Part of a book I wrote years ago [the rest is on my blogs]
'HOUSE OF PRAYER, OR DEN OF THIEVES'
a critical look at the modern prosperity gospel.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER 1 ‘YOU CANNOT SERVE GOD AND MAMMON’
CHAPTER 2 ‘TWISTING THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER’
CHAPTER 3 ‘WHAT IS THE ABRAHAMIC BLESSING ?’
CHAPTER 4 ‘WHAT DID JAMES SAY ?’
CHAPTER 5 ‘WHOSE MINISTRY, JESUS OR OURS ?’
CHAPTER 6 ‘1 TIMOTHY 6’
CHAPTER 7 ‘WERE JESUS AND THE DISCIPLES RICH ?’
CHAPTER 8 ‘COVENANT THEOLOGY’
CHAPTER 9 ‘SOWING INTO GOOD SOIL’
CHAPTER 10 ‘IS THERE HOPE FOR FALSE PROPHETS ?’
It all started a few years back when I was regularly listening to certain ministries who taught the prosperity gospel. Over the years I subscribed to a few of these ministry magazines and truly enjoyed their teaching, but every now and then while reading through the bible I would come across certain passages of scripture that seemed to contradict the themes of the prosperity movement. I also found it strange the way they interpreted certain passages of scripture, it was almost as if when they were done explaining them, that these passages meant the exact opposite of what they were plainly teaching.
During this season of learning, while the Lord was dealing with me about these various doctrines, I would find myself at times saying 'something needs to be done about the extreme teaching coming from this camp'. I would also deal with some of the unbalanced teaching through the small avenues of influence I had through a local radio program and various speaking opportunities. I would even go through stages where I was so upset over some of the more extreme elements of this teaching, that I would avoid dealing with it at all because of the emotional baggage that comes with having to disagree with a brother in Christ.
Then why write this book? Each time I would determine to drop the whole matter and never deal with this issue again, something would happen, or be said on Christian television or radio, or be written in a new book, that was so off base that I would ask the Lord again if He wanted me to do more in bringing about a more balanced view of biblical prosperity. The most recent incident was while watching Christian TV one night, the preacher who was speaking is a well-known prosperity preacher. Before he preached he invited another prosperity preacher to share a 'special' revelatory word the Lord had given him, as the preacher came to the pulpit he began to lead the people in a series of confessions/actions that he told the audience to imitate in order for them to experience breakthrough in their finances. As he stood on the stage he then went through the motions of pulling down an imaginary lever on a slot machine while confessing in a very loud voice the words 'MONEY COMING'. He did this three times while the audience followed. When they got to the last shout, the preacher emphasized the importance of this last shout, and as he led them in the pulling down of the lever they all shouted at the top of their lungs 'MONEY COMING TO ME'
Well to say the least this was another one of those 'incidents' that caused me to ask the Lord if I should do more about such obvious abuse in the church. A few days later, while driving to work one morning, I remembered this incident and asked the Lord if he wanted me to write a book on this subject. Later on in the day during a lunch break, while reading through the bible during a regular devotional time, I just happened to be reading through the book of revelation, and when I came to revelation 1:19 where Jesus tells John to 'write the things which thou hast seen', it hit me like a ton of bricks. So here I am today, believing that this book will serve a definite purpose in the Body of Christ and cause us to return to a more balanced view of the 'things of this world'.
CHAPTER 1 'YOU CANNOT SERVE GOD AND MAMMON'
It has been said that the best way to spot a counterfeit is to know the real. So let’s begin with a biblical look at true prosperity. In the past, while trying to deal with this subject, I would often find people responding in defense of the prosperity gospel by saying things like 'oh, but you don't know how good the Lord is' or 'you don't know how much God wants to meet our needs' or, 'the bible doesn’t say money is evil, but the love of money'. To which I would reply 'AMEN', I agree with you. But the bible also gives us many warnings against materialism, seeking to be rich, and living for material things.
So while trying to deal with the false prosperity gospel, I would like first of all to establish the truth that God is good, he does want to meet our needs and give us the desires of our heart, and yes, he even wants to bless us financially and materially. God promises not only 'heavenly' or 'spiritual' blessings, but also earthly or material blessings as well. If you go through the bible from Genesis to Revelation you will find instances of Gods people being rich, prosperous and blessed in every way. You will find many promises of Gods provisions for us, not only spiritual but also financial and material. There is no doubt that God can, and does bless His children in all areas of life if they are obedient to Him.
We also know that there are many warnings in the N.T. against seeking to be rich, living for material wealth, and the like. So how do we harmonize these two truths?
