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The Prosperity “Gospel”

By Calvin George

This article is available in Spanish

“It is never God’s will for a Christian to be poor”

Have you ever heard this? That statement may sound like music to your ears, and may even sound biblical. We are being barraged more and more by promises of riches on behalf of unscrupulous radio and television evangelists. They are taking advantage of people’s greed in attempts to attract more followers. Let’s take a look at the biblical perspective regarding riches and poverty, with minimal comments on my part.

Riches, when obtained legitimately and with the condition that they do not take our eyes off the Lord, are not sinful. They are an extra blessing from the Lord.

Examples of rich Christians in the Bible would include: Abraham; (Gen. 13:2; 24:35) Solomon; (1 Kings 10:23) Hezekiah; (2 Kings 20:12-18) Job; (Job 1:3) and Joseph of Arimathaea (Mat. 27:57).

The blessing of the LORD, it maketh rich… Prov. 10:22

Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion. Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God. Ecl. 5:18-19

God takes pleasure in blessing his children, although these blessings do not always consist of earthly riches.

A faithful man shall abound with blessings… Prov. 28:20

Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us. Eph. 3:20

Serving the Lord with the hope of acquiring riches is not an honorable motive. Love for the Lord Jesus Christ should be our motive.

For the love of Christ constraineth us… 2 Cor. 5:14

And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. Deut. 6:5

Those who believe in a prosperity gospel may attempt to acquire riches through gambling, the lottery or casinos. Seeking riches in such a manner is contrary to the Scriptures.

…He that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent. Prov. 28:20

And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 1 Tim. 6:8-10

Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven. Prov. 23:4-5

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Mat. 6:19-21

Many prosperity gospel preachers will distort such scriptural terminology as “prosperity,” “abundance” and “blessings” so that their followers will believe that they refer mainly or exclusively to material wealth. The Bible clearly points out that His abundance for us does not necessarily consist of earthly possessions.

Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. Luke 12:15

There are many blessings that do not consist of material possessions. In reality, there are many things that money cannot purchase.

Money will buy:

A bed but not sleep

Books but not wisdom

Food but not an appetite

Makeup but not beauty

Attention but not love

A house but not a home

A watch but not time

Medicine but not health

Astonishment but not respect

Insurance policy but not peace

Pleasure but not joy

A crucifix but not a Saviour


If a Christian who believes in the prosperity gospel continues in poverty, he may think that the Lord has been unjust. But notice the following verse, where we find that it is good that God does not give us what we deserve.

It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. Lam. 3:22-23

God has promised to supply our basic needs, but has never promised to satisfy all our wants.

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:19

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things [Food, drink, clothing; see verse 25] shall be added unto you. Mat. 6:25-33

If a Christian who believes in the prosperity gospel continues in poverty, he may be tempted to covet the possessions of the unsaved, and even those of other Christians.

For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. Psa. 73:3

But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 1 Tim. 6:9

And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. Mark 4:19

The Bible teaches us that we should learn to be content, grateful and satisfied with what we have in the absence of riches. This is something that the world does not understand, and that leaves the unsaved astounded.

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. Phil 4:11

I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. Phil. 4:12

…There is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches. Prov. 13:7

As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. 2 Cor. 6:10

But godliness with contentment is great gain… And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. 1 Tim. 6:6-8

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. Rom. 5:3-5

Teaching a prosperity gospel is insulting to Christians in third world countries where they continually have to trust the Lord for their basic needs. Why do preachers of the prosperity gospel not proclaim their message in underdeveloped countries? Has God failed Christians in impoverished regions? Certainly not.

Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor… James 2:5-6

[Jesus was anointed] …to preach the gospel to the poor… Luke 4:18

Prosperity gospel teaching has a tendency to emphasize riches, instead of the Provider of the riches. Trust in earthly riches has caused many to forget to depend on the Lord.

Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; 1 Tim. 6:17

If I have made gold my hope, or have said to the fine gold, Thou art my confidence; If I rejoiced because my wealth was great, and because mine hand had gotten much; If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness; And my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand: This also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge: for I should have denied the God that is above. Job 31:24-28

Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness. Psa. 52:7

He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch. Prov. 11:28

…Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Mat. 6:24

Also read Deuteronomy chapter 8

Poverty, when it is not a result of slothfulness or faults in a person’s character, is not something to be ashamed of.

A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked. Psa. 37:16

Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, than he that is perverse in his lips, and is a fool. Prov. 19:1

Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich. Prov. 28:6

Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith. Prov. 15:16-17

Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor… James 2:5-6

The Bible makes mention of many Christians who were poor, yet were doing God’s will. Among them are:

The widow who gave her last two mites

And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had. Luke 21:3-4

The church in Smyrna

I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty… Rev. 2:9

Jesus Christ

…The Son of man hath not where to lay his head. Mat. 8:20

Many of the blessings that God makes available to Christians are conditional. If we do not meet the conditions, we will not be compensated. Examples of conditional promises would include:

This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. Josh. 1:8

If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Jn. 15:7

God is always in control. He will be glorified through his children, whether they be rich or poor.

The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up. He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory… 1 Sam. 2:7-8

The rich and poor meet together: the LORD is the maker of them all. Prov. 22:2


In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thes. 5:18


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