What is Wrong With the Prosperity Gospel? // Ask an African Pastor

“We live in a broken world. Physical suffering is a reality of life – even for those who follow Christ. However, the Christian message does promise prosperity! Not elevation of our situation on this earth – a bigger house, a better car, a higher paying job – but glory. Life in the new heaven and the new earth. That is the true spiritual prosperity that the Bible promises.

We must have compassion

“For one I think it’s important for the church to have compassion on people. Our Lord taught us to show compassion. He was moved, when he attended a funeral, to tears. Yet when the church preaches theology – as it starts preaching to actual people with actual lives, with actual issues – we are preaching a different way than our master taught us to preach.

Secondly, it’s important for us, a church, to ask ourselves as believers “how can we love?” Not just merely be moved with empathy, but how can we act? To care for those who are actually affected. I think in church we are those who are supposed to be characterised with good works. Not only for those within, but also for all men. At the end of Galatians an admonition is given to the Church. (Galatians 6:9-10)

We are absolutely lacking in anything in us that would cause us to stand before God and point to some merit in us.

The pain of spiritual poverty

However, it’s also important to grasp that the Bible shows us that there is another poverty that is more shocking, or more painful if you so please, than the poverty of a lack of money. That poverty is a spiritual poverty that we all possess. So, you will find that as a church we are not a Social Organisation in that sense. The Lord has sent his son to address that poverty. And what that poverty is, is that we are falling short of the glory of God. We are absolutely lacking in anything in us that would cause us to stand before God and point to some merit in us. And that is a dangerous poverty.

Prosperity is more than skin deep

The truth is the scriptures address issues that the eye of flesh cannot see. The United Nations can be moved with the poverty that plagues countries in Africa. It takes someone who has really seen things the way God sees them to see people who are dressed nicely as those who are actually famished and in desperate need of being fed with the truth of God. It’s all important that even as the church seeks to love in physical things, that we never lose sight of the spiritual need that our members and people around in our communities have.

It takes someone who has really seen things the way God sees them to see people who are dressed nicely as those who are actually famished and in desperate need

So, as we proclaim the Gospel then, with the priority on the spiritual need that believers have, that does not mean that the secondary stuff does not matter. All it means is that the primary stuff is infinitely more devastating. We will see that more clearly in eternity.

All who follow Jesus are promised glory

As we proclaim the Gospel to this people it’s useful to point first and foremost to our saviour Christ. And show how he came to this fallen world that has rebelled against God. He bore the cross on our behalf. And yes, he has said that all who choose to follow him will also bear a cross. And yet that suffering that comes along with following Jesus, it’s important to understand that it is not ultimate. The same God that bore the cross was raised up on the third day. Glorified.

The truth is, all who choose to follow Jesus – as hard as that path actually looks like – even though it sounds as though you are saying you are ignoring the realities on the outside – that’s not true. The truth is Christ has promised. He who rose from the grave has promised – that all who are followers of him will know a life of glory.

More than we ever imagined

So, the reality is the Christian message is the one that ultimately offers the poor, the oppressed, ultimate hope. Not in a better heaven down here. Namely: “You will drive a better car. You will live in a bigger house. You will have a higher paying job.” Not that prosperity – that is not what they point to. They point to something called Glory. That’s pure perfection! And I tell you when that gets here, they will not think that you are preaching a lesser Gospel, because you do not tell them that their physical things in this earth are not going to be elevated. They will realise that the new heavens and the new earth provide for them the hope that they all longed for in far better terms than they ever imagined.”