Let’s look at the overall purpose of God for his church. We are commissioned by Jesus to tell the whole world about His love for us, so we can make disciples of all nations. The message from our lips, [and hearts] is to overflow with who Jesus is and what He’s done for us. As a matter of fact, Jesus tells us that as we proclaim and talk about Him, and seek first His kingdom, that He will take care of all the other less important things. MATHEW 6:19-24 ' 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 NIETHER MOTH NOR RUST DOTH CORRUPT, AND WHERE THIEVES DO NOT BREAK THROUGH AND STEAL: FOR WHERE YOUR TREASURE IS THERE WILL YOUR HEART BE ALSO........ NO MAN CAN SERVE TWO MASTERS: FOR EITHER HE WILL HATE THE ONE, AND LOVE THE OTHER; OR ELSE HE WILL HOLD TO THE ONE AND DESPISE THE OTHER. YOU CANNOT SERVE GOD AND MAMMON. 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 MORE THAN RAIMENT? BEHOLD THE FOWLS OF THE AIR: FOR THEY SOW NOT, NIETHER DO THEY REAP, NOR GATHER INTO BARNS; YET YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER FEEDETH THEM. ARE YE NOT MUCH BETTER THAN THEY? ...... THEREFORE TAKE NO THOUGHT, SAYING WHAT SHALL WE EAT? OR, WHAT SHALL WE DRINK? OR, WHEREWITHALL SHALL WE BE CLOTHED? [FOR AFTER ALL THESE THINGS DO THE GENTILES SEEK;] FOR YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER KHNOWETH THAT YE HAVE NEED OF ALL THESE THINGS. BUT SEEK YE FIRST THE
I find it troubling that some teachers use this very passage in order to justify materialism, while the plain meaning of Jesus words are the opposite. Jesus says you cannot serve God and money. So we must take our minds and thoughts and meditations and focus them on God, not worldly things!
So true prosperity can be defined as God meeting all the needs of his children as they proclaim him in all nations. True prosperity is God meeting our needs while our focus is on him [not on our needs being met!]. True prosperity is being able to preach the word of God without a covetous motive [1 PETER:5:2].
I should make note that there are some who teach that this passage of scripture [MATT. -24] actually teaches that we have a bank account in heaven with real money credited to our account! And every time we sow [give into] the
CHAPTER 2 'TWISTING THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER'
While a new Christian, enjoying that early honeymoon period with the Lord, I’ll never forget the joy I experienced while learning the bible for the first time. The clarity, pureness and unity of scripture were a sure foundation for a long road ahead. While working as a house painter and listening to Christian radio all day long, it was an early introduction to the various 'streams' of teaching that were being produced in the church. One day my job foreman, who often heard me listening to Christian radio, thought I would enjoy listening to a new tape series that he had just been given. So I popped the cassettes into my radio and listened with the excitement of a new believer in Christ. The cassettes were a new teaching on the parable of the sower. MATTHEW 13:1-9, 18-23 ' THE SAME DAY WENT JESUS OUT OF THE HOUSE, AND SAT BY THE
The basic plain meaning of the parable is self-explanatory. There are always obstacles and enemies of the gospel. Ultimately those who overcome these obstacles will bear good Christian fruit in varying degrees [30,60 or 100 fold]. The various hindrances to the word of God include the 'cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches'. If you want to produce fruit for God you cant get caught up in the materialistic pursuits of the world [2 TIMOTHY 2:4].
Many times in connection with this parable is the doctrine of sowing for a harvest taught. Jesus often uses planting [sowing] and harvesting [reaping] illustrations in his teachings. The main focus is usually dealing with the spreading of the
CHAPTER 3 'WHAT IS THE ABRAHAMIC BLESSING'
I must admit that out of all the various portions of scripture used to teach a false prosperity gospel, this is one of the most deceptive. In order for us to fully grasp the concept of the abrahamic blessing, we must do a little history.
In GALATIANS 3, the apostle Paul makes one of the greatest N.T. arguments for justification by faith versus law. I personally believe this doctrine to be one of the foundational doctrines in the N.T.
The heresy that Paul is fighting against in Galatians is the heresy of legalism that was taught by the judiazers. The judiazers were the Jewish/Christian sect that taught that gentile believers needed to be circumcised and brought under the law in order to be saved. The main argument that Paul uses to refute this doctrine is in Galatians 3. In this chapter we find Paul going back to the O.T. books in order to show that God established, by covenant, the basis of justifying man by faith without the deeds of the law. The main argument Paul uses is 'the abrahamic blessing'. Paul traces Gods promise to Abraham, made before the law was given, where God says 'in thee shall all nations be blessed' [GEN. 12:3, GAL. 3:8]. This meaning that God would bless [save] all nations through the promised child of Abraham [which would eventually be Jesus]. Paul’s point is to show that God already promised to bless all people through Abraham’s offspring [the abrahamic blessing], and not through the law. The abrahamic blessing referring to justifying the world by faith and giving us 'the promise of the Spirit by faith' [GALATIANS 3:8-14], this argument is also used in Romans 4.
Now here comes the tricky part, some teach that God covenants to make us rich trough the abrahamic blessing [or covenant]. They use this chapter to teach that Christ died so we can receive the abrahamic blessing. They then define the abrahamic blessing as the 'things' that Abraham had. But once again the abrahamic blessing as defined in Galatians 3 is referring to God justifying us by faith as opposed to the law. Paul was in no way teaching the Galatians that God was going to make them rich! He was battling for their very souls! The plain text of this passage shows us that Paul was dealing with the issue of justification, and not finances. And it would make absolutely no sense for Paul to begin to address money issues in the middle of this chapter.
Each time I came across this type of distorted interpretation, I honestly couldn’t understand how so many different teachers could so consistently apply the same passage in the wrong way. It almost reminds me of the O.T. passage that speaks of a conspiracy of the prophets [EZEK. ]. A sort of network of false/distorted interpretations of the scripture that exist among certain groups of believers, and these same false opinions are then propagated again and again until after you hear them long enough they seem to become accepted truth in the church at large. We need to re-examine some of these doctrines and receive correction and make the proper adjustments in our thinking and acting [repentance!], so we don’t continue to spread these false opinions in the church.
CHAPTER 4 'WHAT DID JAMES SAY'
One of the strongest books in the N.T. dealing with poverty and riches is the book of James. Simply reading this book in context would give the modern prosperity gospel a strong rebuke! James contrasts both rich and poor, he says that God has chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the
Lets look at exactly what the word of God says; JAMES 2:1-6 'MY BRETHREN, HAVE NOT THE FAITH OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, THE LORD OF GLORY, WITH RESPECT OF PERSONS. FOR IF THERE COME UNTO YOUR ASSEMBLY A MAN WITH A GOLD RING, IN GOODLY APPAREL, AND THERE COME IN ALSO A POOR MAN IN VILE RAIMENT; AND YE HAVE RESPECT TO HIM THAT WEARETH THE GAY CLOTHING, AND SAY UNTO HIM, SIT THOU HERE IN A GOOD PLACE; AND SAY TO THE POOR, STAND THOU HERE OR SIT HERE UNDER MY FOOTSTOOL: ARE YE NOT THEN PARTIAL IN YOURSELVES AND BECOME JUDGES OF EVIL THOUGHTS? 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. DO NOT RICH MEN OPPRESS YOU, AND DRAW YOU BEFORE THE JUDGMENT SEATS? How were they despising the poor and being prejudiced in their thoughts? They were treating poor people with contempt while showing honor to the rich. This is exactly what we do in the church, by teaching that poor Christians have little, or no faith, we unconsciously treat them with contempt. We teach that the poor are under a curse and are therefore not living up to all their benefits in Christ. We actually set up a cast system in the church. James says the poor have great faith! He doesn’t portray them as having small faith. He warns the rich not to trust in uncertain riches. The bible flatly teaches that financial abundance is not a measure of ones faith! We must stop teaching that if you would simply believe God you would have an abundance of money. This is not true in every case. Sometimes the abundant supply from God is the grace and patience that he gives to the believer in the face of severe trials or lack. The N.T. clearly teaches that there are believers with lots of faith who are poor! You can't deny the plain word of God. We should not suppose that a lack of financial abundance is a sign of weak faith!
