Thank you for tuning in to BCNN1’s The Gospel According to Greenleaf. In this brief, weekly podcast, we are examining some of the themes of Oprah Winfrey’s new drama set in a large black church that deals with issues that all churches face. Today we are looking at the issue of the prosperity gospel.
This issue was brought to light in Greenleaf most significantly by Mae Greenleaf’s scheming to buy a new luxury jet. (This scenario was likely based on the real-life occurrence of a pastor, Creflo Dollar, asking for money to buy a private plane that was highly-publicized — and highly-criticized — not only in the church, but in the secular media.) On top of that, the church is facing an audit by the IRS. After Brother Mac who was dealing with the IRS slips up and hands minutes from church meetings over to the auditors without reading them first, Bishop Greenleaf tells him the auditor “wants our personal income taxes, an inventory of everything in our home — every God-blessed object — explanations of where it all came from, and contact numbers from anyone who’s even given us a ballpoint pen.” After suggesting that the threat of him going to prison is very real, he adds, “I will not have people going through our lives with a fine-tooth comb. We both know that won’t be good.” Of course, we all know that a pastor’s life, and every Christian’s life ought to be an open book to other Christians and to the world. One of the blessings of being a true Christian is the benefit of being able to be transparent and honest about every aspect of your life. That you do not have to go through life hiding stuff. By the way, even though Oprah is not a perfect person, although she calls herself “the wise one”, one of the things we all know about Oprah is that she values honesty and transparency, and she demands that from the people that work for her and the people she interviews.
Put simply, the prosperity gospel is the belief that God grants riches and health to those with the right kind of faith. Today, the church is faced with this plague, which is not only present in America, but has been exported to Africa and South America. The teaching is that God wants people to be rich and that health and wealth is the evidence of salvation or true spirituality. Unscrupulous “preachers” often prey on the faithful by promising abundant wealth in exchange for a “seed offering” or “investment.” This often ends up with a situation where the pastor and church leaders are filling their pockets while the people give sacrificially so as not to be seen as not having faith or less than faithful. And then they go out into the parking lot and get into their Ford Pinto and go back to the projects, looking for a financial “blessing” that never comes. And the pastor and his circle of big donors drive off in a chauffeured Bentley to their big fine house on pork chop hill.
The prosperity gospel is a dangerous teaching that has people serving money instead of truly serving God, and as Jesus Christ said, “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Those who subscribe to this so-called “gospel” need to examine themselves to see if they are truly saved and to see if they are truly worshipping God or if they have made money their god. Remember, the Bible says in 1 Timothy 6:6-10, “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. 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. 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.
The only way the scourge of the prosperity gospel will be broken is through accurate biblical preaching and teaching. There are a few things that people in the church must understand.
First, people must understand that poverty or lack is not to be equated with sin and evil. Many of God’s most faithful servants — in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, and in contemporary times — were materially poor. Jesus Himself did not have a home that He could call His own, in fact, He said, “I have no place to lay My head”. He and the disciples were supported by the charity of others. God never promised material wealth to His people on this Earth. He promised endless spiritual riches — joy, peace, contentment, grace, and mercy — now found in Jesus Christ. Our material riches will come in Heaven.
Second, people must understand that it is anti-Biblical to give in order to get. Just because you give to a certain ministry, that does not make God obligated to give back to you. Yet, that is what many in the prosperity gospel movement preach. One such preacher wrote, “Give $10 and receive $1,000; give $1,000 and receive $100,000.” But, the Bible teaches nothing of the sort. In Luke 10:35, Jesus taught His disciples to “give, hoping for nothing in return.” Every Christian should faithfully tithe and give to his local church and to other Christian ministries as the Lord leads them. But this should be done out of a sense of love, obedience, and gratitude; not as a means of pulling God’s arm to get more. On top of that, Christians are commanded to “be content with such things as ye have.”
Third, people must understand that wealth is not necessarily the reward for faithful living. God blesses His people in different ways. Some people, God will not give money to because He knows they can’t handle it — they will get so caught up in the money that they forget about serving Him. Others, God blesses with wealth because He knows they will use it wisely and give to the cause of Christ. But, more often than not, God’s people will not be wealthy. In fact, we have to be careful that we do not become jealous of those who are not saved who seem to be prosperous beyond measure. David wrote about this in Psalm 73 when he said, “For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked… They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men… Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish.”
Over 100 years ago, speaking to the then-largest congregation in the world, Charles Spurgeon said, “I believe that it is anti-Christian and unholy for any Christian to live with the object of accumulating wealth. You say, ‘Are we not to strive all we can to get all the money we can?’ You may do so. I cannot doubt but what, in so doing, you may do service to the cause of God. But what I said was that to live with the object of accumulating wealth is anti-Christian.”
We ought to pursue spiritual wealth more than material wealth. Material wealth will one day fade, But, spiritual wealth, found in Christ Jesus, will never pass away.
In closing, if you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, allow me to show you how you can be forgiven of your sins and begin a relationship with God today.
First, accept the fact that you are a sinner, and that you have broken God’s law. The Bible says in Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
Second, accept the fact that there is a penalty for sin. The Bible states in Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death…”
Third, accept the fact that you are on the road to hell. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”
Now that is bad news, but here is the good news. Jesus Christ said in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Just believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead by the power of God for you so that you can live eternally with Him. Pray and ask Him to come into your heart today, and He will.
Romans 10:9 & 13 says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved… For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
If you believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, and you want to trust Him for your salvation today, please pray with me this simple prayer: Holy Father God, I realize that I am a sinner and that I have done some bad things in my life. I am sorry for my sins, and today I choose to turn from my sins. For Jesus Christ sake, please forgive me of my sins. I believe with all of my heart that Jesus Christ died for me, was buried, and rose again. I trust Jesus Christ as my Savior and I choose to follow Him as Lord from this day forward. Lord Jesus, please come into my heart and save my soul and change my life today. Amen.
If you just trusted Jesus Christ as your Saviour, and you prayed that prayer and meant it from your heart, I declare to you that based upon the Word of God, you are now saved from Hell and you are on your way to Heaven. Welcome to the family of God! Congratulations on doing the most important thing in life and that is receiving Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour. For more information to help you grow in your newfound faith in Christ, go to Gospel Light Society.com and read “What To Do After You Enter Through the Door.” Jesus Christ said in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
May God bless you, and I hope that you will join us next time for The Gospel According to Greenleaf.