by Shawn Brasseaux
We often hear “Christian” preachers claim, “God wants you to be wealthy and healthy!” “If you are poor, then God is cursing you!” “As long as you serve God and bring your tithes into the storehouse, you will never be sick and you will have abundant material wealth!” “Sow your seed of faith by sending a monthly donation to our ministry, and God will restore your finances and heal you from the top of your head to the soles of your feet!”
Prosperity theology seems to be quite popular today in Christendom, but this does not necessarily mean it has God’s approval. Why? Church leaders utilize these appealing ditties (listed above) to pressure their followers to give large monetary donations. This is deception—this is extortion! In the name of religion and “Jesus Christ,” billions of church members are being robbed in every sense of the word!
Material wealth and good health (healing) are dispensational issues. We shall thoroughly demonstrate that they operate differently at various points in human history. As with most of the arguments in Christendom, the solution is right division (dispensational Bible study). The Apostle Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:15 KJV: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Dispensational Bible study aids us in understanding what God did in “time past” and how that contrasts with what God is presently doing in the “but now.”
Ephesians 2:11,12 tell us that, in time past, God formerly dealt with mankind on the basis of physical circumcision (Jew) and physical uncircumcision (Gentile). Ephesians 2:13 begins with “but now….” God is doing something different today than what He did in time past. We will now analyze prosperity theology and its message in light of dispensational Bible study. Prepare to be shocked!
PROSPERITY IN THE BIBLE
Once, a Christian brother heard a prosperity television preacher promise that if his viewers would send him $1,000, then God would bless them 1,000-fold (with a million dollars)! The Christian wrote the following note to the television preacher: “Hey, send me the $1,000, then God will send you the million. That way, you can quit begging for money.” Of course, the television preacher never wrote back. 🙂 We laugh at this type of foolishness, but this is far from a laughing matter because people are being deceived and they are being robbed… all in the name of “God” too!
Under Israel’s legalistic economy of Judaism (Mosaic Law), God blessed those who obeyed Him and cursed those who disobeyed Him. Notice that it was a conditional promise: IF people obeyed God, THEN He would bless them. This was Israel’s performance-based acceptance system of Law.
God promised the nation Israel an abundance of material blessings—all they had to do what obey Him (Genesis 17:1-6; Genesis 26:1-5). Abraham was a very rich man because God promised to bless him for his faith and obedience. “And Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold” (Genesis 13:2) and he had “flocks, and herds, and silver, and gold, and menservants, and maidservants, and camels, and asses” (Genesis 24:35). Abraham tithed faithfully (Genesis 14:20; Hebrews 7:2, 4, 6)! Whenever Israel tithed, God blessed them, but God cursed them when they withheld their tithes (Malachi 3:8-11).
Whenever Israel hearkened (listened) to the LORD God, she prospered. During the periods Israel walked in obedience to JEHOVAH, they had bountiful harvests and military victories, for example (Leviticus 26:1-ff.; Deuteronomy 28:1-14). But, Deuteronomy 28:15-ff. listed the curses God would place on Israel when she disobeyed Him. The LORD promised in Exodus 15:26 that if Israel would obey all His commandments, He would bless them with good health, and heal them of all their diseases. Prosperity and good health was a good thing in the Old Testament because it meant that God was blessing the person.
In Deuteronomy 8:18, God tells the nation Israel through Moses: “But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.” God giving Israel material wealth was part of His covenant with them. By the way, people wrongly quote this today as though it applied to us, when the context says that it clearly belongs to Israel.
In 1 Kings 10:23, we see that David’s son, King Solomon, “exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches and for wisdom.” The Bible says Job was a very wealthy man who had “seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east” (Job 1:3).
Suddenly, when we come to the Four Gospels and Christ’s earthly ministry, being rich is now a bad thing! Do you think Mary’s husband Joseph had a lucrative income as a carpenter? Was Jesus’ family rich while He was growing up? Jesus’ family was poor. The Bible never portrays the twelve apostles as being wealthy, either.
A very rich man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, and Jesus’ reply was “keep the commandments.” Christ then told him to sell all his possessions and give to the poor (Matthew 19:17-22), but the rich man walked away sad because he was too prideful to follow those instructions. As the man left, the Lord Jesus told His disciples (verses 23-24): “Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Let us compare that to Mark chapter 10.
