Wednesday, 19 June 2013
Prosperity Gospel And 419 In The Church– Part 3 Concluded By Rev. C. K. Ekeke
In this part-3 of my essay on Prosperity Gospel and 419 in the Church, I’ll like to conclude it with some teachings–using especially the teachings of Jesus Christ on prosperity in terms of money and material possessions. Sadly, today, millions of Pentecostal and Word of Faith churches and Christians have this erroneous belief that prosperity is simply about money, riches, wealth, abundance, and material possessions. Nothing can be further from the truth. It is also that erroneous belief that led some of these bishops to start acquiring jumbo jets because for them, prosperity equates material possession and great faith in God. Such faulty thinking, ostentation, luxury and flamboyant lifestyle is not only irresponsible and unwise but evil and wicked.
The apostle Paul writes,
“Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap” (1Timothy 3:1-7).
First Timothy 3:1-7 not only give the moral and spiritual qualifications of those called to have pastoral oversight in the church, but also encourages personal holiness. The focal point of the qualifications falls on behavior that is persevered in godliness, godly wisdom, faithfulness to God and His Word, loyalty and love for Christ and the gospel, purity in the face of temptation and shun for earthly materialism. The bishop must have godly leadership that is unblemished and faithfulness to the gospel of Christ.
However, when you look into today’s churches especially in Nigeria, where millions still live in abject poverty, one cannot but conclude that the Nigerian Church is perverted and the gospel being propagated in many Pentecostal churches and by her charlatans is horrifying. The prosperity gospel that is being promulgated today is nothing more than a shameless fraud, a scam, a phony scheme designed by false teachers for worldly, weak, poor and gullible Christians to enrich themselves.
What is Prosperity? Six Kinds of Biblical Prosperity
Let us start by defining the biblical meaning of prosperity. Joshua 1:6-9 reads,
“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Joshua, the successor of Moses, the great leader of the Israelites was not a wealthy man in the sense of money and material possession like King David or King Solomon. But the Bible said, he was a very prosperous man. God prospered him in everything he did because he was a man of great faith, vision, courage, loyalty, obedience, prayer, and dedication to God and to the assignment that God called to do. Joshua was a resolute leader. He respected and obeyed the Word of God, and as a result God prospered him in all areas of his life. Joseph the eleventh son of Jacob was also that kind man and leader. God prospered him in wisdom because of his loyalty and obedience to God. Despite that he was well-built and handsome and was in charge in Potiphar’s home, according to Genesis 39:6, he refused to succumb to the temptation of Potiphar’s wife or do such a wicked thing and sin against God (read Genesis 39-41). Because of that God showed him favor and prospered him by making him the prime Minister of Egypt.
Joshua 1:6-9 also contain the clearest promise of prosperity and successful living. If you diligently study the Scriptures, you will notice that there are over 2000 passages in the Bible that deal and speak on prosperity, success, blessings, victory, favor, abundance, money, material blessings, as well as spiritual prosperity, and 700 of those passages alone speak on money. There are at-least six basic kinds of prosperity and blessing taught in the Bible namely: Spiritual, Family, Mental, Physical, Social, and Financial prosperity. True prosperity encompassed all these areas mentioned.
And so, prosperity is not always associated with materialism. Prosperity is more than money. In fact, biblical prosperity is a spiritual blessing. Proverbs 13:21 says, “Prosperity is the reward of the righteous.” Is your bishop the only righteous person in your local congregation? Why is he the only one dressing fabulously, living large, riding in Bentley and flying in private jets and his children attending best schools in Europe and America and here you are barely scraping by to survive and living in false hope.
According to Strong’s Complete Concordance of the Bible, prosperity is translated from the Hebrew word “Shalom.” Shalom in Hebrew means completeness and soundness. It also means favor, peace, and protection. In fact, the Greek word for prosperity includes mercy, grace, joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness, goodwill, benefit, bounty, reward, kindness, benevolence, opportunity, advancement, etc. Prosperity like salvation is a compound word that includes spiritual, mental, physical, social, health and financial wealth.
Financial prosperity is the least kind of biblical blessing and prosperity. However, in today’s society, the quest for money tops humanity priority more than any thing else. Why does someone want to have lots of money when he or she is messed up mentally, emotionally, socially, and healthy-wise? In our world today, we often hear or read about rich and wealthy people committing suicide with drugs, alcohol or literally taken their lives because of lack of genuine purpose and void in their lives despite their riches and wealth, and material possessions.
