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A Lie from the Pit – Prosperity Theology

February 14, 2013

In my last post I mentioned, what I perceive to be, probably the most deceitful teaching at large in the Church today. That is Prosperity Theology. It goes by a number of different names and catch phrases, name it – claim it, seed giving, God wants you to be rich, etc. They all boil down to basically the same thing. It is taught by many of the TV preachers from Benny Hinn, to Kenneth Copeland, to Creflo Dollar, Richard Roberts, Paul Crouch, etc. They all boil down to essentially, God wants all of His followers to be rich and the way that you can get yours from God is to give. If you give then you will get. Plant the seed. If you want to harvest money, you have to plant money. I mentioned before that I believe that there are striking parallels between this teaching today and the sale of indulgences in Europe prior to the Reformation. I will elaborate.
First, the appeals of each are directed primarily to the poor and the Biblically ignorant. Indulgences were not marketed to the wealthy but to those who had very little to begin with. The prosperity teachers demonstrably derive the major portion of their income from the underclasses. Think about it. There is little appeal to gain wealth for those who already have what they need. But, if you don’t know how you are going to pay the rent, the promise of abundance is great. Second, both are based on nothing solid in Scripture and in fact ignore some very clear teaching in Scripture. Third, the appeal is one based on emotional response rather than reason and the demand is generally made for an immediate response.
In point of fact, I will assert that in at least two regards prosperity teaching is MORE evil than was the sale of indulgences. At least the appeal of the sale of indulgences was to gain benefit for someone else. Indulgences were marketed with the promise of freeing from the suffering of Purgatory the souls of deceased loved ones. The appeal of prosperity teaching is simply the personal acquisition of wealth. And, at least the proceeds of the sale of indulgences were directed for the construction of St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome. Much of the gain from prosperity teaching buys mansions, fancy cars, and jet planes for the teachers themselves. They callously justify their lavish lifestyles by saying that it is evidence of the “truth” that they teach and they are living the life that God desires for all.
If in fact, this were solid Biblical teaching one could expect that it would be taught at times other than when it accompanies an appeal for contributions to the one who is doing the teaching. One would also expect that people would be encouraged to think about what has been said carefully, look into the Scripture and pray it through before making a decision to give. I have never seen that done.
Please be aware of just how pervasive this teaching as become. All that needs to be done is to watch Christian Broadcasting Network or Trinity Broadcasting Network. A large percentage of the programming will include this teaching when they appeal for giving. It is also seen on the smaller and local levels. A few years ago a survey was done of those who consider themselves pentacostal/charismatic/full-gospel to determine what single belief was most common to those believers in those groups. I would have expected to hear that it was speaking in tongues, Holy Spirit baptism, healing, or signs and wonders. Ahead, of all of those was belief in prosperity teaching. Something has gone very wrong in that part of the Body, but it is not only present there. It is all over. And to make matters worse we have been exporting this as well. For obvious reasons, it has gained influence in the third world, among the poorest people.
In the first half of the 16th century the sale of indulgences in Europe was the single biggest factor leading to the Reformation. Martin Luther confronted this abuse of the Catholic Church at the risk of his life. He and others believed the issue was that important. I believe that an equally strong response is appropriate to this evil that has gained such a deep foothold in the Church today. But, few dare to speak out boldly. Several years ago I was in a seminar lead by John Perkins. He spoke to the evil of prosperity teaching. When he allowed time for questions, I asked if it would be fair to declare this teaching a “lie straight from The Pit”. John said he did not believe that was an overstatement. I agree completely.

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