5 Reasons The “Prosperity Gospel” Is Actually A Non-Christian Religion

5 Reasons The “Prosperity Gospel” Is Actually A Non-Christian Religion April 28, 2017

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Does being a good and faithful Christian result in good health, a long life, having an abundance of possessions, and material wealth?

That’s the subtle/not so subtle belief of a brand of Christianity that’s often called the “prosperity gospel.”

There is a growing number of Christians who believe that– a shocking amount, actually. And not just in the United States, either– this is a growing belief around the world. I think this is happening in large part because charismatic Christianity is the fastest growing brand of Christianity in many places, and the prosperity gospel is something that seems to have infected charismatic circles more than others.

While I believe we as Christians ought be careful about declaring who is in and who is out (I feel the wrath of the heretic hunters, so I know what that’s like), when it comes to this belief system that associates being a good Christian with materialism, health, and wealth, we cannot be silent or tip-toe over words: the prosperity gospel is completely outside the Christian religion. It’s not Christianity, period.

Here’s 5 reasons why:

 5. The prosperity gospel encourages us to be money focused instead of people focused.

Within the prosperity movement, the ultimate goal is how to get from here (lack of material wealth) to there (an abundance of material wealth).

This places the ultimate focus of this religion on materialism– but that’s not what Christianity is focused on.

Christianity is a religion that is focused on other people– how to love other people, how to disciple other people in the ways of Jesus, and how to be the tangible agent of God in the lives of others. Nothing about true Christianity is about self– in fact, Jesus said to become a Christian you actually had to die to self.

4. The prosperity gospel promotes a performance based religion.

Christianity is not a religion about performance, but the prosperity gospel is all about performance.

The prosperity gospel teaches that if you do X, Y, and Z (one of them usually involves sending money into a guy on TV) that you will get more in return (a concept they call “sowing”). This paradigm sees God’s favor as something you earn by doing, instead of something you receive freely by God’s grace alone.

In fact, Jesus blew this concept out of the water when he described God’s love and favor as being like the rain which falls upon those who do good and those who do evil. He even went on to say that God is actually kind to the wicked.

But instead of seeing God’s love and blessing as something freely given through his grace, the prosperity gospel associates God’s favor with right behavior, and interprets hard times as God holding back his favor. But according to the Bible, none of that is true.

3. The prosperity gospel promotes one of the most frequently condemned sins in Scripture: greed.

The prosperity gospel is a gospel of more, and that completely stands against what Christianity is about.

One of the most frequently condemned sins in scripture is that of greed, even going so far as to say that greed is idolatry. In fact, the apostle Paul found greed to be such a repulsive form of idolatry that he commanded Christians to refuse to even share meals with someone who claimed to be Christian, but was greedy.

Instead, the Christian message is one of learning to be content with what you have. In the 10 Commandments we’re taught to not “covet” which is the same as saying, “thou shalt be content with what you have.” Again, Paul talks about this and recognizes that life will have cycles where you have plenty, and cycles where you don’t have enough, but that what God wants for us in all those places is to be content with what we have.

Bottom line: if you have what you need, but still want more– especially while others go without– you are greedy, and this sin is biblically considered wickedness, even if modern society (and Americanized Christianity) excuses it.

2. The prosperity gospel promotes elitism among the body of Christ.

One of the central beliefs of Christianity is that we are all on an equal playing field in God’s eyes. We are all created in the image of God and have unsurpassable worth, so much so that Jesus died for us. For those of us who are Christians, the Bible says we are all part of “one body” and that we are equal. However, the prosperity gospel has a way of creating an elite status of Christians– because if you’re really rich, it must be because you’re doing it better than everyone else.

Case in point: a few years ago prosperity preachers Kenneth Copeland and Jesse Duplantis argued that they needed to fly in private jets because flying commercial on an airline was like getting in a “long tube with a bunch of demons.” They also lamented how annoying it would be for people to come up to them and ask for prayer… thus, they “need” to fly in private jets.

This kind of disgusting elitism is not just outside of Christianity, it’s opposed to Christianity. It in no way reflects the homeless Jesus who hung out with the worst of sinners.

