Updated on 11.22.09

Some Thoughts on the Prosperity Gospel

Trent Hamm

Quite often, I’m emailed about a subject so frequently that I decide that, instead of just writing the same answer again and again, I should just write an article about it so I can point new emailers to the article. That way, not only will they get my response, but they can get involved in the discussion.

One of the most frequent subjects I’m emailed about is from readers who are fervent believers in the prosperity gospel. To put it simply, the prosperity gospel focuses on the idea that God provides material prosperity for those he favors. The idea goes both ways: materially successful people achieve such success because they’re favored by God and, at the same time, people who are favored by God will eventually be materially successful. In other words, godliness causes material prosperity.

First of all, let me state I’m a Christian. I’m involved with a Lutheran church in my community which does a lot of local charitable good, I’m friends with the pastor there, and I’ve even served on committees there. Regardless of my personal religious beliefs, I’ve seen the very positive work that the church does in the community, providing food and resources for people who genuinely need them.

I also don’t believe in “pushiness” when it comes to people’s personal spiritual beliefs. I don’t expect you to become a Christian and I’m not going to browbeat you with the reasons – and I reasonably expect the same from you. Unless it’s entered into with an air of respect and civility, such debates never go anywhere and this isn’t the place for them.

Many of these readers who email me and argue on behalf of the prosperity gospel argue that, because The Simple Dollar is successful, I must be favored by God and that I should use this evidence as a platform upon which to repeat the prosperity gospel to my readers.

I completely and wholeheartedly disagree with this notion.

First of all, if the prosperity gospel were true, every single person of faith would be showered in material wealth. I know some well-off people of faith. I also know some very poor people of faith. At the same time, I know some very financially poor atheists and some very well-off atheists.

Second of all, it implies a nonsensical quid pro quo. The entire idea of a prosperity gospel is based on an idea of direct reciprocity – if you believe in God, you will directly be given material wealth. This implies that God is some kind of spiritual ATM – deposit some faith and you can withdraw some cash.

This implies a very direct connection between our spiritual choices and the material world. Yet, if that direct connection were true, people of faith would have all the material wealth and people without faith would have none of the material wealth. As I pointed out above, a cursory examination of the world shows this not to be true.

One’s religion can play a very valuable role in helping a person choose to make positive choices that help themselves and help the world. If you use that guidance to genuinely become a better person, to give up negative habits and choose positive ones, you undoubtedly are increasing your opportunties for material wealth. However, it requires positive choices and positive actions from you, and there are many sources that people draw from beyond faith to make those positive choices.

All of the goodness that the world has to offer comes from you and your actions and choices. I do believe that positive rewards come from making choices that are positive not only for you, but for other people. Those are generally the types of actions recommended by the major religions of the world – helping others in need, being honest in your dealings with others, respecting others, and so on. Those will result in positive outcomes over the long haul, but it’s not a direct relationship at all.

Spirituality is never a direct quid pro quo. It provides its own rewards, ones that aren’t of the sparkly kind.

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  1. triLcat says:

    excellent post! I really appreciate what you say here.

  2. Paula says:

    Good point, Trent! I am not a religious person, but I know what you are saying. If the prosperity gospel were true, Mother Theresa would have been one of the materialistically richest people on earth!

  3. Johanna says:

    All I know about this “prosperity gospel” is what Trent said in this post, but it seems to me that it has a couple of more disturbing implications:

    – It eliminates (or at least lessens) our obligations to the poor. If poverty and wealth are determined directly by God, then poor people must deserve to be poor, so why should we help them?

    – It eliminates our obligation to work toward equality of opportunity. If God will find a way to provide wealth to those whom He favors, then all the racism, sexism, classism, and so forth that exist in the education and employment processes are either meaningless (because God will find a way to work around them when He wants to), or else they’re actually what God wants (e.g., the fact that white people on average are so much wealthier than black people on average is just proof that God likes whites more).

    Stuff like this is why I can’t believe in a deity that micromanages the lives (and afterlives) of individuals. If God created starving people because He wants them to be starving, why did He also create people who want to help those who are starving? Can such a God create people who have more compassion that He has?

