Ps Benny Hinn’s recent comments rejecting the prosperity gospel has sparked a mixed reaction—as expected. Some believers, including ministers, have dismissed his rejection of this practice on the grounds that it is Biblical, that is, there is enough scriptural evidence to support it. I have read a few comments on a couple of Facebook articles I have posted including
-The Bible clearly teaches us to give
-Prosperity is God’s will for us
-It takes money to spread the Gospel
It is obvious that the vast majority of believers do not really know what is wrong with this Prosperity Gospel. Or maybe they do not know what this prosperity Gospel is all about in the first place. This article will briefly describe 4 pillars, certainly amongst many others, that are the foundations of this empire called the Prosperity Gospel.
But first, what is this Gospel?
What is the Prosperity Gospel?
The phrase “Prosperity Gospel” is what we as Christians have used to describe certain financial practices in the Church. There is no formal definition anywhere, and there is really nothing called the “prosperity Gospel.” The Gospel is the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Gospel of Grace.
Briefly stated, the essential practices of this Gospel is the emphasis that God wants us to be financially prosperous with a follow up that the key to this prosperity is to give money, often to the “Man of God,” minister or ministry as a financial seed that will unlock the supernatural and release all sorts of miracles, including prosperity, breakthroughs, deliverance, etc. There might be many things involved, but those listed are at the heart of this doctrine.
I want to briefly describe 4 key pillars that carry this empire.
Pillar 1: Giving is an Established scriptural truth.
I believe this pillar is the foundation of all of our confusion, and the remarkable success, past present, and even future of this deceptive teaching. It is because its foundations are based on established Biblical truths. The premise of the prosperity Gospel is actually true. It is Biblical! I know some of you might scratch your head and wonder where this is leading to.
The scriptures have laid out God’s words regarding our finances. Let me summarize the key truths here.
1. God has commanded the believer to give. You cannot know God, read the scriptures, and not see everywhere that giving is not only an exhortation but a commandment. It is in our Father’s nature to give, and He wants us to give. Noting proves love like giving. This is true, and we must be careful NOT TO REJECT THE TRUTH because someone is abusing it.
2. God’s desire is for us to prosper financially. This one is a hard pill for some believers. I have read some sincere believers reject this truth because they have seen people misusing and abusing it. No! This does not mean God has called us to pursue wealth as our goal. However, it does mean God wants us to be financially blessed. I love what Paul said here:
“And God is able to make all grace overflow to you so that because you have enough of everything in every way at all times, you will overflow in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8, NET)
We have moved as a church from one end of the spectrum of those who accepted poverty as a sign of humility and service to God to those who have made wealth God’s ultimate purpose in their lives. Can we as believers just learn to be balanced? Can we stick to scriptures, even if our experiences agree with the Word or not? God wants us to prosper whether you are prosperous or not. Look at Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the nation of Israel, David, Solomon, etc. Divine prosperity, that is, God making a man to be financially prosperous is a reality. And we have better things in Christ.
3. There is a reward for giving. God uses the analogy of sowing and reaping in our giving to describe this law. Yes, money is truly a seed in our hands. After I got so disgusted with the practice of “financial seed,” I made the error that many of us are making which I have stated above. Do not reject the truth of the scriptures because people are abusing it. Please take a moment and read the entire 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9 and see a remarkable presentation of God’s plan for our finances. I will not get into any details about this in this brief article. Please read it and study it for yourself if it remains a question in your mind. Do not pick one verse and try to make conclusions. I encourage you to read the entire section to get the entire revelation.
I will end with these three key truths, but there are more. These truths are scriptural. Ps Benny’s Hinn was not rejecting these truths. He was rejecting the Prosperity Gospel. You may now wonder what the difference between the Prosperity Gospel and the Biblical truths listed above is. If the prosperity Gospel ended here, it would not have been called prosperity Gospel. It would truly have been what it should be, the Gospel in its entirety. However, it turns out there are other things besides the scriptural truths above and that is where the problem lies. There are other pillars that carry this doctrine, and if it were only Pillar 1, it would have been perfectly acceptable.
Before I move to Pillar 2, let me give you an analogy to show you this is actually the work of the enemy amongst us. God gave Adam and Eve instructions. Satan did not bring a different instruction from someone else to deceive them. He used God’s Word to plunge Adam and Eve in humanity’s nightmare. He used the “scriptures.” Does that ring a bell to you? How often did the Devil use what is written when he tempted Jesus? Do you see the pattern?
