The Prosperity Gospel A Defense of the Message By Tom Brown
Has the message of prosperity confused you? You want to believe that God
desires to prosper you, but the flashy evangelists that proclaim this
message turn you off. They seem to be motivated by something other than the spread of the
gospel. I understand
your feelings. I too had difficulty with the message of abundance.
raised in the Assembly of God church, and was quite happy with my
relationship with God in it. However, my mom heard on radio a new pastor in
the city proclaiming a positive message of prosperity. His words excited
her. While feeling stagnant in our church, she felt this new pastor would
provide a key to a deeper relationship with God.
Our Assembly of God pastor, sensing that he
may lose many members to this new pastor, warned us of this new pastor
preaching health and wealth. Ignoring his warning, my mother took me to this
new church. Although my mother was completely enthralled with the pastor’s
sermons, I wasn’t. I agreed with certain truths he preached, but when the
topic of money, prosperity and riches were mentioned, I closed my ears to
what he said.
After being in the church for a few months,
I decided to take the matter of prosperity to God. I told the Lord, “God,
you know I am confused about prosperity. My former pastor warned us against
the prosperity message, yet this new pastor is for it, and the church seems
to be doing much better in terms of growth than my other church. Now Lord, I
make a decision to hear from You. I am not going to take sides with either
position. But I need You to show me the truth.”
From that simple prayer, I made it my quest
to know everything about prosperity, wealth and money in the Bible. I
listened to various Bible teachers explaining their views, both pro and con.
It wasn’t until I heard Derek Prince that all my doubts and confusion was
removed. I want to share the three simple keys I learned from him.
Purpose, Promise and Precondition
words clarified for me the message of prosperity. It explained the warnings
of materialism and yet affirmed the great promises of El Shaddai, the God of
abundance and at the same time balanced out the truths with human
responsibility to meet the conditions to qualify for prosperity. I have
always kept these three great truths before me when I teach on prosperity
and practice it.
First, let’s look at the first
word: purpose. God spoke to Abraham and said,"I will make you
into a great nationand I will bless you;I will make your name
great,and you will be a
God said he would “bless
him” so he “will be a blessing.” From the beginning God wanted
Abraham to know why God was going to bless him—not for his sake only—but for
the sake of all nations. God wants to bless us financially so we will have
the funds to bless the nations with the gospel.
purpose of prosperity is to spread the gospel, not for us to live
self-indulgent lives. While it’s true, God desires for us to enjoy the
wealth He gives us, He wants us to primarily use it to give toward the
gospel. Paul affirms this truth:
Command those who are rich in
this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which
is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with
everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good
deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In
this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for
the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.
(1 Tim 6:17-19)
Notice three important points
in this passage: first, the rich are often tempted to become prideful of
their riches; second, God does
indeed “provide us with everything for our enjoyment.” God delights
in watching His children enjoy all the abundance and pleasure prosperity
provides. It’s true that the Lord “hath pleasure in the prosperity of his
servant” (Ps 35:27, KJV). If God enjoys the prosperity of his “servants”
then He must leap with joy over the prosperity of his “children.” Just as
any parent enjoys watching their kids have fun, God delights in watching His
children enjoy what money can buy. I believe God is love and He desires the
best life we can have.
However, the third point is
the most important: “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds,
and to be generous and willing to share.” God does not give wealth for
our own sakes, but so we can help others. We should not become selfish or
arrogant with our wealth. If we do, we will lose out on the blessing that
money can bring. There are many rich people that recognized the emptiness of
money. To have money, just for the sake to have it, is pointless. Money
cannot buy you real life. Real life is in sharing! So when God blesses me, I
try to remind myself of the purpose behind my prosperity. And I do my best
to guard against pride. I attempt to be there for the poor as well as the
rich. I try not to show favoritism.
It makes me sick in my heart
to watch ministers who have experienced some success, maybe even great
success, to let it go to their heads. They demand only five star hotels,
limousines, and special goodies, before they will even consider coming to
your church. And when they do come, they become too big to mingle with the
“little guy.” They are too important to take time to answer questions from
the “little people.” They act like kings with little regard for “the
peasants.” C’mon, without God’s grace, none of us would be blessed with
success. I thank God everyday for the unusual blessing He has shown me. I
have and will refuse to allow it to get to my head.
If God promised to
bless us, then why should we doubt it? The Bible provides many examples of
God blessing people and promising abundance to His covenantal people. The
passage in 2 Corinthians chapter 8 helped me greatly in understanding this:
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was
rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty
might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9). The verse is staggering in its
implication. It’s not just that God promised His Old Testament saints
riches, but Jesus, Himself, on the cross provided redemption from poverty,
so we can be rich with His riches.
On the cross,
Jesus could have simply focused on our sins and took that away so we can be
righteous, but He extended the benefits of the cross to our financial lives.