  4. guinness416 says:

    Big article about “prosperity gospel” churches in The Atlantic this month. I won’t link it here because the comment will end up in moderation for days, but it’s well worth heading over to their site to check it out as it’s a good read.

    I can’t believe you get that much email on the subject! Where I come from, you keep your beliefs to yourself & don’t push them at every opportunity – and I’m from a very catholic good-works background. It’s a shame that your emailers don’t understand that they’re not exactly doing their cause much good – quite the opposite in fact.

  5. kat says:

    the prosperity gospel mindset is to me so egotistical-just like the two ladies I offered an umbella to so they could get to their car and they told me that God would make the rain stop for them because they had just had their hair done. We have to remember that just because we are the most important person in the world to us, that we are truly a speck in the large scheme of the universe and the creator.

  6. Ryan says:

    Johanna, we’re twins! I agree completely.

    I can’t believe in religion, much less an organized one when it provides excuses not to do anything.

  7. Peggy says:

    Well, Trent, I gotta give you props for opening yourself up for a firestorm. You won’t get it from me, though.

    I am repulsed by the prosperity gospel because it is in direct conflict with our responsibility to “count it all joy.” One doesn’t need material things to be joyful. Mother Theresa was absolutely destitute and positively filled with joy. The idea that God will provide you a better parking place than the heathen kind of diminishes His greatness, in my opinion.

    The verse I’ve heard as justification for the prosperity gospel most often is “Proverbs 13:22 A good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.” We need to look at this verse in its totality, not just the part we like (God as gumball machine) and not in seclusion from the verses throughout the rest of the Bible that tell us to give without thinking of ourselves.

  8. Tara says:

    (@#3 Johanna:) I understand how so many people can look at the disparities in the world and ask exactly the question you do. But if there IS a God who put us here with free choice, it seems to me that he gave us everything we need in each other. So many “have” in great overabundance, and so many “have not” to a sickening and terrible degree. But did God do this? Or did we do it by not listening to the conscience and spirit of brotherhood that has been given to us? People like you feel such strong compassion for the poor, and do what you can to help. If we all allowed ourselves to see, like you do, that everyone has the same inherent value…how could we turn away from suffering and pretend it is not there? And we have the collective resources to end abject poverty if we all did our part. To me, this pretending it is not there, or pretending one can do nothing, is what causes the vast majority of suffering. Some people can avoid the pretending and live a life of goodness without believing in a God, whereas some people do believe in a small and petty God who allows them to live in selfishness. Personally, I find that believing in God keeps me more honest and humble, and challenges me every day to do better. (@#4, guiness416 – I am Catholic too!)

  9. Gabriel says:

    If this model were true, I imagine Christ would have been rich as a king and would have handed out gold instead of blessings. Isn’t a main point of faith the fact that you have to face trials and trust God in the process?

  10. steve says:

    I have to agree with you. My grandfather and great-grandfather were both preachers, so I have been exposed to a lot of Christianity. My general impression is that God does not want you to live a life of want, nor to hoard wealth. All the major religions teach pretty much the same philosophy: treat others as you wish to be treated and the best thing you can do for yourself is to help others!!
    I think that the prosperity gospel is sometimes being used as an excuse for people’s greed. It can also be used to rationalize ignoring the needs of the poor!
    I’ve known many wonderful people with varying religious beliefs. I’ve also known many who consider themselves extremely religious who seemed to have nothing but contempt for people who do not feel the exact same way they do. We appreciate your example; someone who lives there faith without expecting others to automatically adopt it. Keep up the good work!

  11. spaces says:

    What a distasteful notion.

    I guess people like me, who have chosen to work for low wages on behalf of those who desperately need our help but can’t possibly afford our services, are among the least favored of all.

  12. Michelle says:

    Whenever I am confronted with the prosperity gospel, I can’t help but think of the Christians in China who risk their very freedom to practice their faith. Most likely, getting a car or big house is at the bottom of their list of priorities. I admire people like this, who probably wouldn’t even consider “using” their faith for personal gain.