The twisting of the truth is a powerful self-destructive weapon in our hands for the enemy to use. When we take the truth of the Word and stretch out until it exceeds its limits, the truth functions like a lie, and it becomes more dangerous than an outright lie because many will believe it is still the truth as it was meant to be. This is one of the things I call “Pentecostal or charismatic excesses.” And I am a wild-headed Pentecostal or charismatic also, if you mean those who believe in the operations of the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit! We have a problem with scriptures. A very big problem and that is taking truth and extending it until it loses its truthfulness. This is the heart of the problem with this prosperity Gospel. It is truly Biblical, at least on the surface, because its premise is what the scriptures have said. It is based on what God has actually commanded, but these commands have been taken and twisted not to benefit the Church, but for the prosperity and financial abundance of those who preach it.
Pillar 2: Greed is the Dynamo
Hidden behind the truth of the Word of God is the greed of the preachers of the prosperity Gospel. The scripture is the surface that everyone sees. However, beneath that scriptural surface is greed that is saddening to know about.
Many of you think this prosperity Gospel started a few years back. Well, that is not true. The Apostle Peter talked about it. It was the normal practice of false prophets and teachers even in the days of the Apostles.
“But false prophets arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. These false teachers will infiltrate your midst with destructive heresies, even to the point of denying the Master who bought them. As a result, they will bring swift destruction on themselves. And many will follow their debauched lifestyles. Because of these false teachers, the way of truth will be slandered. And in their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words. Their condemnation pronounced long ago is not sitting idly by; their destruction is not asleep.” (2 Peter 2:1–3, NET)
I want you to note the following words and 3 of the 4 pillars of this Gospel I am referring to in this article.
1. “In their Greed.” This is Pillar 2.
2. “They will exploit you.” Pillar 3.
3. “With deceptive words” Pillar 4.
Brethren, here is the Apostle Peter summarizing what is now called the Prosperity Gospel. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear indeed.
The driving dynamo that is typically unseen and under the surface is the greed of the ministers that is disguised.
These false teachers and apostles were not part of the Apostles we know of. Let me point out a very important truth here and an error we must not make. We must distinguish what the Apostle Peter called “false teachers” or “false prophets” in the verses above and the “practice” of these false ministers. Today you can have a true man or woman of God, called of God and anointed who is NOT a false teacher or prophet as the Apostle Peter said above but who PRACTICES the works of these false teachers. This is another reason for the confusion. Not everyone who preaches these false doctrines is a fake minister.
I have often been puzzled how money, or rather, greed in our hearts, has no respect for the anointing or power of God in our lives.
And obviously, there are true “false teachers and preachers” that have flooded the Church because they have seen one of the most burgeoning and promising markets in the world for quick and cheap money —vulnerable believers looking for a miracle or prophecy for some breakthrough in their lives. As I am speaking, there are ministers on pulpits who are not saved, neither sent by God and even sometimes having demonic powers and are clearly agents of Satan presenting themselves as ministers of God. Yes, these are clearly fake false teachers. However, it appears the deepest wounds from this prosperity Gospel is being inflicted not by these fake teachers but by the true ministers who start out called and anointed of God but led by their greed to follow the practices of these false ministers.
Pillar 3: Exploitation of the vulnerability of believers in need
Peter uses the words “they will exploit you” in the NET translation above. The KJV, as always, said it in the most astonishing fashion:
“And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you..(2 Peter 2:3, KJV)
Prosperity Gospel preaches will “make merchandise of you.” Do you know what that means? Peter was simply saying they will make you their business, to raise money to satisfy their greed. Have you ever heard the slogan “Church is big business”? Well, in case you did not know that it was Biblical, here it is before you! Yes, Church is big business, for prosperity gospel preachers!
Our vulnerability to this teaching comes out from our desperation for breakthroughs, miracles, etc. Believers are vulnerable. I mean sooo vulnerable that it makes me cry when I see what some go through in their desperate search for miracles and breakthroughs. I watch a few videos online of preachers somewhere in Africa and see what they do to believers, and my heart weeps. I got so mad, yes, so mad with holy anger that I asked on one of our live bible studies if “we have lost our minds as Christians?” Then the Lord spoke after that sermon and said I should not say that again. These believers are vulnerable because they do not know the truth, they are not mature, and that is why He is asking me to do what I am doing in the first place. If the believers are grounded in the truth, they will not be meat for these predators.