He chose to allow all His riches to be taken from Him—in substitution—so
that we can be “rich”. Immediately, because of religious upbringing,
we have a tendency to interpret the word “rich” to mean “spiritual
riches.” But the context of the passage is referring to wealth. Paul was
encouraging the Corinthian Church to give money to the suffering saints in
Jerusalem. So the context is about money, and thus, the word “rich”
is a reference to material riches. I know this is shocking! I was shocked
too over the passage—and like many, I tried to reinterpret the passage in a
spiritual way, but I could not, because of the context.
Then as I looked
at the cross and compared the curses that would come on Israel because of
their disobedience, I recognized that Jesus took each of the curses.
Because you did not serve the
Lord your God joyfully and
gladly in the time of prosperity, therefore in hunger and thirst, in
nakedness and dire poverty, you will serve the enemies the
Lord sends against you.
Instead of the
blessings of prosperity, they would experience poverty. The description of
poverty is vivid: hunger, thirst, nakedness and dire poverty. Do you
see it? This is the description of the cross! Jesus was hungry, thirsty (He
said, “I thirst”), and naked (He was stripped of all His clothing). He lost
everything, even the essentials. Why would God allow His Son to lose every
bit of His material possessions? Didn’t Jesus simply need to shed His blood
and die? Why make Him go through such humiliation, that He was naked before
the public? It was clear to me that Jesus went through dire poverty, as
atonement for our poverty, so in turn; we could be rich with His riches.
When I saw the
complete sacrifice of Christ on the cross, I determined that I would not
allow one bit of suffering to go to waste. If Jesus died for my poverty,
then, bless God! I was not going to be poor. Since He made such a
great sacrifice, I would not allow the sacrifice to be wasted by me. I was
going to make the most of the atonement, and be rich with His riches!
Of course, there
are many other passages where God promises to supply all our material needs.
(see the following prosperity scriptures: Phil 4:19, Deut 28:11, Ps 25:13,
This is where the
rubber meets the road. You can have a good heart and desire to help others
with God’s blessings and you can claim all God’s promises of prosperity, but
if you do not meet the conditions of the promises then you will not prosper.
God does not promise “unconditional” prosperity. Prosperity is promised by
God, but He puts preconditions in front of prosperity. This is why many
sincere Christians fail to prosper; they do not qualify for it.
There are two
important preconditions to prosperity as I understand it: hard work and
generosity. There are many sincere Christians living in poverty due directly
with laziness or stinginess. It’s not enough to have a job—one must work
hard at it to prosper.
Proverbs 14:23, “All
hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” Some
are mere talkers. They speak a good game, they claim all the promises, but
they do not work hard. Instead they hardly work.
Besides hard work,
we must give generously. God wants to put money in the hands of those who
will give toward the gospel and help the weak. The people of Judah were hard
workers but they forgot to put the Lord first in giving to the temple.
Haggai speaks to them these words:
You have planted much, but
have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never
have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only
to put them in a purse with holes in it."
Have you ever felt
at times that you had holes in your purse or wallet? You slave at work, but
see little results. God gives Judah the answer:
Go up into the mountains and
bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and
be honored," says the Lord.
expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I
blew away. Why?" declares the Lord
Almighty. "Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of
you is busy with his own house.
Those words should
still speak to us today. We cannot expect great results from our hard labor
while we neglect our churches. Tithing to our churches is not just the right
thing, but God will bring rewards to you.
Bring the whole tithe into the
storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the
Lord Almighty, "and see if I
will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing
that you will not have room enough for it.
I know you may
feel this scripture has been abused by ministers who you think are trying to
get every last nickel from you, but do not let your attitude change what
this verse says. God promises to bring a flood-time blessing to the tither.
Make no mistake; God does not make this promise to anyone but to the tither.
Jesus provides the
biblical proof that giving brings a boomerang blessing, “Give,
and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together
and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you
use, it will be measured to you"
(Luke 6:38).It would be nice if God returned
every gift to us, but He goes further by explaining that the gift will be
returned, “good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.”
It’s like a box of cereal. The manufacturer
may claim 20 ounces and then puts a disclaimer: “some settling may occur”.
But if they tried hard enough, they could shake the box, fill the box with
more cereal, press down the cereal, so more can be poured into it; and then
overflow the box with running over cereal. You could get pounds and pounds
of cereal by “pressing down, shaken together and running over.” They won’t
do this because they are stringent. But God is not! He will return our
generous gifts with much more than we originally gave.
As I searched the Word of God concerning
prosperity, these three keys brought a needed balance and wisdom concerning
prosperity. When I saw these truths, I went back to God and praised Him,
“Lord, I see very clearly the truth about prosperity. I believe in it and
know I can proclaim it without apology.” To this day, I am proud to be a
prosperity teacher. And I think every gospel preacher should be a prosperity
preacher and proclaim the great truths about biblical finances.
I hope you won’t throw out the baby with
the bath water because you feel that the prosperity message was been twisted
to encourage greed and put money in the coffers of preachers. Instead, try
not to judge peoples’ motives, and be bold in claiming your inheritance in