A prosperity preacher is one who claims to be a Christian, but whose teaching focuses on man’s happiness and prosperity in this life. Sometimes prosperity preachers can be very subtle about this, but if you listen to them for a period of time you'll find a lot of focus on money, comfort and happiness. And they are not unfamiliar with this for themselves! For they will often make a lot of money from the church preaching this very thing. The only time in scripture where Jesus got furious was when men used God’s temple to make money (Luke 19:45-46). These were money-hungry men who were setting up shop in the Lord’s house of prayer. It happened in Jesus’ day and it’s happening in our day. This is exactly what hundreds and thousands of prosperity preachers are doing today. The many men and women that stand up in pulpits, begging for money and making promises of healing and monetary return in the name of Christ should cause a holy anger in God’s children! The immature believer will often find it hard to distinguish these false teachers. We must warn against these mammon worshippers that call themselves Christians as a doctor warns against a deadly poison advertised as a medicine. This false gospel is spreading like wildfire all over the world.
How can you recognize prosperity preaching? How can you tell if a person is a prosperity preacher? I believe we have to look to Jesus and ask ourselves “Did Jesus preach like this? Did Jesus’ preaching sound like this? What did Jesus talk about? What was His emphasis? How did He live?” Let’s take a look at some of the things that prosperity preachers tend to do and preach. They preach and live the opposite of the way that Jesus preached and lived. Their focus was very far off of what Jesus focused on. If you are in a church where the preacher is guilty of any or at least a few of the following, you may have found yourself in the midst of the prosperity gospel.
- Prosperity preachers tend to USE THE CHURCH'S MONEY to live lavish lifestyles with fancy cars, large houses, expensive clothes. It's fine if a Christian in a secular job makes plenty of money to buy nice things. God gives us freedom. But prosperity preachers use the money from people who are much less well off than them in order to gain more for themselves and live at a higher standard than many of those people who gave money to them! Jesus did not do this. He did not even carry a penny on him (Matt 22:19). He had no place to live. “Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.’” (Luke 9:58). You can imagine the types of clothes He walked around in. Scripture says about our Lord that there was nothing in his physical appearance to attract people to Him. “He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him,” Isa 53:2.
It has been said that an indicator of a godly man is when his salary goes up and he still lives at the same standard of living as he did before. A prosperity preacher is not like this. As a prosperity preacher gains wealth from his church, his lifestyle will also become more excessive. If a preacher supports himself in a secular job and makes his own money without taking a salary from the church, it may be fine for him to have a large house. But to take money from poor people so that he can live rich is a sin. It's a sign as well - a sign that he values his own prosperity over that of the church.
- Prosperity preachers constantly attempt to make their hearers feel good. This is because they care more about the number of people in their churches than the spiritual maturity of the congregation. Jesus did not do this. C.S. Lewis said of Jesus, "He produced mainly three results: Hatred, Terror, Adoration." Jesus’ word is a sword. It cut people into two groups - those for
Him, and those against Him. Those that love Him, and those that don't. The sons of God, the children of the devil. A prosperity preacher keeps everybody in one group... even an atheist can listen to the prosperity gospel and feel good. They may even wish to unite the world no matter who believes what. Their focus is peace and happiness instead of God's honor.
- Prosperity preachers sometimes promise blessing if you give to
their ministry (emphasizing the word “their”). Try to find one instance in scripture where our Lord asked for money. You cannot do it! Jesus never asked for money… not even one time.
- You will hear them teach people to pray for and pursue prosperity but will not once hear them teach people the value of being content. It is rightly said that "He who possesses the most is he who is content with little," but since these false teachers are not concerned with the spiritual well-being of their congregation as much as their material well-being, you will not hear them talk of contentment.
And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” (Jude 1:22-23). Prosperity preachers only follow the "compassion" part of that passage, for they are too fearful or careless to rebuke. They believe in the love of God, but not the fear of God.
- There is no fear of God in their preaching. For all the gentle things that Jesus said to one person, He had a rebuke for another. He once called a Roman a man of great faith, and then called the Pharisees brood of vipers! The first is a picture of the Lord’s love, meekness and gentleness. The latter of God's justice and righteousness. Our Lord was doing as the scripture commands : “
- Prosperity preachers rarely preach against sin. This is because they are concerned less about the soul than they are the body. They are concerned about this life more than they are eternity. Jesus preached against sin harder than anybody. When a man tells you to rather cut out your eye than sin, you can be sure that He’s serious about it (Matt 18:9). Listen very carefully and take note of how often a pastor talks about sin and speaks against it. This will tell you much about his own walk with the Lord.
- They say that it is God’s will for you to be prosperous (materially). Jesus said that the rich will enter the kingdom with more difficulty than a camel going through the eye of a needle! Yes, riches are dangerous for the immature believers who cannot handle the temptation… and you will not hear a prosperity preacher say this. If he or she could bestow masses of money on every believer, they would do it in a heartbeat because their motivation is to make people feel good. This is like giving every 5 year old child a $500 bill, a very foolish thing to do indeed. You can be sure that our Father in Heaven does not do this.
He left nothing out. The centrality of the gospel He brought is not in the happiness of man, but the glory of God. It does no justice to God to talk only of His perfect love, but not of His perfect power, justice and wrath.
- They very rarely use phrases like "eternity" and "sin"... but very often use phrases like "your life", "your blessing", "God has something for you." God definitely has many things for us, but they are not primarily material things! They are spiritual promises and those are what we should focus on. Jesus did not water the gospel down - He talked both of Heaven and Hell. He talked of sin and salvation. He talked of joy and torment. And He focused on the spiritual, not the material.
you want - this is also known as the "Word of faith movement"). Jesus prayed to the Father, “not my will but yours be done.” Word of faith preachers focus on man’s desire. Jesus focused on God’s desire. The scripture says that God grants our desires only if it is according to His will. “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14)
- Prosperity preachers say that faith will get you anything that you pray for (in other words, anything that
- They use God as a means to their end. In their world God exists mainly to bring us to Heaven and give us happy lives here on earth. They will not say this blatantly, of course. Satan tends to hide poison in attractive bottles. What A.W. Tozer said of some false preachers is also true of prosperity preachers, “The problem is not so much error of doctrine as error of emphasis”. They emphasize what YOU want. Jesus always emphasized what His Father wanted.
It's no sin to have money. It's no sin to take leisure time. It's no sin to be happy. But the Judas Iscariots of the world that cling on to their moneybags at the expense of the church and attempt to walk with Jesus at the same time will eventually find themselves selling their Lord for silver. Flee from prosperity preachers. Flee from a false gospel that puts the focus on what you can get from God in this life rather than what you can give to God. Remember that the entire reason for mans existence is not to get happy... it's to glorify, serve, and love the Lord. The rest is added to us. You will find that the people with the most unshakable inward joy and peace in this life are the people who by the grace of God are focused most on making God happy instead of themselves.
"Does the Lord intend to make man happy? Sure... but it's a byproduct, not a prime product." - Paris Reidhead