I heard of a minister somewhere whose ministry is on the breasts of the sisters in Church. Another one anoints our sisters naked who are looking for deliverance. Brethren, do we ever think of how Jesus feels when He sees what these wolves are doing to the sheep? Do we ever sense the grief to the Spirit over the Bride of Christ when He sees our sisters and brothers being humiliated and abused in their desperate search for miracles?
Some believers have gone into huge debt because the prosperity preacher’s urge was so strong to sow that seed not to miss this one-time opportunity, and they had to borrow money to give.
However, our vulnerability is not solely the result of our desperation for miracles. It also comes out of a very precious trait in all of us as believers which is used against us. We want to please God and obey His words. When a preacher says that is what God has said, it strikes a chord in the inside of most Christians and touches a very soft spot in our hearts. This soft spot of wanting to obey God has become our enemy, though it is very precious in the sight of God. It is being used as a weapon against us, touching a soft spot that almost always produces the expected response.
These two aspects together, the desperation for miracles and the soft spot of obeying God’s Word form the perfect duo in the hands of these manipulators. They make their exploitation work like magic. If you want to see obedience in Christians, watch them respond to sowing a seed to receive some blessing, especially when there are TRUE miracles or prophetic words manifested. As noted above, this response is a good thing that has become our downfall in the hands of the wrong people.
Our only hope to protect our sisters and brothers is to have them established in the truth. I cannot say this enough. Miracles do not mature any believer. Let me repeat what I just wrote and put it in italics this time so you can read it again the second time. Miracles do not mature any believer. God does miracles in our lives for specific reasons, and we should certainly welcome them. However, when it comes to Christlikeness in Character and growing to the fullness of the stature of Christ, miracles are not what God uses. He uses the truth of the Word about His Son. The average Christian does not yet know that growing up to maturity is his or her best investment in life. Maturity puts us in command of life and not make us the victims of other’s manipulations.
The height of this exploitation is seen in the fact that those who “prosper” the most are the preachers of the prosperity Gospel. And you need not be a space engineer to understand why. The preacher stands on the other side that receives. They become richer while the believers keep giving and wait for their own testimony. It has been 1, 2, 5 or even over 10 years for some and they are still waiting for the breakthrough.
Pillar 4: Deceptive words
The last Pillar I will discuss here is what Peter calls “with deceptive words” above.
And in their greed they will exploit you with deceptive words. Their condemnation pronounced long ago is not sitting idly by; their destruction is not asleep (2 Peter 2:3, NET)
Their weapon is deceptive words. If you have been around the prosperity gospel atmosphere, you will instantly connect with what Peter is saying. There is a way you have to talk to “motivate the believers to give.” Let me begin by looking at the word “deceptive” here.
In simple terms and in our context, it simply means making people believe a lie without knowing it is a lie they are believing. There is no deception without truth. Deception here simply means taking the truth and twisting it in whatever way to meet the deceiver’s goals while making the audience believe and respond as though it is the pure truth. This takes me back to Pillar 1 where I stated clearly that the prosperity Gospel is based on scriptural truth. It is using what God has truly said about money, giving, sowing and reaping, helping to spread the Gospel, etc., and adding an extra element driven by greed while the audience is often completely unaware. This is the main reason some might not even see what is wrong with “preaching prosperity.” They still have not yet understood the difference between preaching prosperity as the scriptures say and what is called the “prosperity Gospel.”
These preachers know what to say that will strike believers to their very core.
It is not uncommon to hear things like
-It takes money to preach the Gospel. True, but….
-There is a law of giving and receiving or sowing and reaping. The one who sows sparingly will reap sparingly and the one who sows bountiful will reap bountifully. Is this true? Absolutely true and clearly what God has said. But again, there is a but…beneath the surface of the scripture, beneath the surface of apparent good intention is Pillar number 2. You can scroll up and remind yourself of what this is if you have forgotten!
This teaching uses the scripture and only those who can see behind those scriptures uncover the same reality that God sees. Do not blindly take anyone, even Satan, for his words when he quotes scriptures!
Let me mention two things often used to support Pillar number 4. They are testimonies and special revelations of certain verses.
After the usual exhortation to give, one or two witnesses will be called forth to corroborate what the preacher is saying. Maybe sister Appleberry or Brother Johnholy will be called to share how he sowed a miraculous seed and checks keep coming week after week. Let me say something about this that might be shocking to some of you. As I have mentioned above, the problem with this teaching is not that it is an outright lie but that it is based on things which are true and Biblical. God used Elijah to feed a widow in the time of famine miraculously, and He has not changed His address. He is the same God. God can still provide miraculously. And sometimes, He will tell you to make a sacrifice and give as He directs to release a supernatural blessing. Yes, yes, and yes, that can happen! Your problem and mine is to know when it is God and when it is someone’s greed that is driving it. Sorry, I have no magic formula to help you know which is which. Sometimes it is obvious. Spiritual discernment inside of you as you grow in the faith and your intimacy with the Lord is your way out.
I should let you know that a person anointed by God can speak and command supernatural turnarounds in natural circumstances. I will repeat this, probably for the one-millionth time, we should not reject the operations of God or the truth because someone is abusing it. And this is where it might get tricky for some of you. Such an anointed person can use that anointing purely for his personal benefit. As pentecostal and charismatic as we Pentecostals are, the anointing always blinds our eyes. Demonstrate the gift of the Spirit, especially word of knowledge today and pentecostals will lay their bodies on the ground for you to walk on them. When shall we grow up and learn to make the difference between the man or woman that is anointed and the gift he or she carries?
The second piece as I conclude this pillar is what we call “special revelations.” Some prosperity Gospel Preachers have special revelations about certain scriptures including Jewish feasts from the Old Testament. It has always puzzled me why we emphasize certain feasts from the Old Testament that have to do with money and giving and leave the others. Pause and think about this for yourself. Beware of special revelations of certain scripture. Again, this in no way disregards the truth that God still reveals and speaks today. Do not make the mistake of those who think God closed His mouth after the Bible was written was completed. No! He still speaks. He still inspires. However, in His infinite wisdom, He knew we will get to this place. He gave us the scriptures to document His complete revelation so it remains written for all generations to come as a guidepost to measure all special revelations or inspirations. Every revelation from God MUST LINE UP completely with what is LITERALLY and clearly written in the scriptures. We will do well if we become “bereanites,” learning to double-check every special insight against what is clearly written for us.
“These Jews were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they eagerly received the message, examining the scriptures carefully every day to see if these things were so.” (Acts 17:11, NET)
What can I say as I conclude this article? There are more pillars but not enough time and space for me here. God has always warned His people and especially His ministers against greed and the love of money. When we teach about God’s desire for us to prosper which is true, we must also teach His warning against greed and the love for money.
The current state of affairs in the Church as concerns money is incompatible with the glory of God that is already sweeping the Church. What God wants to do cannot be done with believers and ministers who have such spiritually unhealthy financial habits. It is one of the saddest things I observe in Church, to see a true man or woman of God demonstrating God in all His wisdom and power yet manifesting greed regarding money. And some of you might wonder why God does not do something about this. He does not work as we think. An anointed man and woman of God can continue to operate with God fully and manifest the spiritual gifts even with greed. He is God’s minister, and God will take care of him or her. Do your part. Do not become their judge or try to help God fix His problem. This does not make sense to us but you better know how the Father operates. Do not take it upon yourself to fix God’s ministers. I know it sounds crazy. Leave them to God! No one ever puts his or her hands against God’s anointed and goes free. Neither does this mean we should be quiet and watch greed go unchecked in the Church. We all have our place and role to play.
Since God’s purpose for His Church in these days MUST be fulfilled, and this financial madness amongst us is still continuing, He will do what He did before. You ask, “What did He do?” I am glad you asked! Well, read what He did below:
“He found in the temple courts those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers sitting at tables. So he made a whip of cords and drove them all out of the temple courts, with the sheep and the oxen. He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold the doves he said, “Take these things away from here! Do not make my Father’s house a marketplace!”” (John 2:14–16, NET)
The whip of cords is already in the Master’s hands. God will begin a work in the Body of Christ before He steps out into the world. Jesus is the revelation of God’s grace, gentle and loving. Many of you however have not yet seen Him with holy anger when His Father’s house becomes a marketplace! The whip of cords is already in His hands, and He will come for us, His people. Some will receive few stripes and others will alot. Come, Lord Jesus come!