  13. Kathryn says:

    I’ve run into the prosperity gospel idea again & again over the years. In a large way it has begun to permeate thru many mainstream beliefs in subtle ways. It is an ugly doctrine.

    It effects more than $$$ issues, however. If you are ill or struggle with physical ailments you are not blessed (or as Trent said favored) by God. I’ve had well-meaning but very pushy people tell me that because i live with chronic illness (& infertility) that i don’t “trust” & have enough faith in God. “If you did, you wouldn’t have these issues.”

    Prosperity gospel is a manipulative, childish type of belief. Children tend to say “If you do this, i’ll do that” & thus manipulate their worlds, or try to.

    That is not how our world works. I often don’t like how our world works & am very honest with God that it feels that this could be better. But i do believe in a creator, a personal creator. For whatever reasons this world is set up in the manner in which it works & i trust that it is for a good reason.

    I suppose i could go on & on as i truly hate prosperity gospel, but i’ll stop.

  14. reulte says:

    Prosperity gospel has a long history — clear back to the early church period (if not earlier). At least the Greeks believed that the gods could disguise themselves as the poor to test one’s generousity. And, as Johanna points out, the corrallary that ‘favored-by-god’ people can and did and do treat the ‘unfavored’ badly. It’s often called ‘blaming the victim’.

    Sadly, nearly two millenium hasn’t improved the thinking of some people who believe that being rich means that god loves you.

    A good post, Trent, and I especially loved the visual concept of God the Giant ATM.

  15. Adam says:

    Great post! I don’t have much experience with the prosperity gospel but even at first blush it comes across as contradictory to the Gospel of Jesus. I would be interested to hear the Beatitudes from a prosperity perspective.

    I believe Christ fought this mindset when he was here and it really has no place in the gospel. If Christ were interested in giving material wealth to his believers, why did he regularly call people to sell all they had, give the proceeds to the poor, and follow him? The Pharasees were the worldly successful people of Jesus’ day, yet he routine butted up against them as they strove for a worldly kingdom. A kingdom where they could set up a system of belief that would supposedly control the world, God, and their lives by acting in a certain way through their bargain belief they had come to. Prosperity gospel reminds me of this.

    @Kathryn – Three times Paul asked God to take away his ailment, but it never happened. Instead he was told God’s Grace is enough for him. Tell people that.

  16. Gwen says:

    I agree with you wholeheartedly Trent. As a Christian, I should say that I am personally repulsed by prosperity gospel. How anyone can read the New Testament with Jesus constantly ministering to the poor and then decide the purpose of life is to be rich is beyond me!

  17. Kate says:

    One of the reasons I read your post is that you reflect a down-to-earth sensibility that I appreciate. Some may wonder why you chose to write about this topic but I’m glad you did because you began to untangle the mess of money/politics/religion in a most respectful way. A clear calm voice crying out in the noisy blogosphere. Thanks, and thanks to all the folks commenting—I appreciate your thoughtful comments.

  18. Craig says:

    I am not a Christian, and perhaps it is not for me to tell Christians what they ought to think or believe. But I note how many Christians purport to live “Biblically centered” lives, and I have spend some time reading and studying the Christian Bible. If I were going to devote my life to following Jesus, and I believed in the Christian scriptures as an accurate and complete guide to his teachings, I would start by reading those scriptures very carefully.

    One of the more striking things about the Jesus of the Gospels is his utter contempt for the material world and material prosperity.

    “I swear to you,” he is reported to have said, “it’s difficult for the rich to enter Heaven’s domain. And again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to squeeze through a needle’s eye than for a wealthy person to get into God’s domain.”

    And then he said, “Don’t acquire possessions here on earth, where moths and insects eat away and where robbers break in and steal. Instead, gather your nest egg in heaven…”

    And of course, you really can’t beat this for succinctness: “You can not serve both God and Mammon.” How the “prosperity Gospel” crowd gets past that rather blunt assertion, I’m not really sure.

    Those are the things that strike me when I think about Jesus and money.

  19. Kathy says:

    I abhor the “prosperity gospel” because it goes against everything I was ever taught about Christianity as a child. As others have mentioned, it contradicts the Gospel and what Jesus taught.

