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"Rev. Terry [Terry Cole-Whittaker] is telling [people] that they have every right, and the power, to get anything they want out of life ... She believes we can have it all, everything we want ... her bumper sticker [says] 'Prosperity is your divine right'..." - Ft. Wayne News-Sentinel (1/19/85).
This doctrine is becoming increasingly popular among believers in the "Charismatic Movement," Pentecostalism, and faith healers. Preachers teach that God will reward faithful service with good physical health and material abundance: people have a right to expect this, and God will even do miracles to accomplish it. Many call this "the gospel of physical health and wealth."
Has God told His servants that we have a right to expect good health and material abundance? Should Christians pursue wealth as part of our reward for serving Him? Does this harmonize with the Bible teaching about the purpose of miracles? What does the Bible say?
Note: Some quotations below refer to preachers as "Reverend." I disagree with this practice, but I am simply quoting their materials.
"Rev." Terry: "...we can have it all, everything we want ... Prosperity is your divine right" (see quote above).
"Reverend Ike": "You can't lose with the stuff I use ... Don't be a hypocrite about money. Say 'I like money, I need money, I want money'" (Bowman, Searching the Scriptures, 2/83, p324).
Kenneth Hagin: "Do you mean God is going to make us rich? Yes, that's what I mean" (Bowman, STS, 2/83, p. 324).
"If you are physically sick ... are financially burdened ... have a failing business ... then YOU NEED A MIRACLE! ... GOD CAN GIVE YOU THAT MIRACLE! Through the ... miracle keys of Seed-Faith ... Plant a seed (give out of your need...) Expect a miracle (...count on it, and expect it to happen)." Abundant Life, 9/74, pp. 16,17
Testimonials from this magazine include:
(1) A man whose business "bordered disaster," sent a contribution as a "seed," and 2 weeks later business was pouring in and now he can't keep up with it.
(2) A woman with a large family living in a mobile home, sent Roberts a contribution, then her husband got a raise, then "the Lord threw the miracle-doors wide open" and they got a new 5-bedroom house "complete with colored kitchen appliances."
St. Matthew's Church, Tulsa, OK, in their book Unlimited Opportunities, says to send for their "Gold Book Seed Harvest Prosperity Plan."
"We believe God wants his children to prosper and have the nicer things in life ... We pray for God to bless folks with their own businesses, more money, finer homes and automobiles. We believe God's people can have the best of everything ... If people who don't believe in God almighty [sic] can pay their bills and have nice clothes, cars, plenty of money and beautiful homes, then God's children can too" (pp 217,218).
Again they say, "God multiplies your money in the same way He multiplies the farmer's seed ... If you plant money, you will have a money harvest" (pp. 143,148). How do you sow the money as seed? "Tear out the next page of the Gold Book Harvest Plan. Place your best seed offering on top of that page, and sow your seed by mailing into the ... St. Matthew Church Ministry" (p21).
Testimonies show that people who do this have received:
A 14-room house (p38)
$20,000 a year for 20 years, an $80,000 house, a $26,000 car, and a $21,000 van (p67)
A 7-room house, two automobiles, and $9,780 (p80)
A 22-unit apartment building, an 18-unit apartment building, 5 rooms of new furniture, and a color TV worth $800 (p117)
2 restaurants, 2 motels, a gas station, a house, and 7 vehicles (p121)
Famous millionaires of history are cited who supposedly succeeded by using plans like this (the book often specifies how much they were worth): George Eastman ($95 million), H.L. Hunt ($1 billion), Johns Hopkins ($10 million), Frank W. Woolworth ($65 million), Henry Ford ($1 billion), J.P. Morgan ($118 million), and Bill Gates ($100 billion).
It says spiritual salvation is most important, yet the vast bulk of the book discusses financial wealth.
Following Bible principles can help us meet our physical necessities: Christians must work, not be lazy, and avoid foolish or sinful waste of money. But does the Bible promise or teach us to expect or to pursue material abundance as part of our reward for serving God?
They did not have wealth, luxuries, or abundance, let alone "everything they may desire."
Luke 16:19-22,25 - Lazarus was so poor he begged for crumbs, while the rich man fared sumptuously. Comfort for this servant of God came after death, not during this life.
Matthew 8:20 - Jesus had nowhere to lay His head. Does this mean He was unfaithful to God? [2 Corinthians 8:9]
Acts 3:3-6 - When the lame man asked for alms, Peter said "silver and gold have I none."
2 Corinthians 11:27 - Paul was "often" in hunger, thirst, cold, and nakedness. Why didn't he solve these problems by sending a contribution to a faith healer and expecting a miracle?
2 Corinthians 8:2 - Macedonian Christians experienced "deep poverty" yet gave generously to help other needy Christians in Jerusalem. Note the difference. Paul taught Christians to give money to help other needy people. But prophets of the gospel of health and wealth tell needy people to send donations to them, and then God will make all the poor people wealthy. [Revelation 2:9]
All these examples of needy Christians are in the Bible, but I wonder how many of them would have made it into the faith healers' testimonial magazines! Had New Testament preachers believed what many modern preachers teach, all these people would have been told to ask God to send a miracle to eliminate their poverty.
Luke 14:33 - We cannot be Jesus' disciples unless we are willing to give up all we have. True, some Christians did possess more than they needed. But where the gospel of wealth emphasizes how to gain possessions, Jesus emphasized willingness to renounce possessions!
Matthew 19:23,24,29 - It's harder for a rich man to enter Heaven, than for a camel to go through the eye of needle. Where the gospel of wealth tells people how to obtain wealth, many of Jesus' true disciples forsook their possessions to follow Him. If disciples have a right to expect material prosperity, why did Jesus warn about the dangers of wealth?
1 Timothy 6:5-10 - Corrupt men believe godliness is a way of gain, yet that's exactly what preachers of the gospel of wealth believe! Having some luxuries is not necessarily sinful (v17), but it surely is not promised. And those who strongly desire to get rich, fall into all kinds of sin and temptations. But that is exactly what the gospel of wealth teaches people to desire! Instead, the true gospel teaches people to be content with necessities.
However, the gospel of wealth does make some people rich: the preachers who preach it get rich! "Rev." Terry gets $180,000 per year! Note this one:
"Rev." Wayne Parks sends out bottles of anointing oil saying:
"Now here is something very special that I feel led to ask you to do. As an act of faith take the largest bill that you have in your possession or write the largest check you can write and anoint the right hand corner of it with a little of this oil. Then mail it to me today ... I feel that this is going to bring a financial blessing to you." (Guardian of Truth, 5/11/78, p. 11).
Why is it that, when a faith healer "feels led" to bless people, the people have to send money to the preacher in order to get the blessing? See the difference between that and Bible teaching?
If the gospel promised to make Christians wealthy, then Christians should always be among the wealthiest people on earth, but this has never been the case.
[James 2:5-7; Luke 12:15-21; Matthew 13:22; 1 Peter 3:3; Luke 6:24]
"Rev." Ewing of St. Matthew's Churches offered anointing oil to "turn on God's healing and prosperity blessings in your life" (Bowman, STS, 2/83, p. 325).
Oral Roberts said to "expect a miracle" for physical illness as well as for financial problems, etc. (provided you send a "seed-faith offering") (quoted above).
Kenneth Hagin: "Healing was in God's plan of redemption ... To receive healing from the Lord, our spiritual condition must first be attended to; for if we are sick, it reveals that we have come short of God's will somewhere" (Bowman, STS, 1/83, p. 297).
Again, testimonies describe people being healed of various physical ailments. The conclusion must be that, if Christians remove sin from their lives, send money to the preacher, and "expect a miracle," they will be healed. If not, then there is sin in their lives.