True prosperity teachers should be teaching their followers how to prosper in their minds, in ideas, thinking, in their health, relationships, mental, emotional, social, and physical health. They should be teaching their followers how to live right, think straight, and find better ways of doing things. The amount of money in our churches today does not translate to any opportunities or advancement in our society at all. It is a huge disconnect if only the bishops are rich and flying in private jets and the majority of their congregation is living in abject poverty financially, mentally, emotionally and health wise. There must be a balance because only material prosperity wouldn’t make-up for the other areas of blessing that’s lacking. We must be asking ourselves these questions– are we prospering in our minds, health, and relationships? Are we prospering in our thought processes, ideas, thinking, creativity, and ways to live right and in peace and how to contribute and add value to society? My friends, that’s what true and genuine prosperity is about.
Let me also make it clear, the Bible does not condemn money, riches, and material wealth. King Solomon was not only the wisest and but the richest man that ever lived and will ever live. King Solomon was a 1000 more rich than Bill Gates of America. Noah was a wealthy man; Abraham, Jacob, Isaac, Joseph, David, Solomon, etc., were all wealthy people. God delights in the prosperity of His people. King David wrote in Psalm 35:25, “The LORD has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.” God rejoices when we are prospering financially. However, God is more pleased when we prosper spiritually. Spiritual prosperity is the ultimate will of God for us (see 3 John 2).
Money is important and very useful to run our lives, families, government, and yes as well as Church. It is so important that the Bible calls it “master.” In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and mammon (money).” In Luke 16:13, Jesus reiterates the point again and said it this way, “No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.” The pursuit (greed) for money, riches and wealth should not be our main focus in life. The Bible calls it idolatry. The demonic and selfish pursuit for it to the point of almost using savage means to get money is demonic and idolatrous. That’s why the Bible teaches in First Timothy 6:10, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people eager for money have wandered from faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” The apostle Paul further warns us in Hebrew 13:5 to keep our lives free from the love of money and be content with what we have, because God has said, “Never will he leave you; never will I forsake you.” The love for money and earthly treasures can divert attention from Jesus to worldliness and Satan. Love for money and materialism can be a thief, a harlot, a false lover in that it can steal attention and hearts way from God.
It is also a fact that we humans are more concerned and worried about the physical and material needs of life – surely the basic necessitates of life such as food, shelter and clothing than political, social and even moral aspects of our lives. The global financial systems and housing meltdown especially in the United States that led to severe worldwide economic crisis, which caused millions to loose their jobs, homes and as a result many are committing suicides rather than live. Although, the Bible teaches sound principles and gives practical wisdom to help believers navigate tough times with confidence and even show us how God’s children and the church can thrive in times of economic crisis and financial woes, most Christians still care more about economics than spiritual matters.
What Are Some of the Teachings of Jesus Christ on Prosperity?
The teachings of Jesus on money and financial prosperity are very instructive. Barely seven to eight weeks into His ministry, Jesus began a series of teaching, which is popularly known as “Sermon on the Mount.” He began to teach on series of topics such as the Beatitudes, Salt and Light, the Fulfillment of the Law, Murder, Adultery, Divorce, Oaths, An Eye for an Eye, Love for Enemies, Giving to the Needy, Prayer, Fasting, Treasures in heaven , Do not Worry and suddenly to the astonishment of the disciples, Jesus began to teach them in parables. All together Jesus taught His disciples about forty parables to illustrate the secrets of the kingdom of God and heaven as well as powerful truths about money, riches, wealth, and material processions (Matthew 13:1-52). He used the language of business, the principle of investing, property, bank, deposit, interest, money, wealth, trade, risk-taking. He taught them in parable to reveal the power and secret to overcome greed, idolatry, and financial worries.
He told them, “But see first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” – Matt. 6:33. He admonished the disciples to keep the kingdom of God and His righteousness their number one priority. If this priority is kept usually everything else will move into proper perspective. He taught them to serve only God and to seek above all else His kingdom and His righteousness. The Greek verb “seek” continually implies being continually absorbed in a search for something or making a strenuous and diligent effort to obtain the rule and reign of God in their lives.
Jesus taught a lot more about money than salvation, love, kingdom, heaven, etc. However, most of Jesus teaching about money, riches, wealth, and material possessions were in negative connotation. Jesus taught on greed Luke 12:13-21 and warned about lack of generosity and selfishness. He told them not to be ravenous, covetous, rapacious, gluttonous, insatiable, voracious, ostentatious, self-indulgent, flamboyant, and shun priggishness, luxury, and lust. Those things are what we see and have in our churches today. In the parable of the Rich Fool, Jesus warns us to guard against all levels of greed. Jesus taught that life does not consist in having many possessions and material things. To explain this teaching, Jesus told a parable about a rich man who continued to build bigger and bigger barns to store all his grain and goods. His attitude was that he would have an easy life because he had everything he could possibly want or need. God’s response in the parable was that the man was foolish (You fool!) because when he died that night his goods would do nothing for him. They would simply pass on to someone else. Such a person is not rich toward God (1 Timothy 6:6-10; James 1:10).
Jesus went on in the same chapter to warn against worry, anxiety and teaches us that life is more important than food, material things, etc, consider the ravens: they do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them (Luke 12:24). Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in his entire splendor was dressed like one of these – Luke 12:27. But seek his kingdom and these things will be given to you as well – Luke 12:31, Mt. 6:33. The true significance of the Parable of the Rich Fool was to guard against greed, to make earthly gain or riches the desire of one’s life is a fatal error that leads to eternal loss (Luke 12: 20-21).
Jesus spoke mostly about the dangers of money and earthly riches. In Luke 15, the prodigal son didn’t even say, “Please give me.” He simply demanded for his portion of his father’s wealth. Before long, the young man ended in pigpen. The fastest route to the pigpen begins with “Give me.” In Mark 4:19, we read that the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other possession chokes the word and it becomes unfruitful. Deceitfulness of riches is the quest for material possessions. The deceitfulness of riches and the desires for possessions chokes the Word of God in the lives people families and society at large.
In Matthew 6:19-21, Jesus says,
“Do not store up for you treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
In Matthew 6:24 and 31:33, Jesus gives us the priority of life. ‘Do not worry saying, “what shall we eat” or what “what shall we drink” or what shall we wear,” for the pagans run after all these things – But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” The Kingdom of God is built on the cross not on bread and butter – not on the need of the belly. In Luke 2:24, he said, “But woes to you who are rich for you have already received your comfort.” In Luke 18:24-25, “Jesus looked at him (rich ruler) and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to g through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Without doubt, one of the Lord’s shocking statement, but the fact is that Jesus was still teaching on greed and warns against the pursuit of material wealth with idolatry, which is demonic.
In Luke 19, we read Jesus visitation to Zacchaeus, the rich tax collector, who earned his living by collecting more than he should from the people. In fact Zacchaeus was called a sinner because he cheated the people (Luke 19:7). And in those days, tax collectors were despised by the people. Jesus off-course came to save that which is lost. Jesus’ concern for Zacchaeus was to save his soul. We also noticed that rather encouraging people to seek riches, Jesus actually elevates the status of the poor. He loved the poor. In fact he came for the poor and he preached to the poor in spirit Luke 21:3-4, “I tell you the truth; he said this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth and abundance; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live by.”
Now, many Pentecostal and Word Faith movements Many Christians who hold to a prosperity doctrine are quick to use few passages to justify their prosperity message and God wants to bless you theology. Look at all the rich saints in Old Testament Saints; they were all rich and wealthy. Yes, the Old Testament saints were wealthy but not the priests. They point to Jesus’ words in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and that they have it more abundantly.” It is obvious that Jesus wants His people to prosper. He wants to give us a good life, abundant quality and quantity. However, these bishops and pastors twist the truth of John 10:10 and make it appear like the opposite if true – to say that God doesn’t want your life to be rich, exciting, and full of adventure is the greatest lie. They misinterpret the word ‘abundant’ that Jesus uses here in verse ten to literally means to excel and super abound both in quality and quantity. God wants you to super abound in every part of your life.
So, a quick glance of that verse could be interpreted to imply that God wants us to enjoy material prosperity. However, that is not what the passage means. The word for ‘life’ in this verse is ‘Zoë’, a word indicating “life in the spirit and soul.” Another Greek word, ‘bios,’ from which we get the word ‘biology,’ also means “life”; but ‘bios’ is the word used to refer to physical, material life. Of the two words, ‘Zoë’ is usually considered the more noble, higher concept of life. Jesus was saying this: “I want you to have an abundant life in the spirit, which is my highest and best for you.” Actually, John 10:10 have nothing to do with material prosperity. If abundant life meant having expensive houses and cars, parties and entertainment, then it would be legitimate to say that many non-Christians are experiencing abundant life. By those criteria, members of the Mafia, Movie Stars, and Wall Street financial Wizards would certainly be considered blessed.
