God Promises Health, Wealth,… and Good Looks?

Bible B.S. + American Dream = Poison

“God is good and wants good things for you,” the preacher says.  By good things, he (or she) means money, cars, and easy living.   Who wouldn’t want to believe that?  “For you to reap the harvest of God’s blessing, you have to plant a seed and water it.”  And by plant the seed, the preacher means give his (or her) ministry money.  This is the “prosperity Gospel.”

The Bible teaches the principle of tithing, of giving a portion of our earnings to His work.  The Bible also teaches that God does want to bless us, but those blessings happen in the context of a relationship, not of a business contract; and while He blesses some people materially, it is never deserved and it is never a promise.

Such promises are believable because: 1) the preacher preaching them is has obviously been so blessed, judging by his (or her) suit; 2) we live in a very money- and image-driven culture, so we want that kind of blessing; 3) key Bible passages are taken out of context or are redefined in a way that makes such promises seem plausible; 4) the people in the greatest financial need desperately want a way out.

After encouraging a community to help those in need, Paul reminds the Corinthians: “And God is able to make all grace come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need be self-sufficient.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)

Joyce Meyer, in her booklet “Prepare to Prosper,” transforms into this this passage into: “And God is able to make all grace (every favor and earthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need be self-sufficient [possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation].” (p. 21, Warner Faith, 1997)

Grace has everything to do with God’s favor, but it is, by definition, unmerited.  Grace can have material benefits, but not always.  This self-sufficiency should not be interpreted individualistically, as we Americans are wont to do; Paul uses the you-plural and this is a letter written to a community.  They together will have enough together for whatever material, emotional, and spiritual circumstance may arise.

Later in 2 Corinthians we see Paul wrestling with grace in a way utterly foreign to the prosperity Gospel:  “…there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’…” (2 Corinthians 12:7b-9a).

Paul was in pain.  We don’t know the details, whether it was some physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual problem.  But we know that he asked God to take it away, and God said, “No.”  Why?  Because God’s unmerited favor is enough, Paul, so you will have to live with the pain and be humbled by it.

God wanted Paul to suffer, the same way that He wanted Jesus to suffer, the same way that He wants you and me to suffer: that is when life is the most real, when we can draw closest to Him, and when we might draw others closer to Him.  (Romans 5:3-4; John 12:24; Philippians 2; etc.)

God promises that life with Him is good, but not easy.  The prosperity Gospel is a big fat lie.


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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Oh my goodness, the prosperity gospel, what a load of, well you know. It used to anger me, now it just saddens me… not only for the poor souls who buy into this useless theology, but for the poor souls who spout it out. Do they truly believe this stuff themselves? Are they just in it because preaching prosperity in American culture is akin to a license to print your own money?

    I read 2 Peter 2 and 1 Timothy 6 and think of the future in store for the prosperity gospel teachers… and pray that I would love these people enough to not wish for their destruction but for their repentance and salvation.

    My mother is an Oprah fan (whom I put in a similar category), and over the years I have seen the effect it’s had on my mom’s faith, a mix of prosperity gospel, secular humanism, and “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” theology… again, I used to be angry at Oprah, but I’ve asked God to give me His love for her, too, so that I would pray for her instead of condemn her.

    So hard! It’s much easier to condemn than to love, isn’t it?

  2. Yeah. Shoot, if I was Oprah, I would believe that pulling myself up by my bootstraps worked! But is she rich and popular because her theory works or because she’s telling people what they want to hear?

  3. My power is made perfect in weakness! hahhaha. That is a great quote and I think it sounds more like a dominatrix than a savior! It also sounds about right… god seems powerful to those that are weak… to those that have a hard time accepting that reality is reality – there is nothing outside of what we’re experiencing right here and now… no magic ghost that cares for us – because if god doesn’t care for the babies being raped in Cambodia why should he care for you? Great post – thanks. Jerry

  4. If a Man is unhappy when he is Poor, How much more unhappy will he be when he is rich. When He can buy the whole world and is still left empty inside.

  5. Grudd- yes, my viewpoint as well… except that I see no difference either way – unhappy as all hell poor or rich, what’s the difference?

  6. Jerry: This is a great quote… and could give the wrong impression taken in isolation. God cares about the children being raped in Cambodia. We’re part of the problem. We’re called to be part of the solution.

    Grudd: Some of the happiest people I know are some of the poorest, especially my brothers in Ghana. You are right that wealth is not the answer. Happiness might not even be the right question, but it’s the one on which our culture insists: “What makes you happy?”

    Jerry (again): You are right that a miserable man is a miserable man, rich or poor. The difference that matters is the one possessed by the joyful man.

  7. Simarc properties The manpower should be the trained person. Not susceptible, the operation configuration should possess been organised and ever updated. Inescapable facts after the reasons norm contract or usage needs to confirm to certain that the transmit is every then charitably obtainable in animosity of the p or material to be terminated. Riches poop such as taxes needs to be paid and nummary libretto such as rental payment should be recorded.

  8. 2 Corinthians 9:8 Amplified Bible
    “And God is able to make all grace (every favor and earthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need be self-sufficient [possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation].”
    Joyce didn’t say this, the Amplified Bible says this. Lockman Foundation, The producers and publishers of it and the New American Translation are responsible for this sentence.

    • Thank you for the correction. Meyers used the quote. Usually stuff in brackets means material that the person quoting has added. In this case it is material added by the editors of the Bible Meyers is quoting.

      Taking the verse out of context, as she does, ignores the issues of Christian poverty Paul raises throughout 2 Corinthians, to say nothing of the way that she and like-minded preachers ignore Jesus’ ambivalence toward wealth.

  9. Obviously none of you are christians.

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