In Mark 10:23-25, the Lord Jesus said: “Children, how hard it is for them who trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” The rich man was just as a much a sinner as anyone else, but the rich man’s problem was he had more faith in his mammon (wealth) than in Jesus as Israel’s King-Messiah. Clearly, it was not good to be rich during Christ’s earthly ministry. Israel was about to go into the Tribulation, and material possessions would only hinder the Jews because they would have to flee to the mountains in order to save their lives (Matthew 24:15-21; Luke 21:21). In fact, they would lose these possessions in the destruction of the Tribulation anyway.
Moving away from Christ’s earthly ministry and coming into the early part of the book of Acts, we read that the believing Jews (“the little flock” of Luke 12:32) sold all of their possessions and gave the money to the apostles (Acts 2:44,45; Acts 4:32-37; Acts 5:1,2). These Jewish believers acted in perfect accordance with Matthew 6:24-34 and Luke 12:33,34. As far they were concerned, Israel’s seven-year Tribulation was about to come in, and then Christ would establish His glorious kingdom. God would take care of these Jewish believers because He had promised them to meet all their needs (see Matthew 6:24-34).
Now, let us consider our apostle, the Apostle Paul, our pattern in this the Dispensation of Grace. Paul was formerly a Pharisee, a religious leader of Israel, and prior to his salvation, he enjoyed a lucrative life in the Jews’ religion, Judaism (Galatians 1:13,14). When God saved Paul, Paul counted all of his accomplishments and wealth but “dung” (manure!) so he could serve the Lord and minister to the Gentile world (Philippians 3:5-8). Do you think Paul rolled in the “big bucks” as a lowly tentmaker (Acts 18:1-3)? What makes you think that you being a Christian should entitle you to having a private jet, a condo in the Bahamas, and a fleet of BMWs?
In fact, we see Paul hungry and needing material goods in Philippians 4:11,12 (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:9-13; 2 Corinthians 11:22-27). While writing this epistle to the Philippians, Paul is sitting in a cold, dark, cruel Roman prison! Furthermore, the Macedonian Christians suffered “deep poverty” (2 Corinthians 8:1,2). But, whether good times or bad, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).
Contrary to what religion says, wealth today has nothing to do with God being “happy with you” and poverty today has nothing to do with God being “angry at you.” Sometimes, Paul possessed many goods, but other times he had little to nothing. In this the Dispensation of Grace, our financial status is independent of God’s attitude toward us.
Let us also realize that Israel’s tithe is not in effect today. Tithing is part of the Mosaic Law, and the Bible says we are under grace, not law (Romans 6:14,15). Today, we have instructions for giving: “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). We give money today, but not with the incentive of getting material riches in return (like Israel did with her tithe).
We have been blessed in the Lord Jesus Christ, and this has nothing to do with whether or not we give money. Paul writes that, rather than God blessing us with material riches, we have spiritual riches in Christ! “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:” (Ephesians 1:3 KJV).
In 2 Corinthians 8:9, we read: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” This is why Philippians 4:19 says: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” God has already supplied our “NEED” (singular)—salvation and eternal life through Jesus Christ.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with having material possessions. However, materialism can potentially consume you, and then it becomes a subtle form of idolatry. If you do happen to come across a large income, please guard yourself against idolatry and materialism. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 6 KJV about contentment with what we have, whether we have much or little material goods:
“7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
9 But 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.
10 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.
11 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;…
18 That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate;”
HEALTH IN THE BIBLE
Now, we move on to the good health aspect of the prosperity gospel. God never promised us in the Dispensation of Grace that we would enjoy lives of perfect health. Christians in the past have suffered from horrible sicknesses, excluding those who were tortured and martyred for the Lord’s sake. I know of a few Christians who are great warriors for Christ, but they are living on a fixed budget and they suffer from several bodily sicknesses! Why are they suffering when some non-Christians are not?
In Deuteronomy 7:12-15, the LORD promised that if Israel would obey Him, He would heal them of all their sicknesses. Look at what verse 15 says: “And the LORD will take away from thee all sickness, and will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which thou knowest, upon thee; but will lay them upon all them that hate thee.”