Another key passage the faith and prosperity preachers use to bolster the prosperity message to defraud their clients is 3 John 2, which says, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospers” (3 John 2 KJV). 3 John 2 is one of the most misunderstood verses in the Bible. Almost every Pentecostal prosperity preacher interprets that verse to mean financial and material prosperity; in order words, to get rich and all the junks they teach to deceive people and justify their “god-wants-you-rich theology.”
The problem is that some not all of these pastors have never studied the words in original language or consulted a learned theologian. Also part of the problem is that the King James translation of the Bible obscures the true meaning of the verse. First, the phrase “above all things” creates confusion for many Christians. The words make it sound as though our prosperity is at the top of God’s priority list for us. But wait a minute- “Above all?” Does that mean even above our salvation? Of course not! In fact, when one fellow asked Jesus what he thought was number one on God’s top list; Jesus’ answer included no reference to material prosperity at all. And Jesus answered him, the first of all the Commandments is, “Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these (Mark 12:29-31). Jesus was saying that our number once concern is to love God supremely; after that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus did not even hint that material prosperity has anything to do with His priorities for our lives. Why, then, would the apostle John say that “above all” we should have prosperity? He didn’t.
Conclusion – Materialistic Gospel Message is a Ponzi Scheme
In conclusion, first, let me say that the aim of my articles on prosperity gospel and preachers is not to denigrate Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Word of Faith churches. There is no doubt that since the Pentecostalism and Charismatic began in the early 20th century, the movement, without question has added value to the Christian faith. Unlike the Protestants and Evangelicals, the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches have been a missionary minded denomination; due in part to the fact that the first Pentecostals taught that one central purpose of baptism in the Spirit was to endow the believer with power for evangelism. In his book, “A Church to Believe In,” Rev. Dr. Peter C. Moore, writes, “Our Church does need to be Catholic in worship, Evangelical in experience, Reformed in doctrine, Pentecostal in Spirit, Charismatic in ministry, Liberal in ethos, and Global in scope [emphasis added].
Second, the aim is not to judge the prosperity preachers or even the parishioners. You can take a horse to the river but you cannot force her to drink the water. However, the prosperity gospel being peddled by many Televangelists today is a heresy, a false message and it is designed by false teachers to exploit the sick, poor and biblical illiterate Christians. Most of the prosperity teachers are driven by the love for money not love for God, Christ, people or the gospel. Their teachings are so toxic and demonic and it is corrupting and destroying lives. Jesus rebuked false teachers and even called them thieves. The apostle Paul calls it a “different,” “another,” and a “perverted gospel” (1 Corinthians 11:3-4, Galatians 1:6-9) and warned against the insatiable greed of false teachers and prophets.
One of the reasons for false teachings and doctrines is because the verses and passages of Scripture are taken out-of-context and promulgators refuse to learn the principles of biblical interpretation such as hermeneutics, exegesis, homiletics, and use of bible resources such as bible dictionary, encyclopedia– and other bible references to study to show themselves study and show ourselves approved to God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed but who correctly handles the Word of Truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
Prosperity gospel is a satanic scheme. It does not offer eternal life or heaven or the fruit of the Spirit such as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. But rather, it offers Satan, hell and acts of the sinful nature such as sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery, idolatry, and witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealously, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, and envy, drunkenness, orgies and the like (Galatians 5:19-22). Prosperity gospel is a ponzi scheme and a colossal fraud. It is worse than Wall-Street scandal Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme. Mr. Madoff defrauded rich people and greedy investors. Prosperity preachers are defrauding the poor, sick and the gullible. Materialistic gospel message is the worst kind of materialism and deception ever conceived by Satan and its cohorts.
The truth gospel message is–about the cross, about the sinful condition of mankind and that God has provided remedy through the life and death of Christ. It is about the cross, repentance, redemption, confession of our sins and to love God and your neighbor. Jesus taught us– to love God, love our neighbor, do not sin, etc. The true gospel involves sacrifice, suffering, and self-denial. In Mathew 16:24, Jesus said to his disciples, “If any one would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” In Matthew 4:4 as well as in Deuteronomy 8:3 says, it is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” What we have today as prosperity message is a muddled and schismatic gospel, Satan’s gospel, a 419 scheme, a toxic and deadly scam designed for the sick, poor, gullible and biblical illiterate.
Wishing all a safe and super Thanksgiving holidays and may your life becomes genuinely prosperous!
Rev. C. K. Ekeke, M.Div., Ph.D., is a theologian, author, consultant and leadership scholar; he is the president of Leadership Wisdom Institute, USA