What’s Wrong with the Prosperity Gospel?

Men like Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Joel Olsteen and Jesse Duplantis (just to name a few) teach a false “health, wealth and prosperity” gospel. They are the kind of false teachers that 2 Peter 2:3 describes.

Through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.

Check out this 5-minute video for an example of their ridiculous perspective of opulence, defending their ownership of private jets, purchased with the money they receive from donations.

So what is wrong with the doctrine these men teach? Here are a few examples of how they twist Scripture to promote their erroneous message.

Misunderstanding God’s Reward

They use verses like Mark 10:30 to teach that God will give you a 100-fold return when you give your money to noble causes, including their own so-called ministries. But is that what Jesus taught? Look again.

  • First, Jesus punctuates the list of your returns with persecutions. When you suffer material loss and hardship for following Jesus, God may return your loss in a variety of ways, including persecution. Kenneth Copeland and Co. doesn’t emphasize this.
  • Second, the 100-fold return of houses, mothers, sisters, brothers, children and lands is not a reference to your material possessions. It is a reference to the worldwide company of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who also have suffered loss for following Jesus.
  • Third, when Copeland and Co. teach this verse, they invariably point to houses and lands, but what about mothers, brothers and sisters? And as I previously mentioned, what about persecutions?
  • Fourth, Mark 10:31 finishes the lesson Jesus taught by counteracting any fascination we may have with possible material returns in this life.

As you reflect on Mark 10:30 (which does not teach a health, wealth and prosperity message), perhaps you should also look at Luke 6:35, which teaches that we should give of our resources “hoping for nothing in return.”

Jesus Wants Me to be Rich?

Copeland and Co. teach that Jesus wants me to be rich, pointing to verses like 2 Cor. 8:9. But the riches that Jesus died to give us are spiritual, not material. In fact, if you read the verses surrounding this verse, you will discover that Paul is writing to believers who gave to others, even though they themselves experienced diminished resources. They were not necessarily wealthy. So the point here is not that God rewards poverty with riches, but that he encourages believers, whether rich or poor, to meet the material needs of one another as we share together in the sufferings of Christ.

God’s Promised Blessings to Abraham

God promised a variety of things to Abraham (Gen. 12, 15, 17, 22), including material prosperity. Do these promises also apply to me today? Copeland and Co. say yes. They cite verses like Galatians 3:14 to make their point. While it is true that Paul teaches God’s promise to Abraham as a promise to believers today, we need to know how he does this. In the second half of this verse, he tells us that it is the “promise of the Spirit” that applies to us today. The part of the promise that includes land or financial prosperity does not apply to us.

Conclusion

There are many other ways that false teachers like Kenneth Copeland twist Scripture and pervert the gospel of Jesus Christ. If you have any particular questions in this regard, please do not hesitate to leave a comment on this post. I will be glad to respond.

While God does bless some believers with financial prosperity, this is his sovereign right to do so. And he does so for the purpose of enabling them to meet the needs of others (1 Tim. 6:17-18). At the same time, many believers throughout the world do not have the same experience (Heb. 11:35-38). Whatever the case, Paul teaches that we should be fully content, whether we are rich or poor in material resources, whether we are hungry or full (Phil. 4:11-12). God does not promise earthly riches. He promises contentment in this life and eternal riches in the life to come.

2 replies
  1. Ancy Achankunju
    Ancy Achankunju says:

    I think All the blessings that are in the bible is for everyone who believes. The person who believes in only persecution will get only persecution. God is a God of everything. I think the people who teach only poverty, sickness n persecution are the false prophets. The Jesus I believe is limitless. I think you are twisting the truth of bible to teach wrong things about God. Please ask for gods wisdom in understanding him. If Jesus taught us to pray that let it be on earth as it is in heaven it means there is abundance in everything even when u are in this earth. By teaching poverty u are actually teaching people God is poor and heaven is a bad place to live. You are talking religion not true gospel.

  2. TOvermiller
    TOvermiller says:

    Ancy, thank you for visiting Shepherd Thoughts and offering feedback on this very important topic. In reply, I will answer that neither material poverty nor material prosperity are guaranteed by the gospel of Jesus Christ. To support this observation, I recommend that you give careful attention to Proverbs 30:8, which says, “Remove falsehood and lies far from me; Give me neither poverty nor riches— Feed me with the food allotted to me.” So, those who teach that the gospel guarantees material prosperity and riches are teaching a falsehood and lie, which is a perspective that you and I both should seek to stay away from. The gospel does not guarantee material abundance in everything. You misunderstand what it means to ask that “God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This does not mean that we should seek material equality to heaven, for that would mean praying for streets of gold, gates of massive pearls, and no more moonlight. Instead, it means that we should seek for God’s purposes and plans to be fulfilled without hindrance, just as they are fulfilled without hindrance in heaven. Furthermore, those who teach that the gospel guarantees material poverty also teach a falsehood and lie, which we both should seek to stay away from. I do not believe that the gospel requires poverty, nor does the Bible.

    Ultimately, the gospel is God’s promise of deliverance from sin and eternal life, providing a restored and everlasting relationship with God. It is this relationship with God that satisfies the human heart in a way that neither material riches nor poverty can do. It also enables a person to experience either material riches or poverty without losing a love for God and a joy in life. Paul teaches this clearly in Philippians 4:11-13, which says, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

    God bless.

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