The notion that God wants me to be rich, happy, and successful is a pretty nice thought, huh? It’s nice to think that God has my best interests at heart- that He wants to hear from me what I want and will more than happily give it to me…as long as I believe enough, and as long as I give enough of my time, energy, and money.
You see though, this notion, however appealing, is not biblical! Nowhere in Jesus’ teachings do we hear that God desires us to have the life we dream of, with the fantastic house, the latest greatest car, or the fattest wallet...
Nor does He ever tell us that God wants us to be happy in life, or to be successful at whatever we do. I challenge you to go look for yourselves and see: It’s not there!
But there are many teachers and preachers throughout the Church who would have you believe that this is what the Scriptures teach. This sort of teaching falls under the somewhat derogatory title of the Prosperity Gospel. As the name implies, these teachers go around pandering the notion of prosperity- that God wants you to be rich, happy, and successful- as if it were the Gospel-truth. In fact, they preach it as though it were the central message of the Gospel. And it’s not that hard to find these preachers, they are often the heads of very large churches and ministries. A Google search of “Prosperity Gospel Preachers” will result in 143,000 separate pages highlighting many of them. Some of those most closely associated with this false Gospel are Kenneth Copeland, Oral Roberts, Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, Kenneth Hagin, and Brian Huston.
Now, I hesitate in calling these preachers out by name because I don’t want you to assume that 1) everything they teach is bad, & 2) they are the only ones preaching this message. Not everything these preachers say is false. I would be very confident going to some of them for advice about certain things. I would look to Joel Osteen for advice on how to maintain joy in the midst of tough situations. I would be happy for my friends to go to Joyce Meyer for advice on how to deal with difficult issues, especially as a woman. But would I go to them to hear the Gospel? NO! I call them out to highlight just how dangerous their teachings are. And there are many others just like them out there who don’t pop up quickly on a Google search, yet still warrant caution in accepting what they preach.
You see, this caution that I’m talking about- Scripture calls it discernment. We are supposed to be careful and have discerning spirits when it comes to the things we hear and accept as truth. Scripture teaches this over and over: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2)”; “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world (1 John 4:1).” And in fact, we are supposed to be vigilant about the things we hear and accept: “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ (Colossians 2:8).”
How are we to be careful and vigilant? By knowing who God is, by having a close relationship with Him, by studying His Word (so we can test things against it), and by relying on the counsel of others who can help us to discern. The scary truth is that not everything that is preached from a church pulpit is the truth! Our job as believers is to make sure that we are not accepting it all just because it comes from the pulpit, but make sure that we test it against what we know of God, and what we read from His Word- even what I say! My friends, do not let yourselves be deceived by the many false teaching out there, but let us hold fast to the faith we learned in the beginning, the faith we read in the Bible! And let that be the only message we preach and believe!
Sermon Notes for “Biblical Mythbusters: Myth #4” from Mar 3, 2014
Myth #4: “God Wants You To Be Rich, Happy, Successful”
Of course God wants us to prosper
We know that God loves us- John 3:16a
We know that God wants to open His storehouse of blessings and pour them upon us- Malachi 3:10
Notion of prosperity is in line with our American Ideals: “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”
What it is:
Teaching that financial blessing is the will of God for Christians, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to Christian ministries will increase one’s material wealth
“Name it and claim it”- name the blessing you want, and believe that it will be yours
You have to have faith in order for God to pour out His blessings on you
What it does:
Relies heavily on Scripture, especially on passages where God wants to bless people, and on passages that speak of getting back the blessings you give out
What it really is:
Proof-texting: taking these verses out of context and “using” them to prove that God wants nothing more than for you to have a good life; it manipulates people into believing that all they have to do is give more money, more service, and have more faith, then they will be blessed
Plain and simple- it is false teaching!
See youtube video entitled “The Gospel of Greed and Prosperity”
What it really does:
It makes God into our own image, turning God into some easily manipulated play thing from which we can get whatever we want; making God akin to the genie in Aladdin’s lamp: all we have to do is rub the lamp, say our wish in the right way, and await it’s fulfillment
And if we don’t get our heart’s desire, then we just aren’t doing it right
This prosperity teaching removes the truth of God and replaces it with a lie!
And it’s a lie that million in America are buying, and we are exporting to the rest of the world
See youtube video entitled “John Piper- Prosperity Gospel”
Prosperity Gospel is false teaching: See Paul’s message to Timothy in 1 Timothy 6:2b-10
Instead of teaching prosperity stuff, Jesus taught that it is those the world sees as worst off who are blessed
See Matthew 5:3-12
Jesus taught some tough stuff when it came to what it means to follow Him
Turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow Him
Is there anything worth more than your soul?
God thought that your soul was worth His dying for
And Jesus calls His disciples to follow after Him in that same way
Nothing in Jesus’ teachings point to this notion of “name it and claim it”- that God wants to bless you with material possessions, money, happiness, or success in life
We read in Scripture that true prosperity comes when we suffer, giving up our own needs and wants, and seek to glorify God and serve others
Truth: If you want to follow Jesus, turn from your sinful, selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow Him!
Jesus is the greatest blessing we could ever ask for. The life which He has given to us is so much better than any riches or happiness or success we could ever ask for in this life!
Cori Cypret is the pastor of The United Methodist Church of Coopersville.