I just finished reading Costi Hinn’s new book God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel: How Truth Overwhelms a Life Built on Lies, over a period of three days, including two late nights. I couldn’t put it down! It’s the finest treatment of the health and wealth gospel I’ve ever read. I underlined heavily as I read and went back to it every time I could grab a spare ten minutes. It’s well written, and a very effective blend of personal story and biblical truth.
Though I have written about prosperity theology in my books on giving, and many others have spoken out against it, nearly all of us share in common that we are critics who come from the outside of the movement. So sometimes we end up preaching to the choir of those who are already skeptical or hostile toward it. We quickly lose credibility with those on the inside who most need help.
This is where, by God’s grace, Costi’s story and voice can and will change everything for some readers. It’s an inside story by one who grew up in the Benny Hinn family, lived the opulence, and saw the hypocrisy before being transformed by the one true Jesus and the true Gospel.
Costi’s book does more than tell stories; it also goes to God’s Word so you can see the conflict between the prosperity theology he was raised in, and what God tells us in His word. This book is gold, in the figurative and more valuable sense of the term. I was really touched by it. Read it!
Here’s an excerpt to give you a flavor of the stories and truth he shares:
Sunday after Sunday, we heard from the pulpit, “God has guaranteed healing! Just have faith and God will do whatever you ask him to do.” So many people had been brought up on stage and declared healed. So many people, but not Uncle George? Only one explanation could satisfy the confusing question that became the elephant in every room we occupied: How in the world did he not get healed?
Soon we were given an explanation for his death. We rationalized that Uncle George (and his family) must have done one or more of the “big four,” which caused him to lose whatever declared healing he was guaranteed. The big four, or a short list of reasons why God didn’t heal people, went something like this:
- Making a negative confession: using negatives words about your physical condition would hinder your healing.
- Hanging around negative people: allowing the negative words of others about your physical condition would hinder your healing.
- Not having enough faith: not believing or giving enough money to prove your trust that God would heal you.
- Touching the Lord’s anointed: speaking against or opposing a man of God who is anointed.
Turns out, as the story went, that Uncle George and the people around him did all four of these. Most of all, we were told that Uncle George had started to hang around with people who spoke negatively about my father and our church. There was a zero-tolerance policy in our belief system for this sort of thing.
The story I was eventually told is that Uncle George started playing softball on Sundays to try to stay active during his battle with cancer, which was a serious no-no in our legalistic church. When my father confronted him about this, Uncle George did not follow orders and perhaps had a few other opinions as well. Since Uncle George had begun to hang around with negative people who weren’t mesmerized by my father, they had corrupted his life and removed him from God’s favor. While playing softball one day and rounding third base, Uncle George had a stroke and collapsed, doctors could do nothing for him, and he eventually died because he let negative people into his hospital room and into his life. That was the simple explanation.
…Many people left the church over the following years, and if they died any time after leaving the church, they also joined the illustration file of those who had touched the Lord’s anointed. Many others, however, chose to stay, believing that God’s favor and protection were contingent on their staying under my father’s leadership. Throughout the nineties, the same storyline was revealed in my Uncle Benny’s ministry as well. Some of his ex-employees were dying, and others, like my aunt Karen, who had voiced her displeasure with his ministry antics and handling of money, were suddenly struck with illness. All of this served as proof that we were anointed by God. Mess with us, and you’ll be under a divine death sentence.