular local Tuolumne Facebook Christian 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!” 10 It is amazing 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 kitten given a bowl of milk. Was Paul disobedient? Does that explain why he was beheaded along the Appian Way?
Just 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 severe financial situations. However, I don’t believe there is any kind of 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.” 11 How does financial gain, debts disappearing, and healing demonstrate our love of God? What is their object? 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.” 12
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. 13
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
Next week Part III will take a closer look at some of the common scripture they use to support their teachings.
Your Best Life Now – Part II by James W Glazier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at www.knowingforsure.com.
- 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
- 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/
- Dollar, Creflo. Reason #10: Religion Teaches That Money Is The Root of All Evil. Why I Hate Religion, Faith Words, 2015, pgs. 10-11
- Hinn, Benny. The Loving Giving Father, The Biblical Road To Blessing, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997, p. 22
- Zondervan, “Psalms” Quest Bible Study Notes. Shelley, Marshall; Elshof, Phyllis Ten, Zondervan, 2011, p.781
- Pierce, Chuck. Heidler, Robert. “Following The Laws of Giving and Multiplication” A Time To Prosper, Chosen, 2013, p. 222
- Benzel, Fred, “The Force of Joy” The Force of Joy, Tate Publishing and Enterprises, 2011, p. 12
- 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.
- Copeland, Gloria. “Seek And You Will Find” God’s Master Plan For Your Life, Putnam Praise, 2008, p. 56
- Pontious, Daniel. Prosperity Through Obedience, Facebook. 2018. Nov. 20, 2020
- Lewis, C.S. Harper One, “Heaven” The Problem of Pain, Harper One, 1940, p.100
- Osteen, Joel. “The Seed Must Lead” Your Best Life Now, Warner Faith, 2004, p256
- Towey, Jim. author’s interview with Mother Teresa’s attorney, published as “Jesus in His Distressing Disguise”, Charlotte World, 6 May 2005