    But it also goes to bolster the argument that religion is created by humans based upon one person’s interpretation of Scripture.

  20. Linda says:

    Thank you for such an honest and vulnerable post! I wholeheartedly agree–Christianity is all about Christ and His kingdom, and nothing about crazy promises for wealth here in our little kingdoms. The main thing that bothers me about the ‘prosperity gospel’ is its complete omission of Jesus, His sufferings, the Cross, etc.

    I’ve gained so much from your blog and your experiences. Thanks for today’s personal insight.

  21. I am not a theologian but does it automatically follow that “You favor God => God favors you”?

    If not, the prosperity gospel as described here (first time I heard about it too) can be true without setting up a contradiction.

  22. MichelleO says:

    Thanks, Trent, for such an insightful post. You’ve given me something to ponder today.

    Craig, although you may not consider yourself a Christian, you’ve quoted the Bible very poignantly and reminded this Christian of her priorities. A long, drawn-out sermon could not have more effective. Thank you.

  23. Noadi says:

    Maybe this is coming from my perspective as an atheist raised in a non-religious family but I just don’t understand prosperity gospel. I majored in medieval history so I had to study the bible, theology, and the history of the church as part of that. It really goes against just about everything that Jesus is reported to have taught.

    A few random passages on the topic:
    “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours in the kingdom of God.”
    “Did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?”
    “Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves purses which do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near, nor moth destroys.”
    “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

  24. Tradd says:

    I’ve never “gotten” the prosperity gospel thing, myself, quite frankly. I’m an Orthodox Christian (of the Russian flavor) and this is simply not a part of our tradition (or of the Catholic Church, which I was raised on).

    Trent, good for you for addressing this!

  25. Trent you make some good points (like the God/ATM example), but honestly it is rare to find someone who is a 100% believer in the prosperity gospel. My initial impression is that even though this is a “religion & money” topic, it really isn’t that controversial because almost no one believes in the prosperity gospel to the degree portrayed in the post.

    I’d be curious to hear opinions of people on the gray areas of religion & money – should we tithe? How much is requied to give and where? Do you believe that tithing or giving will result in God meeting your needs? What does the Bible say about career advancements vs. family commitments, or gender roles – career, financial, “submission”, etc.?

    I’m sure those are topics under the heading of “Religion & Money” that may spark more controversy than this post. Then again, I don’t think you’re exactly looking for such controversy!

  26. BD says:

    Thank you for addressing this. The whole “Blab It and Grab It” prosperity gospel is just bad theology, for the most part. It makes God look bad to people like Johanna (don’t worry, Johanna, God isn’t horrible like that), and it makes Christians look bad.

    Like Trent said, many wonderful godly Christians are dirt poor (I know plenty of them), while many atheists live high on the hog (i know lots of them too).

    Thank you Trent, for a level-headed, awesome post that needs to be said.

  27. ej says:

    Why do you display a link to the official church of scientology?

  28. lauren says:

    It’s interesting when God tosses your little basket of ideas. There have been enough examples already cited by Christians and non-Christians here that I need not say any more.

  29. kristinelevy says:

    Paris Hilton. Nuff said.

  30. Leah says:

    @ #25, Jason — almost nobody? JOEL OSTEEN!

  31. Elizabeth says:

    Right on! Anyone who thinks that wealth is God’s reward for good behavior has probably not read much about Jesus’ life. Of course, it’s easy to do good with lots of money in the bank, but inner happiness comes from elsewhere.

  32. J.D. says:

    Heh. Next let’s discuss the poverty of Christ. :)

    (I can’t believe I’m making an oblique Umberto Eco joke, but I am…)

  33. Missi says:

    Nice post Trent, glad to hear you believe the Prosperity Gospel is a bunch of BS. I agree with Gwen, #16 completely- the Bible clearly shows Jesus reaching out the poor and telling others to care for them- he never says, “Try to be rich” which the PG seems to preach. Ridiculous. Thanks for this post.

  34. Dawn/FFL says:

    Trent said, “Spirituality is never a direct quid pro quo. It provides its own rewards, ones that aren’t of the sparkly kind.”

    I say, “AMEN!”
    My treasure is stored in heaven where moths and thieves can not destroy them.
    Trent you have courage to speak on this, good for you.

  35. Sid Simpson says:

    The respect I have for you just increased ten fold. Thanks for keeping your blog and the help you offer accessible to people of all paths and beliefs.

  36. tightwadfan says:

    I am a Catholic and I find the prosperity gospel repulsive too, for the reasons Johanna said, although I don’t agree with her feelings on God :). #18 Craig’s quotes show very clearly how incongruous the prosperity gospel is with Jesus’ teachings.

    PG is just a twisted way for so-called Christians to make Mammon their god while pretending not to.

  37. Jeroen says:

    The prosperity Gospel is (IMO) very imoral. I never heard someone really embracing it.

    I thought is was only ‘invented’ to serve as a kind of binding agent between the 2 large parts of the GOP (social conservative christians and Wall Street big business conservatives.)

    Didn’t Jezus said that you should give it all away, except for the sandals on your feet and the cloak around your shoulder? (not literally: I don’t have a bible here, and if I had, it would be in Dutch)

    (for the sake of disclosure: I’m a agnostic, but raised Catholic)

  38. Craig Ford says:

    Thanks so much for addressing this issue. I think the first point is the strongest – “if the prosperity gospel were true, every single person of faith would be showed in material wealth”. We see that this is not true in the biblical narrative nor is it true in the experiences of millions of Christians around the world. There are faithful and committed Christians who live in poverty. Their poverty is not the result of a lack of faith, but there are so many other contributing factors.
    As a missionary who lives in a third world people often come to me to find out what I did that ‘made’ God bless me. They believe there is a secret to wealth (known by Western Christians). I don’t believe that God is robotic in his reactions to people. His blessings are not mechanical. There is no secret to wealth. Though I believe God does work in the midst of people’s finances he does not react in a robotic way.
    Those who embrace the prosperity gospel are likely to spend a lot of time disappointed with God because God doesn’t not always give people what they want. But, then again, the gospel is about giving not getting.

  39. Chris says:

    @Johanna – you said nearly everything I wanted to say, and better than I could! Thank you so SO much.

    Additionally, this “prosperity gospel” claptrap is exactly the same sort of BS magical thinking that caused medieval peoples to believe that demons and Jews distributed illnesses and plague. I’m staggered that anyone can be serious about it.

    Rich men, camels, &all….

  40. littlepitcher says:

    The prosperity gospel is a scam, designed to cover the hineys of drug dealers who use the Christian church as a coverup, the thieves who want to steal from non-Christians and claim that their depredations are blessed by God, and businesspeople who use the church as a sales prospecting organization and hiring hall.

    This identical bunch will claim that African-American Christian old ladies are cursed by God and not man, that lepers had it coming to them, and that genetic disease is incompatible with the salvation promised by the churches. The ministers who preach this gospel simply are recruiting strivers and shearing those sheep of ten percent of their current and future income.

  41. kevin says:

    If you want to hear a great 3min sermon against the dangers of the prosperity gospel, go to YouTube and put in “John Piper on the prosperity gospel”.

    Great stuff!

  42. Joan says:

    Wonderful post, Trent. I am definitely not a “prosperity gospel” fan.

    Though I do want to bring up one point – when folks are quoting the “It’s easier to fit a camel through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven” thing – there was some context to that. As I understand it, Christ was NOT saying that you can’t be rich and be His follower. What he was saying is that it puts some very difficult choices in your path, and that as humans, it is not too often that we make the right decisions in those circumstances!

    I do believe that, using a discretion that only He understands, God does place some of his followers in a path that leads to earthly prosperity. I am one of them – I’m paid WAY more than what I’m worth, have had good luck with financial decisions and in general have fared much better than almost anyone my age.

    Now, what God doesn’t want, I assume, is for me to say, “Well, I’ve got it good – and it’s mine, all mine!” Instead, I have allowed my own success to be a blessing to others. We have a large home, but in addition to housing our family, it has housed two other families who fell on hard times. I am able to help friends in need. I am able to support causes that are important to me.

