The “Prosperity Gospel” Controversy Part 1

Jesus taught more about money than He did on any other topic. In a world of extremes, how can we find a Biblically balanced approach?

The first thing, of course, is to search the Scriptures. This must include both Scriptures that show prosperity in a positive light, as well as the passages that give the other side and call for balance. Whether you agree with all of my conclusions or not, I hope you will see that I have endeavored to take the whole counsel of Scripture on the subject.
Also, my focus in this article will be doctrine, not personalities. Some of the criticism directed toward individual teachers in the movement has been quite justifiable. Nonetheless, for reasons I have discussed in a previous post, I do not believe personal blogs are the best avenue to address these matters.

Like the term “Christian Right,” “Prosperity Gospel” is largely a pejorative expression. It is intended to provoke a negative response regardless of context. The popularity of the film “American Gospel” has heightened that considerably.

To be honest, I find much of this vitriol to be rather hypocritical. The reason being that “prosperity” is a very subjective term. Furthermore, I propose that most western Christians, loathe as they may be to admit it, do hold to at least a moderate form of the prosperity doctrine. I would like to ask those who attack the prosperity message, Do you have a home? A car? A television? A computer? A cell phone? For that matter, do you eat three meals a day and have clean water to drink? If so, then you are lavishly wealthy compared to much of the world’s population. Also, while I will refrain from naming names, if you research the net worth of some of the better known anti-prosperity preachers, you might be shocked. It seems that there is a great deal of money to be made in telling people why they shouldn’t have it, but I digress.

I personally try to take a middle ground approach to this issue, so whichever side of the debate you may be on, you may not like some of the things I have to say. I am a charismatic Christian coming from a Word of Faith background. Nonetheless, I have always spoken against the excesses within the movement. I am also well aware of the questionable financial practices that sometimes do occur and I have also addressed them in a previous post. I have seen up close the kind of damage that unbalanced teaching on this topic can do.

At the same time, excesses in the opposite direction can be just as harmful. In His Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus teaches us how proper stewardship of our material goods can lead to tremendous blessing, and how God is actually displeased with us when our lives are not productive.

The church has always grappled to find balance in these issues. When the Roman Empire was supposedly “Christianized” in the wake of Emperor Constantine, some other Christians fled into the desert and formed the early monastic communities. This is large where the “poverty is spiritual” mindset was developed. But the bottom line, as always, has to be what was Jesus’ heart in the matter?

Drawing on a faulty interpretation of Jesus

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