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The Prosperity Gospel in Light of the Bible

Proverbs 30:8-9

Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? Or I be poor, and steal, and take the name of God in vain.


The prosperity gospel, a theological perspective that equates faith with financial success, has gained significant traction in contemporary Christian circles. However, a critical examination reveals that this doctrine diverges significantly from the teachings of the Bible and the core doctrine of Christ.

The prosperity gospel is often characterised by the assertion that God will reward faith with financial blessings and physical well-being. This belief is prevalent in televangelism and among charismatic preachers who claim that wealth and health are signs of God's favour. However, this perspective is flawed, as it misrepresents the nature of faith, reduces God to a wish-granting genie, and overlooks the biblical teachings on suffering.


First, the prosperity gospel misconstrues the essence of faith. The Bible teaches that faith is a trust in God's character and promises, rather than a means to material gain. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." Faith is not a transactional relationship with God where we give our belief for material blessings. Instead, it is a relational trust in God's goodness and sovereignty, regardless of our circumstances.


Second, the prosperity gospel reduces God to a cosmic vending machine, where we insert faith and blessings are dispensed by Him. This perspective is inherently nonbiblical, as it diminishes the sovereignty and majesty of God. The Bible teaches God is not a servant of our desires but the sovereign Lord of the universe. He is not obliged to grant us wealth or health because we believe in Him. Instead, He gives us what we need according to His wisdom and purposes (Philippians 4:19).


Third, the prosperity gospel overlooks the biblical teachings on suffering. The Bible is replete with stories of faithful believers who experienced suffering, not because of a lack of faith, but because they lived in a fallen world. Job was a righteous man, yet he lost everything. Paul, a faithful apostle, was shipwrecked, beaten, and imprisoned. Jesus Himself, the epitome of faith, was crucified. The prosperity gospel cannot account for these biblical narratives. It wrongly implies that suffering is a sign of insufficient faith or unconfessed sin, rather than an inevitable part of living in a fallen world and a tool that God uses for our sanctification (James 1:2-4).


The prosperity gospel neglects the teachings of Jesus on wealth. Jesus warned about the dangers of wealth, stating that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24). He taught that life does not comprise the abundance of possessions (Luke 12:15) and urged His followers to seek first the kingdom of God rather than earthly riches (Matthew 6:33). These teachings are diametrically opposed to the prosperity gospel's emphasis on material wealth as a sign of God's favour.

Let us remember the warnings of  Proverbs 28:22 He that hastens to be rich has an evil eye, and does not consider that poverty shall come upon him. Proverbs 23:5 for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven and 1 Timothy 6:10 the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

In conclusion, the prosperity gospel is not biblical. It misconstrues the nature of faith, reduces God to a cosmic vending machine, overlooks the biblical teachings on suffering, and neglects the teachings of Jesus on wealth. As Christians, we must reject this false doctrine and instead embrace a biblical understanding of faith, God, suffering, and wealth. Our faith should not be a means to material gain, but a trust in the sovereign, good, and wise God who works all things for our ultimate good and His glory (Romans 8:28).