The so-called "prosperity gospel," a widespread teaching among some evangelicals, claims that material prosperity is a right afforded to all Christians who think, believe, and speak certain things. If you are not "healthy and wealthy," the teaching goes, you must not be living in the will of God.
This concept is not new, but it gained its greatest popularity during the last two decades as many televangelists took their message to the airwaves. Yet, Bible-believing Christians should recognize it as simply a false front for the old-fashioned sin of "covetousness, which is idolatry" (Colossians 3:5).
True scriptural study shows that typical "prosperity gospel" themes are nearly always taken out of context. In no way does the Lord Jesus promise material wealth to a Christian, but as seen in His parable of the soils, He specifically warns against "the cares of this world," "the deceitfulness of riches," and "the lusts of other things" (Mark 4:18-19). Pursuit of such deceitful prosperity could choke out whatever place the Word of God once had in the believer's life, crushing the power of their testimony, and sadly, keeping many from the saving power of the cross.
Money and wealth are not the problem. Rather, it is the desire for and the love of such things that lead to destruction and sorrow. The apostle Paul cautioned Timothy:
They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:9-10)
If, by His grace, the Lord does enable a Christian to acquire wealth, it should be regarded as a divine stewardship and opportunity for ministry. Paul--who died a penniless prisoner on earth, but with vast treasures laid up in heaven--expressed it this way:
Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute [i.e., give], willing to communicate [i.e., share]; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
However much a Christian may have on earth, everlasting and incorruptible wealth in heaven is promised to those who faithfully apply what they do have in a spirit of true biblical stewardship. Regrettably, the term "stewardship" has become largely associated with giving money. Yet everything we have--not only money, but also our time, witness, and talents--has been committed to us in trust by God, to be used for Him. We are His stewards, charged by the Master to keep and manage all things committed to our care. He is right, and worthy, to expect a good return.
ICR is certainly not exempt from the same expectations of godly stewardship, and earnestly seeks to be found a "faithful and wise steward" (Luke 12:42) in the work He has entrusted to us. Likewise, all gifts to ICR are applied in the same careful fashion, for they represent a natural extension of personal stewardship from like-minded believers. ICR is humbled by those who choose to practice good stewardship with us, and we invite your continued support as the Lord leads.
* Mr. Morris is Director of Donor Relations at the Institute for Creation Research.
Cite this article: Morris IV, H. 2010. Deceitful Prosperity. Acts & Facts. 39 (6): 21.