A Biblical View of Wealth Part 2: “Prosperity Gospel”
Many Christians are familiar with the term “prosperity gospel”. But what exactly is it and does the Bible say anything about it? Following on from our Part 1 on poverty gospel, today I would like to invite you to look a little deeper at the prosperity gospel.
What is Prosperity Gospel?
The underlying worldview of the prosperity gospel is essentially this: God wants us to prosper financially, to have plenty of money and to fulfill the destiny He has laid out for us.
Additionally, the worldview uses the analogy of planting and harvesting in the so-called “hundredfold return”. Whatever a follower plants, be it faith, money, or any other “seed”, the follower can expect a hundredfold return! Many are led to believe that when they “sow” money in faith, they will receive back a hundredfold.
Notably, those who preach the prosperity gospel insist that in order to receive God’s financial blessings, their followers must first give money to God, that is, to invest into their ministries. Significantly, these preachers have also been listed as among the richest people in the world.
But is this belief biblical? Is material wealth what Jesus means when He says we will have “abundant life?”
The Real Meaning of Hundredfold
The prosperity gospel distorts the biblical gospel by claiming that the abundant life described in John 10:10 (NKJV) means having big cars, big houses, and big job promotions. Nevertheless, the real abundant life of the gospel is really about eternal security for the soul. The prosperity gospel degrades God’s nature by teaching that God grants our wishes like a cosmic magic genie. It focuses on the gifts, rather than the giver. The gospel is about Jesus, but the prosperity gospel is devoid of Jesus!
What does hundredfold really mean? This word appears in the story of the rich young man who asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life (Matthew 19:16-30). At the end of the discussion, Jesus answered that if the young man wanted to be perfect, then sell all his possessions, give to the poor, and then come follow Jesus. The young man went away sad because he had great wealth.
Peter then proclaimed that they had left everything to follow Christ. Jesus replied that everyone who had left home or family for his sake would receive a hundredfold and inherit eternal life (v.29). Does that refer to a hundredfold of houses and properties, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, and children? Or the meaning of hundredfold is beyond the physical?
Significantly, the story is about a rich young man seeking eternal life (v.16), and Jesus’ reply at the end is also about eternal life (v.29). This suggests that the hundredfold refers to the spiritual family and kingdom of God. Furthermore, one inherits eternal life!
In the Prosperity Gospel worldview, one is called to give, in order to get a hundredfold. Instead of self-serving giving, Jesus calls us to reckless giving! Jesus often called upon his disciples to be generous to those who cannot repay them.
Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. – Matthew 5:42
Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. – Luke 6:30
Let the words of a song by Scott Wesley Brown reminds us:
We’ve been blessed to be a blessing,
We’ve been loved to give His love.
About the Author
Among the different vocations he has had, Wee Siong Tan was a door-to-door salesman, a self-learnt IT specialist, and a seminarian. Now, he contributes to digital marketing, theological review, and church ministry in Our Daily Bread Ministries Malaysia. He thrives on coffee, commentaries, and cinema.
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