If Israel did not listen to the LORD, He promised to curse them with illness (Deuteronomy 28:27-29 KJV):
“27 The LORD will smite thee with the botch of Egypt, and with the emerods, and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof thou canst not be healed.
28 The LORD shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart:
29 And thou shalt grope at noonday, as the blind gropeth in darkness, and thou shalt not prosper in thy ways: and thou shalt be only oppressed and spoiled evermore, and no man shall save thee.”
In fact, the LORD even told Israel through Moses (Exodus 15:26): “If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee.” Jews suffering illness in the Old Testament was an indication that Israel was not listening to the LORD.
Let us look now at Christ’s earthly ministry. Why did Jesus Christ perform so many healing miracles during His earthly ministry? For example, the Scriptures give us the account of more than two-dozen examples of healing miracles that the Lord Jesus performed during His three years of earthly ministry. In Mark 7:31-36, Jesus healed a deaf and mute man. He also healed the servant’s ear that had been cut off (Luke 22:50-51).
Jesus healed a blind man that was blind from birth (John 9:1-8), a devil-possessed man (Luke 4:33-35), and a paralytic (Mark 2:3-12). Matthew 4:24 says: “And [Jesus’] fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.”
The Bible says in Matthew 12:15 and Matthew 15:30 that Jesus Christ healed multitudes of sick people suffering from a wide range of infirmities, including blindness, leprosy, lameness, and speech impediments. In fact, John 20:30 tells us: “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book [the Gospel of John]:” The Bible does not document all of the miracles the Lord Jesus Christ performed!
In addition to the Lord Jesus Christ performing myriads upon myriads of miracles, He even commanded the twelve apostles to do the same (Luke 9:1). We read in Matthew 10:5-8 KJV:
“5 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not:
6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
8 Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.”
Why are there so many healing miracles in the Four Gospels? Matthew 9:35 tells us the answer: “And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people.” The Gospel of the Kingdom is found in the passage we just read in Matthew chapter 10: “And as ye go [to the lost sheep of the house of Israel], preach, saying The kingdom of heaven is at hand [near].”
The Gospel of the Kingdom was simply that Jesus is Israel’s promised King-Messiah. Israel’s kingdom is about to be established, and in this kingdom, there will be no sickness, no evil spirits, and no death (Isaiah 33:24; Zechariah 13:1-3). By performing healing miracles, casting out devils, and raising the dead, Jesus Christ is proving to Israel that her kingdom is finally here because He is her promised King. Notice what the book of Hebrews says in chapter 2:
“3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;
4 God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?
5 For unto the angels hath he not in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.”
These signs, miracles, and wonders spoken of here are a reference to the events on the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2. That “world to come” referenced in Hebrews 2:5 is the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ, Israel’s earthly kingdom! Again, all those miracles in the Four Gospels are evidence of Israel’s kingdom about to be established. Yet, Israel rejected her Messiah in unbelief and nailed the Lord Jesus Christ to Calvary’s cross.
In Acts 7:51-59, about a year after Acts chapter 2, Israel’s prophet Stephen chided the nation Israel’s religious leaders for rejecting and killing their Messiah-King Jesus Christ. In a rage of conviction, the Jews stoned Stephen because they did not like God’s message! Saul of Tarsus (who later became Paul the Apostle), an unbeliever at that time, was not only present at the stoning of Stephen, but he was also involved with the imprisonment and murder of kingdom believers in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1-3; Galatians 1:13-14).
With the salvation of Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, the Dispensation of Grace has begun. At this point, in Acts chapter 9, God has brought in a new dispensation, a program separate from Israel’s prophetic kingdom program. In our present-day program, called the “mystery program” in Romans 16:25-26, Israel’s signs, miracles, and wonders have vanished. We no longer have healing miracles because Israel’s “prophetic program” has been temporarily interrupted.
If we look in 2 Corinthians 11:22-28, we find the horrible sufferings of Paul the Apostle—he was stoned once, beaten, whipped nearly 200 times, and shipwrecked three times! Any good health here? Paul suffered from a “thorn in the flesh,” a mysterious illness or difficulty, which Paul prayed three times to God for healing and/or deliverance (2 Corinthians 12:8-10). The Bible says that Paul never received healing or deliverance from it. Galatians 4:13 says Paul suffered from a sickness that detained him in Galatia. Timothy and Trophimus were both physically sick and Paul could not heal either of them (1 Timothy 5:23; 2 Timothy 4:20).