    My pastor says it well: “We are called to sacrifice, not suicide.” You give till it hurts, but not till it kills you. You don’t sell everything and give money to the poor, only to end up at the food bank yourself. You are called to be a good steward of what God has entrusted you with.

    OK, I’m done preaching now. Want to take up an offering??

  43. Georgia says:

    Kat #5 – Your example reminds me of a joke about that. (Or a great lesson.) During a flood, a husband and wife wouldn’t leave their home. When a boat came by to pick them up, they refused to get in. They said God would take care of them. Later, when they had to climb onto their roof because the flood was so high, a helicopter came by to pick them up. They refused to go. God would take care of them. As they were drowning, they called to God. Why haven’t you helped us? He replied, “I did. I sent you a boat and a helicopter. Why didn’t you use them?”

    Instead of using the normal everyday solutions He sends us, we keep looking for a miraculous, out of the ordinary solution.

  44. Dawn says:

    As a Christian, I don’t believe this is true – far be it for me to say how God spends his time, but it most likely isn’t balancing debits and credits on who has been “good”.

    But maybe it does SEEM that way because people who have strong faiths live their lives in balance so it appears they more financial freedom. Maybe.

  45. almost there says:

    In addition to the latest Atlantic magazine which can be accessed wo a subscription online, one should read the book SHAM about the self help actualization movement. The only people “getting” the prosperity gospel are the ones fleecing the sheeple. Good artilce in same atlantic mag on Dave Ramsey. As a former member of the universal church of pedophilia (catholic), I find athiesm refreshing and free of all the nonesense of control yoked onto people. Pat Condell on You Tube explains our position with humor.

  46. flybabymom says:

    Well put, Trent!

  47. Duane says:

    I’ve encountered some well-meaning adherents to this philosophy. As a person with some training in finance and theology I’ve found the following exercise helpful to break the spell of this heretical notion:

    Suppose for a moment that the prosperity gospel is true. Now suppose that some fraction of the population, say 0.5%, are in God’s grace to have above average health and financial blessings. Pick about any percentage and an actuarial scientist will know of a way to capitalize on the advantage — this is their trade. If this is true then two things should be evident:

    1) Death rates for cancer, auto wrecks and so on should be slightly lower for Christians or nations with more Christian citizens.
    2) Insurance companies would give preference and seek out Christians as clients because they represent lower risk for health complications.

    To my mind neither are proven by the facts. This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t bestow blessing — far from it. I’m personally convicted in the goodness of God and the validity of Christianity but I believe the prize is beyond this life and most certainly the faith isn’t a formula for success in the here and now.

  48. Interesting post Trent. I’m glad to see the feedback has been so positive.

    This is an interesting spin-off of the Weber Theory, which was used to explain why Calvanists did so much better economically than there non-Predestination-believing contemporaries. He theorized that because they believed you were saved or damned from the start, regardless of your faith or good works, it was likely that God would also show his favor to you during this life (or not). So, in order to comfort themselves, Calvanists sought wordly wealth and then pointed to it saying, “Look at all that God has given me. He wouldn’t do that if I were damned.”

    As for the “eye of the needle”, this refers to a gate that was very low, and could only be passed under on foot, and not camel. This prevented invaders from riding into the city. Obviously one can always get off one’s high camel and walk through the gate, so the language here tells us that the rich can be saved, but they must be able to part with their worldly goods (not that they have to actually do it, they just can’t be obsessed with their goods).

    Also, @#45, please do not call the Catholic Church the Universal Church of Pedophilia. Statistically, public school teachers are much, much more likely to molest your children than priests (and for a liberal, teachers are your version of a priest–the chief authority.). Every year, there are fewer than 200 reports of molestation in the church. Even if you quadrupled that to account for people who were silent, it does not come near the 30,000+ cases of teacher-student sexual activity. My point being: this is not a problem that is widespread in the church, nor is it condoned by the church, nor is it exclusive to the church. I’m sorry your experiences have made you bitter, but please try to keep that sort of hate-speech to yourself. It makes the 25%+ of Trent’s audience who identify as Catholic feel uncomfortable. (A good litmus test for whether or not you are being appropriate is “Would I say the same thing about a victimized minority group on television?”)

