Just to give you a quick (and probably a bit incomplete) definition, prosperity theology (prosperity gospel) claims that if we have faith, give financially to Christian ministries, and think and speak positively, God will reward us with health, wealth, overall healing of all our mental and physical issues and our relationships with others.
I'm not going to even touch on the complete lack of biblical evidence to support the prosperity gospel. There isn't any. I challenge anyone to find some while doing justice to the whole Bible, not taking things out of context, and while maintaining a good hermeneutic approach. Frankly, what is left is a clear logical problem with our ability to preach this "gospel" everywhere. Sure, preach that in America or in other rich parts of the world. But take that "gospel" to a third world country, impoverished by oppression, starvation, disease and lack of clean water. I'd be incredibly interested to know how we could spin prosperity theology to those people.
Prosperity theology isn't just theologically tenable, it is also clearly just not the way things work.
Our motivation for serving God is not to acquire wealth, health, or prosperity. Although, I guess that's how it worked back in the New Testament and the early church...oh wait...Paul, the Christian of Christians in many ways, an Apostle who knew the truth and lived it out, spoke of how his life went in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29. If anyone would know the blessings of God in this life, it would be Him:
- "Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?"
The real Gospel, however, is empowering and motivating, leading us through life's easy times and hard times alike.
The Gospel says, "God created the world to love and obey Him and to live in close, loving relationships with Him and to each other. However, mankind disobeyed God and did not submit their lives perfectly to Him, destroying the loving community in which we were meant to live. This disobedience, which we call sin, is inherently found in each person on earth from birth. There is no escape from our sin. We can never shake it or make up for it. We are slaves to it, and we must be punished by not only earthly death but eternal separation from God, who must punish humankind for its failure to live to His expectations of perfectly loving, serving and submitting to Him. Fortunately, God also still loved His creation and didn't want all people to be condemned to hell. Though He is also just had still had to punish, He extended His loving grace by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die in our places, taking the wrath that was against us on His shoulders so that it remains no more against those whom God calls to His side and respond in faith and trust in Him.
Once saved by the faith given to us by God, we are to live our lives as slaves of Christ, no longer slaves to sin. We were bought out of our slavery to sin and serve a new Master now. He changes our lives from the inside, and though our external circumstances may not change, inside we are completely different. We want to live our lives for Him. We want to tell others of the joy that we have inside, regardless of circumstances. We want to show His love by living as Christ would to the world: loving, healing, preaching the truth and caring for others. We see that the world that we live in now is not the end but only a passing challenge and difficulty which will one day be redeemed wholly by God and turned into the "heaven-on-earth" that He promises. We are on route. We will be there soon. That place will have no crying, no pain, no disease, no suffering, no misfortune, no relationships gone awry, no poverty. That place will be completely filled with the presence of God, and in His presence we will worship, live and serve for eternity. We will live in the presence of the One who loves us more than we will ever know.
This is not the end. This is the only the beginning.
THAT, is a Gospel that empowers, motivates and gives hope to those who have none on earth.
Thought-provoker: Have you come in contact with anyone who has been influenced by the prosperity gospel? How have you seen it play out in their lives?