Decline of the “Prosperity Gospel”
Fortunately, the errant teaching known as the “prosperity gospel” is self-destructing. (Note: I differentiate that heresy from the more common “prosperity message” further below.) The economic downturn occurring in the United States and in most other countries of the world has had a tremendous effect towards nullifying such errant doctrine. Some of the leaders of this fraudulent religious teaching have also been exposed by the media, and/or are under criminal investigation.
In this article, I will provide you a glimpse into my background with regard to these teachings, and then make known my official position on the two main variants. However, let me begin this discussion by noting three of the elements that are now bringing down the “religious empires” of the “prosperity gospel” heretics.
First, many people have begun to realize that they are poorer—not wealthier—from all the financial “seeds” they have “sown” into these wolfish “ministries.” The current economic meltdown simply provided such people a rude “wake-up call” to this fact.
Those who take the time to “do the math” quickly realize that they are nowhere near receiving a “one-hundredfold” harvest on their contributions to those self-serving religious frauds. Most can readily see that their “sacrificial offerings” were nothing more than “suicide offerings” that enriched only their grateful recipients. Jesus called such con men (and con women) “ravening wolves” in Matthew 7:15.
Of course, there is no doubt that wolfish “ministries” truly do appreciate the many deceived “partners” who contributed toward their lavish lifestyles. However, those who now realize they have been deceived—and are now poorer for it—are certainly not amused. Proverbs 22:16 puts it this way:
He who oppresses the poor to make more for himself, or who gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.
(NASB, emphasis added)
So many “partners” are abandoning wolves such as Kenneth Copeland, Jesse Duplantis, Leroy Thompson, Creflo Dollar, and many others, en masse. The current economic collapse is simply waking people up to reality.
The second cause of the self-destruction of the “prosperity gospel” is the fact that such “prosperity ministers” are suffering financially themselves. For example, most—if not ALL—of these “televangelists” are drastically reducing their television airtime, cutting payrolls (either through layoffs or by replacing veteran employees with minimum wage workers), and scrambling to increase their revenues through various fund-raising gimmicks and marketing techniques. They do so as secretively as they can, of course. Every effort is made to ensure that their “partners” and television viewing audiences do not catch on to what is happening.
Nevertheless, people are finding out anyway. They are then quickly realizing that these frauds never lived what they taught. They only lived OFF of what they taught. They merely sold that “message” to professing Christians through books, videos, and audio recordings—while also promising “hundredfold returns from God” on the contributions given to support their opulence. Then they themselves lived off of obscene six- or even seven-figure salaries, outlandish bonuses, mansion-sized “housing allowances,” and other such grotesque “perks” such as private jets. It takes religious fraud—not faith—for them to live so well at others’ expense.
The third and fairly obvious reason, as I mentioned already above, is that these “ministries” have attracted scrutiny towards themselves. Governmental agencies are investigating several for possible criminal conduct, while the media continues to expose them—and many more—to the public’s disapproving eyes.
So all the reasons above reveal some of the obvious ways this heresy is destroying itself. However, the biblical reason, of course, is simply that the judgment of God coming upon such thieves.
Nevertheless, one cannot possibly delve into the topics of money, finance, economics, & etc., from the context of the Bible without raising questions regarding some of the “prosperity” teaching that has circulated within the Body of Christ. Let me briefly address my position on such topics in order to differentiate our approach from the errant swindlers who twist the Scriptures for their financial gain.
Theologically, my earliest Christian influences included not only Methodist and Baptist ministers, but also many Charismatic/Pentecostal teachers as well. Among these where some of the contemporary “big names” among “prosperity preachers.”
However, I grew weary of their increasingly erroneous teaching over time. I eventually turned a “deaf ear” to many of them as I pressed forward into more biblically sound studies of economics and finances (as well as many other topics). One can only hear so much “money cometh” tripe before having to conclude that these preachers are either totally ignorant, total frauds, or both. (And as I have documented on KennethCopelandBlog.com, I personally discovered Kenneth Copeland to be both.)
Even the man considered by most to be the “founder” of this money-centered message, the late Kenneth E. Hagin, found himself getting more and more uncomfortable with the extreme error that some of his protégés were propagating. But when he tried to correct several of them, he was largely unsuccessful in his attempt.
Regardless, let me clearly state my position on these matters. To begin, I differentiate between the typical “prosperity message” and the heretical “prosperity gospel.” So with that in mind, let me now explain my position on each of these as follows:
- SOME of what is called the “prosperity message” is biblical, and helpful, but overall it is very shallow teaching. It is generally taught in such a way that it over-emphasizes “giving” as a means to supernatural wealth procurement, while simultaneously understating the many other biblical principles necessary for people to improve their finances. (And to be frank, most ministers who teach this message are simply ignorant of business and finance; so they are ill-equipped to properly instruct on financial topics from the Bible anyway.) The main concerns that I have about this teaching are: (1) As it is typically taught by most ministers, it promotes greed and covetousness, and (2) It is based upon an incomplete view of these topics from the Bible, so it just does not produce results in the way they claim that it does—though it may pay the preacher’s bills when people follow his or her instructions for them to give donations.
- ALL of what is called the “prosperity gospel” is heretical and dangerous. The moment ANY minister elevates their “prosperity” doctrine to “gospel” status, they have stepped over into pure heresy. The Spirit of God warned us within Galatians chapter one of the Bible that if anything was offered as a “gospel” that differed from that given by the apostles, it was really “not a gospel” and the one propagating it would be damned:
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the Gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.
(Galatians 1:6-10, NKJV, emphasis added)
Any honest review of the Book of Acts within the New Testament will provide several examples of sermons preached by the apostles after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. NOT ONE of these includes anything about God enriching a person financially or materially—or even anything about God paying their bills. All the apostles confronted sin within their Gospel presentations, and then warned of a coming judgment. They then admonished their listeners to repent of all sin and idolatry, to put their faith in Jesus Christ as their sole source of salvation, and then to live according to biblical standards thereafter. (For more teaching on this topic, please see my own articles, The Supreme Value of Righteousness and The REAL Gospel, or better yet, download my FREE audio MP3 teaching series, “The Fundamentals of the REAL Gospel.”)
Paul put it this way, within his testimony before King Agrippa:
So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.
(Acts 26:20, NASB, emphasis added)
ANY alleged “gospel” which differs from the Gospel presentations given by the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ within the Book of Acts, is — by necessity — a heresy. It is a “different gospel” which is “not another,” and thus, it is both damning and damnable:
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.
(Galatians 1:6-10, NKJV, emphasis mine)
Thus, the so-called “prosperity gospel” is a heresy by definition. It MUST be, because it conflicts with what the apostles preached — as ANY honest examination of the Book of Acts will reveal. While one can certainly find Scriptures that talk about God prospering His people, NOBODY can find any which include such things WITHIN a Gospel presentation made by ANY of the apostles. So when a person calls such a doctrine a “gospel,” they are implicitly admitting that they are a heretic.
Furthermore, the Bible balances its teaching about material prosperity with admonitions against covetousness (greed), and warnings that the Christian life includes suffering of various kinds (e.g. Matthew chapter 24; Romans 8:18; Ephesians 5:5-7; Colossians 3:1-7; Hebrews 10:34; Revelation 3:14-22; etc.). The Bible also emphasized SPIRITUAL prosperity (i.e. being born again and going to Heaven instead of being damned to the Lake of Fire…see Revelation 20:11-15) over and above ALL FORMS of earthly temporal wealth and gain:
Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”
(Luke 12:15, NASB, emphasis mine)
“No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him. And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.
(Luke 16:13-15, NASB, emphasis mine)
NONE of the so-called “prosperity preachers” are known for exhibiting any sort of similar “balance” regarding such matters. Rather, they consistently demonstrate pure greed — though some cover it well with their “sheep’s clothing” by claiming to be generous to others.
So please let me be clear: The financial content within the current Organic Economics™ specifically—and the developing Economic Theology™ series in general—is emphatically not a presentation of the so-called “prosperity gospel” at all.
Furthermore, the teaching within the Economic Theology™ series is far more biblically comprehensive and substantive than the rather weak “prosperity message” that has been taught for several decades (though, again, there are some elements of that teaching that have merit, as the Scriptures themselves are always true).
I hope this page clarifies my own position appropriately, and differentiates what I will be teaching throughout my writings on these subjects from the errant and/or heretical “messages” which have circulated.
Always in Jesus,
For more information about Rev. Rich Vermillion, please view the brief bio at the bottom of TheWisdomOfGold.com’s Website Introduction page, or visit his public LinkedIn profile page at: http://www.linkedin.com/in/richvermillion
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