The prosperity gospel, the “name it and claim it” teaching popular in some Christian groups, asserts that financial success and physical well-being are divine rights afforded to every believer who thinks, believes, and speaks certain things. “If you aren’t healthy and wealthy,” the reasoning goes, “you must not be living in the will of God.”
Such twisted theology isn’t new. It first emerged during the late 19th century with the New Thought movement and further increased after World War II as faith healers blended financial prosperity into their messages. But it gained global popularity once certain evangelists took the message to the airwaves and the Internet. 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).
Honest exegesis of typical prosperity gospel passages shows they are nearly always taken out of context. In no way does the Lord Jesus promise material wealth to a Christian, but He rather warns us against “the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things” (Mark 4:18-19). The danger is that a selfish focus on prosperity could choke out whatever place the Word of God has in the believer’s life, destroying the strength of their testimony and hindering others from the true gospel of the cross.
Money and wealth are not the problem. It is the obsession with such “other things” that leads to trouble. As the apostle Paul once cautioned Timothy:
Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:9-10)
If by His grace the Lord enables a Christian to acquire wealth, it should be regarded as a divine stewardship opportunity for ministry. Paul—who died a penniless prisoner on Earth but with countless treasure in heaven—conveyed it this way:
Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
Whatever riches a Christian may have here on Earth, everlasting wealth in heaven is promised to those who faithfully apply what they do have in a spirit of biblical stewardship. This is true prosperity, for even the most impoverished believer can acquire riches in heaven, where it really counts. Unfortunately, our culture now largely associates “stewardship” with giving money. But everything we possess—money, time, skills, even our reputation—has been committed to us in trust by God for His glory alone! We are His stewards, appointed by the Creator to keep and manage all things committed to our care (Genesis 1:28). And He rightfully expects a good return when He comes back (Matthew 25:14-30).
The same expectations of godly stewardship also apply to ICR, and for nearly five decades we have worked to be a “faithful and wise servant” in the ministry God has called us to (Matthew 24:45). All gifts to ICR are applied in the same careful fashion, for they represent a natural extension of personal stewardship from the many co-laborers who understand the importance of our work and are committed to our mission. ICR is grateful for those who pursue godly prosperity with us, choosing to be “rich in good works” and “ready to give, willing to share.” We invite your continued support as the Lord leads.
* Mr. Morris is Director of Donor Relations at the Institute for Creation Research.