The early Gentile Christians were under constant pressure and persecution from the outside world (Philippians 1:28-30; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-10). Paul suffered great distress and depression in 2 Corinthians 1:4-10. Need I continue to prove that a believer’s life is not always carefree and prosperous in this the Dispensation of Grace?
Israel’s kingdom is temporarily postponed while God is doing something different. As long as our mystery program is in effect, Israel’s prophetic program is on hold. For us as members of the Church the Body of Christ, we have a time of healing coming in the future: the rapture, the day when we received glorified bodies fashioned like unto Jesus Christ’s physical body!! A body that is everlasting, that will never grow sick or old—a body that will never die. Refer to Romans 8:18-25, 1 Corinthians 15:51-55, 2 Corinthians 4:15–5:1, Ephesians 4:30; Philippians 3:20,21, and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 for passages that refer to the redemption of our physical bodies.
As we tarry in this world as Christians suffering the persecution and sicknesses of this life, we remember 1 Corinthians 10:13: “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
And in 2 Corinthians chapter 4, we read:
“16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
Finally, in Romans chapter 8:
“18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.
23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.”
In Deuteronomy 8:18, we read: “But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day.” Many prosperity preaches use this verse (and others) to claim that God wants to bless you with material blessings. However, we notice in this verse “fathers” is a reference to Israel’s patriarchs. Are we Israel? Have any covenants been given to us as Gentiles? No, according to Ephesians 2:11-12, we have not been given any of Israel’s covenants. Furthermore, those who read Deuteronomy 8:18 usually do not read the rest of the passage (Deuteronomy 8:19-20):
“19 And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish.
20 As the nations which the LORD destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the LORD your God.”
Everyone wants to follow the passage when it says God will bless us when we obey Him, but no one wants the passage when it says that God will curse us when we disobey Him. The key to understanding Deuteronomy 8:18 is that this is spoken to the nation Israel, not to us.
The Jews of the Old Testament were promised material blessings, provided they “hearkened [listened] unto the Lord.” Remember, it was a conditional promise: if people obeyed God, then He would bless them. This was Israel’s performance-based acceptance system of Law, a system which we are not under today (Romans 6:14,15).
Abraham, David, and Job were far from poor beggars. However, these earthly promises were given to Israel, not to us as members of the Church the Body of Christ. Israel received the promise of material blessings, but the Bible says that God the Father has blessed Christians today “with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). Romans 8:14-17 also substantiates the fact that Christians can be “poor as church mice” financially, but still have eternal riches in heaven in Christ Jesus (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:9)! We are not blessed on the basis of what we have done or have not done. We are blessed solely because of what Christ Jesus did for us, not what we have done for Him!
The Bible warns us to be vigilant, watching for false teaching such as this “good health and wealth gospel,” which is nothing but “tradition of men” (Colossians 2:7-9; cf. 2 Corinthians 11:3,4). The book of Colossians (3:1-3) also instructs us to “set our affection [interest] on things above, and not on things on earth.” The Apostle Paul warned us that in the last days, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:3,4). That fits perfectly with this prosperity gospel, its proponents, and the poor naïve people who have been duped into believing it!
Today’s prosperity gospel of good health and material wealth is a very serious matter because it is a damnable gospel that only misleads people to a devil’s hell (2 Corinthians 11:3,4). The Apostle Paul (and the Holy Spirit) makes his pronouncement on false teachers who are not preaching Christ crucified for our sins, buried, and risen again for our justification (Galatians 1:6-9 KJV):
“6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:
7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
9 As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
The pure Gospel of Grace that Paul preached has been adulterated and transformed unto an ear-tickling message of health and prosperity. The only people who are getting rich are those proclaiming that false gospel! Does God promise to bless us with an abundance of material blessings if we faithfully tithe? Are Christians promised multimillion-dollar mansions, exotic cars, and large bank accounts? Are Christians always blessed with good health? Again, the answer to all three questions is a firm NO! Today’s “prosperity gospel” is nothing but a fable, a fallacy, created by none other than the old devil himself to lead more people to hell.
Learn to “rightly divide the word of truth,” and you will never suffer from C.H.A.P.$.!