  49. Cade says:

    Great post on a touchy subject, Trent. You handled that subject very well.

  50. almost there says:

    #48, I guess you told me. I have always followed the litmus test that one should not say anything that one would not say to their mother. And yes, I would say what I did to my mother. I wish that religion be kept confined inside the doors of the place of (tax free) worship and not bandied about in the public square. As for “hate-speech” that is a PC construct that is used to denigrate any person who’s ideas one doesn’t agree with. May I remind you that the first amendment to the constitution is the most powerful, (protected by the second) and one should never be afraid to voice their opinion. Please do not compare the almost 2000 years of molestation by priests of the catholic faith to your purported statistics. And yes, it is condoned in the church by their history of moving the offending priests to other parishes instead of turning them over to the law. Still yet, the offending priests get to live out their days in the rectory just not being able to wear their roman collar (per U S council of Bishops).

  51. Some commentors are using the prosperity gospel as a sideways swipe at Christianity. But understand that the prosperity gospel isn’t Christianity, it’s a PERVERSION.

    Jesus Christ himself warned us against false prophets who would twist the gospel to tickle peoples ears.

    I’m a Christian, but I also recognize that humanity has an infinate capacity to twist even the word of God for personal gain. The prosperity gospel is from twisted humans, not a teaching of Jesus Christ.

  52. Peter says:

    I think for me one of the central points that causes the prosperity gospel to be extremely flawed is that it starts from the premise of “what can God do for me?”. It starts with a selfish viewpoint and asks what the person can get out of faith and how it can enrich them. It takes prosperity and material wealth and raises it to the level of becoming an idol in the person’s life. It makes faith about the person, instead of the savior. What can God do for me – instead of – what has he already done for me? And that, I think, is where it becomes a problem.

    For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1 Timothy 6:10

    I think when money (or anything else in our life – job, love, our looks, etc) becomes the focus of our life, not our relationship with God, that’s when problems happen.

    Christianity and faith in Christ is about accepting our flawed nature – and our need for a savior. It’s about accepting his saving grace, and then attempting to live as he did. And that means by being giving, loving and sharing his message. Not by using his word to become rich.

    With that said – do I think being wealthy is in itself sinful? No. But if and when money becomes your goal in life and becomes the focus of your life, that’s when it can become a problem.

  53. Marie says:

    The prosperity gospel is at obvious odd with the actual experience of the early Christians. Not only didn’t Christainity make you rich, it made you dead – often tortured. Look up the fates of the apostles. Look up the fate of all the early Christians whose names we still know. We know them because they were martyred. If the Christians who actually walked and ate with Jesus didn’t get the prospertiy gospel treatment, why should we?

  54. Carol Terry says:

    Great post! You might enjoy a book titled “Will Jesus Buy Me a Doublewide”. It’s about the prosperity gospel and it’s a good read!

  55. Charles Cohn says:

    To me, as a formerly-Jewish atheist, the teachings of Jesus about giving up your possessions feels like self-flagellation. It’s not only unpleasant, it could be life-shortening.

    I enjoy having a comfortable house, with heat in the winter and air-conditioning in the summer. I enjoy being able to afford good, healthful food instead of the cheap junk put out by fast-food restaurants. (On the other hand, I am thoroughly opposed to conspicuous consumption. For example, I enjoy going on cruises but I hate being made to dress up.)

    Trent and others rightly emphasize the importance of emergency funds, even though religious zealots would condemn them as hoarding. The bigger your emergency fund is, the worse emergency you are prepared to survive comfortably. I like being able to handle emergencies myself without having to impose on others by asking for help. For middle-class people like us, I see no practical limit to the amount for which it would be worthwhile to build an emergency fund.

    If you are fortunate enough to live out your life never to have had an emergency bad enough to drain your fund, you will be condemned for dying rich, but your fund still has not been wasted, just as supporting your local fire department is not wasted even if you never have a fire.

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