Now to one of the most recent 'new revelations' that is being taught in the church. I first heard this from a very respected soul-winning evangelist. I then heard it taught from a variety of other teachers. As of this writing it seems to be accepted 'truth' in certain circles. Lets read JAMES 5:1-6 'GO TO NOW, YE RICH MEN, WEEP AND HOWL FOR YOUR MISERIES THAT SHALL COME UPON YOU. YOUR RICHES ARE CORRUPTED, AND YOUR GARMENTS ARE MOTHEATEN. YOUR GOLD AND SILVER IS CANKERED; AND THE RUST OF THEM SHALL BE A WITNESS AGAINST YOU, AND SHALL EAT YOUR FLESH AS IT WERE FIRE. YE HAVE HEAPED TREASURE TOGETHER FOR THE LAST DAYS. BEHOLD, THE HIRE OF THE LABOURERS WHO HAVE REAPED DOWN YOUR FIELDS, WHICH IS OF YOU KEPT BACK BY FRAUD, CRIETH: AND THE CRIES OF THEM WHICH HAVE REAPED ARE ENTERED INTO THE EARS OF THE LORD OF SABAOTH. YE HAVE LIVED IN PLEASURE ON THE EARTH, AND BEEN WANTON; YE HAVE NOURISHED YOUR HEARTS, AS IN A DAY OF SLAUGHTER. YE HAVE CONDEMNED AND KILLED THE JUST; AND HE DOTH NOT RESIST YOU. The first time I heard this 'new' truth, the preacher said that this passage was dealing with the end-time transfer of wealth from the rich to the poor. It was explained that in verse 3 'YE HAVE HEAPED TREASURE TOGETHER FOR THE LAST DAYS’ meant that the rich gathered together their wealth so it could be given to the church in the last days. While I have no problem with the idea of the world’s wealth being used for kingdom purposes, I do have a problem with distorting the word of God to prove our points! A simple reading of James 5:1-6 shows us that the reason the rich are being reproved is because they spent their lives building up financial fortunes without being rich toward God [LUKE 12:16-21]. This scripture also plainly says what is going to happen to their wealth. Is it going to be 'transferred' to us? Is it going to be given to the Christians in the last days? Is it going to be used at all? NO! It is going to canker, rust and corrupt! It is going to be destroyed! It will be of no help at all in the day of judgment [PRVB. 11:4]. It will be a witness against them for living covetous lives. The entire theme of James follows this line of thought. To read all the other things that James says about the rich and poor in this epistle, for us to then interpret this passage and say that James was now teaching the Christians that they would become rich through the end-time transfer of wealth, is ridiculous. Once again the plain meaning of scripture is being distorted in order to make it say the complete opposite of what it means.
One more thing before we leave James. The early Christian community did not equate poverty with being under a curse. They did not equate poverty with sin. There are many rebukes in the N.T. against sin in the church, but the poor in the church were praised, not rebuked! The very mindset of looking upon the poor as a lower class permeates this teaching. If the poor are cursed, not living up to their inheritance, don’t know how to apply faith principles or simply don’t know/believe the word concerning prosperity, then in essence we are despising the poor through our belief system. The N.T. plainly teaches that it is okay to be poor! We need to heed the warning from this N.T. epistle and stop despising the poor!
CHAPTER 5 'WHOSE MINISTRY, JESUS OR OURS?'
I'll never forget the time I was watching 'Christian' TV and saw a preacher holding up his Rolex watch and then teaching the people that this was an example of his faith in action! He then went on to explain that when we use our faith to obtain things, we can then show these things to people as a witness of our faith. If this is what it means to go witnessing for Christ, I think most people would be standing in line to sign up!
Over the years I have heard it taught that the only way the world would be saved is if the church becomes extremely rich financially so she could send the gospel to the world. That the world would see our extreme wealth and would ask 'where did you get all that money?' and we would then say 'from God', and the lost would then want what we have and get saved! Convenient isn’t it. But is this a biblical picture of the N.T. church and her witness in the earth?
In order to answer this question, we need first to look at what the N.T. church is. The church consists of communities of believers scattered throughout the world. All over planet earth, right now, there are believers thriving and testifying of Gods grace in all types of circumstances and situations. The community of believers that Jesus launched 2 thousand years ago is still going strong. She answers to no man or human govt. She has outlasted empires, persecutions, false religions and every other conceivable attack that can be imagined. The prophecy of Jesus has been fulfilled ‘THE GATES OF HELL SHALL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST HER’ [MATT. ].
As of today there has been no other single institution upon earth that has had more influence in the history of the world than the church! Now, if the church truly consists of believers [seeds], planted [sown] all over the world under the lordship of Christ, with various giftings [Apostles, Prophets, etc.] operating under the administration of the Holy Spirit, this ministry [the
The reason I say this is because there is a mindset in the church [American mostly] that equates the witness of the gospel with the success of American charismatic entrepreneurial ministries. We have been deluded into believing that unless we all become rich, we will never be able to reach the world. The overall success of the
The N.T. clearly teaches the principles of our witness for Christ, and the focus has never been extreme wealth. But on sacrificial living, loving each other unconditionally, a sharing caring community of people who are known for good deeds of charity. In the book of acts the early church had a powerful witness, and they weren’t rich financially, yet they did reach their world for Christ. How? Through great sacrificial living, through miraculous signs and wonders, through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and through a bold proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not one sermon in the book of acts focused on anything else than Jesus Christ and his great work for us. Their hearts and lips flowed with the message of Christ, not money!