The Destructive False Doctrine of Prosperity Theology

On the one hand, I hate prosperity theology and believe it is from the pit of hell. I’ve written a book called If God Is Good… Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil, and one of the chapters is about the lies of the health and wealth gospel, and how it undermines our faith in God and His Word.

On the other hand, nearly every false doctrine has a true component hidden in it that gets twisted and perverted. We need to understand that it’s not only Malachi 3 where God says He will provide for the faithful giver. Jesus said, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Luke 6:38).

Oftentimes, the more you give, the more comes back to you, because God is the greatest giver in the universe, and He won’t let you out give Him. Go ahead and try. See what happens. R. G. LeTourneau invented earthmoving machines and gave away 90 percent of his income, but the money came in faster than he could give it away. LeTourneau said, “I shovel it out and God shovels it back—but God has a bigger shovel!”

Now, I don’t mean that always happens in such extremes, or that you’ll never feel your sacrifice when you give (it wouldn’t be a sacrifice if you didn’t), but Scripture is emphatic on the point that God honors his children’s giving.

The health and wealth gospel dishonors Christ, since any gospel that is more true in America than in another country (China, for example) is not the true gospel. Prosperity theology is built on a half-truth. God often does prosper givers materially, but He won’t let us treat Him like a no-lose slot machine or a cosmic genie who does our bidding.

God’s payoff is very real, but it comes at the “proper time,” which may not be today or tomorrow but in eternity (Galatians 6:9).

God has given you considerable material blessings. Have you ever asked yourself, “Why has He provided so much?” You don’t need to wonder. Paul tells us exactly why He provides us with more money than we need:

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that... (2 Corinthians 9:10–1 1)

So that what? How will he finish this sentence? Prosperity theology would finish it, “so that we might live in wealth, showing the world how much God blesses those who love Him.”

But that isn’t how Paul finishes it. He says, “ will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion.” Paul is saying that God doesn't provide for us financially to increase our standard of living, but to increase our standard of giving.

God comes right out and tells us why He gives us more money than we need. It’s not so we can find more ways to spend it. It’s not so we can indulge ourselves and spoil our children. It’s not so we can insulate ourselves from needing God’s provision. It’s so we can give—generously.

Once you experience the joy of giving, investing in lives in different parts of the globe and in people you will meet in God’s presence, all that stuff that will end up in junkyards and landfills isn’t so appealing any more.

For more, see our other resources on money and giving, as well as Randy's related books.

Photo by Chris Rhoads on Unsplash

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries