This time last year, Benny Hinn admitted his teaching about prosperity had "gone to the extreme". Now, the equally popular TV preacher Joyce Meyer has made very similar remarks.
For any leader to admit weakness or talk openly about areas where they may have been wrong takes much courage. But for these two figures to admit fault takes another level of guts, simply because they are so well known.
So whether we agree or disagree with their practices or statements, we must begin by applauding their vulnerability.
There can be no doubt that the idea of prosperity is popular among many Christians today. It's especially common among those who lean towards charismatic and Pentecostal theologies. And let’s be honest, why not? I mean it sounds great to "name and claim" what we want, believing it will then become ours! We live in a quick fix, instant culture. The problem, of course, is the teaching that "if you just have enough faith, God will multiply your accounts" or "if you send money to the right TV personalities, God will double your income" is lousy theology. It takes scripture out of context and takes advantage of those in great need. In fact the only people who benefit from these messages seem to be the ones delivering them.
Meyer, Hinn and others are sometimes accused of adhering to 'The Prosperity Gospel'. But I love what Rick Warren says: “Never put an adjective in front of the word 'gospel.' Social gospel, prosperity gospel, etc. It’s just the gospel!" He's right. There's only one gospel. Nevertheless, it's clear that teachers like Hinn and Meyer have a reputation (rightly or wrongly) for majoring on messages about how God wants to make you prosperous. And for me, the real question at the centre of this debate is: "How do you define prosperity?"
First, let's be clear on what prosperity is not. There are no promises in scripture that we’ll look better, have more money, more friends, and be popular. In fact we find Jesus promising the opposite! He said, “If you follow me, you’ll probably lose some family and friends”. In fact, “sometimes you will be hated.” Our faith does not promise us an easy, sick-free or even a wealthy life.
When various teachings on prosperity get taken out of scriptural context it undermines the truth and trust that prosperity is from God. Every gift we have is from God, including the ability to make wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18). No matter what we have been given - money, gifts or abilities - it’s not about what we’ve obtained, but about what we do with what we have. The principle for the one who has little is the same principle as for the one who is entrusted with much. In a word, it's faithfulness.
Having more of anything is not the point in God's Kingdom. Being faithful with what God gives seems to be more important to God. Many of the prosperity messages have to do with getting more, and then putting the stamp of God on it to justify it as if to say it is a sign of God’s blessing. But that teaching removes the faithfulness of the one who may have little but remains faithful.
Sometimes what we celebrate as blessed or successful is often very different than what God is doing through his Kingdom. Instead of entrusting all of us with all of the same wealth, gifts and abilities, he teaches us about learning faithfulness to what he has given to us. The best of God's Kingdom is not what we get, but what we’re able to give away.
The great thing about prosperity is that it's about far more than just money. One of God's names is Jehovah Jireh, which means God is our provider. Every time I have heard this taught it’s been all about God providing finance. But God is the great provider of all things. He provides relationship, where he puts the lonely in families (Psalm 68:6). He is the provider of vision. He provides strength and safety when needed. We find this common theme all throughout the scriptures where God provides for his people in every area of life.
Psalm 1 speaks to the promise of prospering and is one of my favorite promises. “A tree firmly planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and whatever he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1:3). The word “prosper” here, means more than to profit and be successful, it also means to show experience. I love this scripture because it gives the picture that wherever God plants us, it doesn’t matter what life throws our way; we will prosper in it. It doesn’t say if you're poor financially then it means you’re not prosperous. It says that no matter the season, you will prosper.
Yes, God wants you to prosper but his ways do not follow the patterns of this world
True prosperity is the promise that no matter what we face in life, God will sustain us. Some of the most prosperous times in our lives have nothing to do with money. Some of the richest people I know are not rich because of material wealth, but rich because they have found their security in Christ. They know God’s blessing is not about having more, or having everything turn out perfect. Instead they demonstrate a quiet trust in being planted and cared for by God. I think that’s why the Apostle Paul spoke about the importance of learning to be to be content in all situations. This is what the gift of faith looks like when its lived out.
The truth is most people won’t be wealthy. But is that really the goal of this life? Or is it to learn to walk in faith choosing to lean into God whether we have little or much, or are walking in health or sickness. Having confidence that we know God will provide just what we need, just at the right time, because that is the promise of being planted. This is what it really looks like to prosper in every season of life.
Christy Wimber has been involved in church ministry for over two decades. She is now focused on leadership, mental health and the training of leaders and planting of new churches. Her main ministry has always been her children, Camie Rose, who is now married to Hobie Johnson, and John Richard II who is still in high school. For more information visit ChristyWimber.com
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