Again, Bible principles tend toward good health. As good stewards we should care for our bodies, and we should pray for healing and good health (3 John 2). But does God promise healing and tell us to expect it, even by means of miracles?
Their sicknesses did not always result from sin; in some cases, they were never healed.
2 Timothy 4:20 - Paul left Trophimus sick at Miletus. Why didn't Paul heal him with a miracle, or teach him to repent of his sin so he could be healed?
Philippians 2:25-27 - Epaphroditus, Paul's fellow-worker was sick to the point of death. Why didn't Paul heal him? Was Epaphroditus guilty of some sin?
Job 2:1-10 - Job was blameless and upright, yet he lost his wealth and was covered with boils. He was ill, not because he had "come short of God's will," but because Satan was tempting him to get him to sin. One of the major themes of the book was that Job's friends falsely claimed that he was sick and suffering because he had committed sins.
2 Corinthians 12:7-9 - Paul himself had a "thorn in the flesh." He prayed three times for God to remove it, but God still left it for Paul's good. Why didn't God say that Paul had "come short of God's will"? Why didn't He teach Paul about "seed-faith"?
Would modern faith healers have put these stories in their testimonial magazines? No, but they are in the Bible! So, sickness is not always caused by people's sins, and God does not always promise to remove sickness from faithful Christians. Modern faith healers do not speak as the oracles of God.
[1 Timothy 5:23]
In Bible miracles, there was always clear evidence that the disease existed and that it was cured in a way impossible by natural law. Even opponents admitted this was so. In contrast, modern "miracles" can be explained by natural law and psychology, or there is no evidence a healing occurred, or there is no evidence a physical illness existed to begin with.
Bible miracles always resulted in instantaneous, complete, and total healing. In contrast, modern "miracles" are often gradual or lead to only partial and incomplete improvements.
Neither Jesus nor His apostles (after they received Holy Spirit baptism) ever failed to heal anyone they tried to heal, nor was there any kind of disease they were unable to heal. In contrast, modern "faith healers" often will not even attempt to heal certain kinds of diseases, and they often fail if they do attempt them.
Not once did Jesus or His apostles ever ask anyone to give them a financial donation before they worked a miracle on their behalf. Yet modern miracle workers almost invariably do so!
We fully believe Bible miracles did occur. But modern healers should not appeal to Bible miracles as authority for their modern practices, since they do not do what was done in the Bible! In fact, when a person claims that power, if he cannot do the same kind of miracles, that is one proof that the man is not from God!
To see the many Bible examples that demonstrate the nature of Bible miracles, we urge you to study our free articles on that subject on our Bible study web site at /instruct (see the section about God/Deity).
Acts 14:3 - The purpose of miracles was to confirm the word-of-mouth teaching done by inspired men before the gospel was written.
This purpose is no longer needed now that we have the completed written word.
2 Timothy 3:16,17 - The Scriptures now provide us to all good works.
John 20:30,31 - The Scriptures contain eyewitness testimony of miracles of Jesus and Bible writers to convince us to believe and be saved.
When the revelation of the gospel was completed or "perfected," spiritual gifts ceased because their purpose had been accomplished and they were no longer needed (1 Corinthians 13:1-11; Jude 3). This is why no one today does the kinds of miracles recorded in the Bible: the power has ceased because it is not needed.
[Hebrews 2:3,4; Mark 16:20; 2 Corinthians 12:11,12]
Disease is what causes death. Until a preacher can prove that Christians are not subject to death, he is foolish to claim that we need not be subject to that which causes death!
Hebrews 9:27 - It is appointed to man once to die. Everyone is subject to death, so everyone is subject to disease. If Christians need not be subject to disease, then why would we die?
1 Corinthians 15:25,26 - Death will not be defeated till Jesus comes again (vv 23,24). Till then Satan has the power of death (Hebrews 2:14), and Satan also has power to inflict people with disease (2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Job 2:1-13; Luke 13:10-17; Acts 10:38).