1. The prosperity gospel perverts God’s purpose in material blessing.

Can or does God bless with material excess? Certainly! The Bible says that every good and perfect gift we receive comes from God. But the prosperity gospel forgets that, in occasions where God blesses someone with financial or material excess, that blessing comes with a specific purpose: to bless others.

When God gives us more than what we need, he does so in the hopes that we will honor him by sharing it with others who don’t have enough. The early church in the book of Acts actually founded the earliest Christian community on this premise– when they had more than needed, they shared their wealth so that there were “no poor among them.”

The idea that God gives some people more than what they need so that they can enjoy the high-life of luxury while people around them die of hunger and illness, is a disgusting perversion of the actual Gospel.

There’s plenty of things that are killing the church today, but one of the biggest things killing the church is the rise of a false, anti-Christ religion that so many people mistakenly believe is part of Christianity.

Let me be blunt: the prosperity gospel and those who preach it are not part of the Christian religion. They just made up their own religion of materialism and are falsely calling it “Christian.”


unafraid 300Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with graduate degrees in the fields of Theology and International Culture, and holds a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. www.Unafraid-book.com. 

Be sure to check out his new blog, right here, and follow on Facebook:

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • John

    I agree totally and completely. The prosperity gospel totally twists Christ’s purpose for us on earth.

  • Some of us still call it “Mammonism.” Jesus said we can’t serve two masters, but these folks are pretty sure they can prove him wrong.

  • Matt Woodling

    I have problems. Here’s one.

    “Nothing about true Christianity is about self– in fact, Jesus said to become a Christian you actually had to die to self.”

    I disagree. Christianity is ALL about the self. It appears to meet today the end goal for most Christians is fully experiencing God’s presence and Grace, either on this Earth or in heaven. You achieve that by praying hard enough, paying hard enough, or serving others hard enough.

    Beyond that, I think property gospel is a sham and is morally bankrupt, both for those who sell it and those who lap it up.

  • Darrell

    Great post. Thank you.

  • Bones

    If anyone wants to send me $10 000 you’ll be become a millionaire….

    Honest….

    Jesus said….

    Or you could buy my sequel to Pastor Brian Houston’s Book “You Need More Money”

    It’s called:

    “You Need A Hell of a Lot More Money” by Bones

    I’m planning on a third….

    “You Need A Shitload More Money” by Bones…

    Available in all rorting bookstores….or send me a check for $10 000.

    Edit US dollars please = not zimbabwean – you cheap skates.

  • Larry TheKeyboardist Blake

    I’d bet my life the whole reason for this “prosperity gospel” is purely for elitist snobs like Copeland and Duplantis to have an excuse to justify their obsessions with wealth in a “Christian” context so they can fool the same gullible sheep that Pat Robertson’s been toying with for 50 years into throwing more money their way.

  • Mike Stidham

    It’s pretty much a spiritual Ponzi scheme. Copeland was a failed pop singer who got a job as Oral Roberts’s pilot, then decided to go into business for himself. The wannabees like Duplantis followed fast and furiously.

  • Al Cruise

    It should be noted that the”prosperity gospel” is a branch of the current Evangelical crowd. A group in which both leaders and adherents supported Trump en masse. Many suggested that Trump’s “successful businessman status” was a more important reason to support him than things like moral values. This shows where evangelical hearts really are and who and what they place on the throne to worship.

  • I hate to say it, but I laughed at the line about commercial flight being “like being packed into a tube full of demons.” It’s been years since I’ve been on a plane, but, being a socially-challenged introvert who doesn’t like being in tight spaces with a lot of people, I’ve compared flying (coach, I’ve only ever been in coach) to “being like a sardine packed into a can of sardines.” I’ve liked the rush of taking off and seeing the landscape get small outside of a plane window – I’ve found air travel exciting the few times I’ve done it, but, yeah… I don’t like the “sardine packing” part of it. I wouldn’t compare it to being with demons, though. I mean, these guys are preachers, right? They consider people “demons” for asking them for prayer? Sounds to me like “preachers” who don’t want to do their damn jobs.