The gospel of health and wealth is really a gospel of physical comfort, ease, and convenience in this life. But Jesus said, "In this world you will have tribulation" - John 16:33. There is no promise or assurance of a life of ease on this earth.
[Job 14:1; 1 Peter 2:19-23; 2 Timothy 3:10-12; 1 Thess. 3:4; Acts 14:22]
If the gospel does not promise physical health and wealth in this life, what does it promise?
These promises include:
1 Corinthians 15:1-4 - The gospel is based on Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. By hearing, believing, and obeying this gospel, we are saved from our sins.
Romans 1:16 - The gospel is the power of God to salvation - not to health and wealth.
Promises of the gospel pertain primarily to our relationship to God, not to material benefits.
[Luke 19:10; 5:32; Matthew 20:28; Acts 20:32; 2 Thess. 2:14; Ephesians 1:13; Mark 16:15,16; 1 Peter 1:22,25]
Romans 5:1,6-10 - Because God loves us, He sent Jesus to die so sinners can be reconciled to Him and have peace with Him.
Philippians 4:4,6,7 - Rejoice in the Lord and pray. Then you can have the peace that passes understanding in your heart.
The gospel is a message of spiritual hope, love, joy, and peace because our sins are forgiven and we have fellowship with God. To make it a matter of physical and material gain is to pervert the message.
[Acts 8:39; 1 John 1:3,4; Colossians 1:21-23; John 3:16; 1 John 4:8-10; etc.]
Titus 3:7 - Being justified by God's grace we have the hope of eternal life.
1 Peter 1:3,4 - Our hope is an incorruptible inheritance in Heaven.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 - In this life we have afflictions, but our glory comes in eternity.
Christians have no promise of physical comfort and abundance in this life. We may have some physical comforts in this life, but there is no assurance of it. Our pleasant surroundings come after this life in eternity.
Matthew 6:19-21,24,33 - We are not forbidden to have earthly possessions, but we are forbidden to make them our priority. Most important should our spiritual service to God.
Colossians 3:1,2 - Do not seek or set your mind on things on earth, but on things above.
Matthew 16:26 - If a man gains the whole world, but loses his soul, what profit was there?
In contrast, "Rev." Terry "does not believe in sin, guilt, sacrifice ... She considers sin and guilt to be forms of 'self-hatred'" (News-Sentinel, 1/19/85).
That is the extreme result of the gospel of health and wealth. It emphasizes material pursuits till it leads people to deny the true spiritual blessings of the gospel. Even those who don't deny spiritual needs, still de-emphasize them and cause people to become too concerned about their physical wellbeing.
[Matthew 19:29; John 6:27,63,68; Matthew 13:44; Luke 12:15-21; 1 Timothy 6:17-19; 1 Peter 3:3; Luke 10:38-42]
O.L. Yearly said: "One cannot preach the gospel without preaching divine healing" (Bowman, STS, 1/83, p. 297). This shows how important these folks consider the health and wealth gospel to be. Yet their doctrine is nowhere found in the gospel of Christ.
But, preachers of the health and wealth gospel rarely preach the true requirements of the gospel. St. Matthew's Church, for example, explains in their book that people are saved simply by believing in Jesus and "praying the sinner's prayer," but baptism comes after salvation.
Mark 16:15,16 - The true gospel tells you to believe and be baptized in order to be saved from sin. Faith healers cannot afford to preach baptism as necessary to salvation, because they would lose too many supporters!
So faith healers put in what is not there and take out what is there! They preach a gospel the apostles never preached. It is "another gospel" and those who do preach it are accursed (Galatians 1:8,9). [See Rev. 22:18,19]
Nevertheless, you and I can obey the true gospel and receive a blessing far greater than physical health and wealth. We can receive eternal life! Have you obeyed the true gospel?
Copyright 1985, 2011, David E. Pratte; www.gospelway.com
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