    That said, if someone offered me a free or reasonably discount price that I could afford to do air travel again to take a flight across the country to re-connect with my family, I’d get in that “tube of demons” in a heartbeat. Then again, I’ve never been wealthy and have never known the luxury of a private jet. I am, I suppose, one of the demons.

  • Do you take Nigerian currency?

  • Paul Julian Gould

    That whole gig started as a misreading of the author of 3 John’s gentle pastoral greeting of, basically, “Hi, y’all… I hope this finds you folks well,” and turned into Rhema, Copeland, and all the rest…

  • Marja Erwin

    D.H. Green seems to argue that the use of halig instead of wih in Old English Christianity reflects a belief that military victory and other kinds of worldly power are signs of G’d’s favor. (He definitely argues that the use of weihs instead of hailags in Gothic Christianity was to avoid any suggestion that military victory and other kinds of worldly power are signs of G’d’s favor.) That would seem analogous to the belief that wealth is a sign of G’d’s favor.

  • Bones

    Is the Pope Muslim?

  • Bones

    Charismatics and Pentecostals who follow this nonsense have lost their faculty for thinking and reasoning and have given themselves up to some of the worst and dumbest eisegesis ever.

  • Dr Corey, it’s you who isn’t Christian in the American sense. You believe in the socialist stuff about feeding the hungry, giving aid to the poor, and healing the sick.

    Values exactly contrary to those of the majority of the House, Senate, the Newly appointed Federal Judiciary, and of course the President who is making America great again, by giving to those that have and taking from those that have not.

    American Christianity teaches that the wealthy are good, because they are blessed by God with riches. The poor are evil, cursed by God to live in poverty. They can however remove the curse by praying in Jesus name, hating the right people, and giving all the dollars they have to God, through his wealthy priests and pastors.

    That is Christianity in America.

    It may not have always been so, but it’s what it is today. Don’t like it? Leave. Many have already. Even more are joining though.m

  • James Tan

    not sure if your irony can be detected by your intended audience…

  • otrotierra

    Sarcasm does’t have its own font yet.

  • Tim

    Interestingly, the prosperity gospel is another form of the puritan/ protestant work ethic; the basis of capitalism. It stems from the theological notion from Augustinian/ Calvinistic notions of what it means to be ‘elect’. Because they had no way to tell “who was in and who was out”, they invented this false standard of assuming that if you were doing well financially/ materially, then you were likely one of the elect/ under God’s blessing. This is, of course, a lie. Prosperity gospel is just another face of the same misunderstanding.

  • gimpi1

    I don’t know much about Christianity (or religion in general) but I do know this: “Prosperity Gospel” is a at best a con-job promoted by greedy frauds. At worst, it’s a savage belief system that condemns poor people, regarding their poverty as proof of sin and/or God’s punishment and worships wealth as proof of virtue and God’s love.

    It’s sad when the best thing you can say about a belief is that it’s a scam.

  • Paul Julian Gould

    … and that’s a shame, as the rhetoric I read from Zoo Brain is identical to what I’ve read from those who are completely sincere…

    Of course, I’m assuming that the Zoo person is doing a Poe… if not… oh, dear…

  • Sin_Boldly

    I think you are incorrect on both counts of linking the prosperity gospel to the Puritans or to the Calvinist doctrine of election. Primarily because I believe that you have grossly misunderstood Calvinism, or at least the doctrine of election and the essence of Puritanism, which ultimately came out of the Calvinist tradition. Rather, the prosperity gospel is a modern heretical perversion of Christianity. I agree with the author that the “P G” is nowhere near the heart and soul of the Christian faith/tradition.

  • Sin_Boldly

    “Christianity is ALL about the self”. I respectfully disagree. Christ was all about emptying oneself out in the service of others. He carried this to death on the cross for creation. I do agree with your assessment of the prosperity gospel, although we might have more compassion for those enslaved by it, especially it primary victims, the misled masses.

  • otrotierra

    In an era of “alternative facts” and white evangelicals showing 81% support for Trump’s hate-filled hysteria, one never can be sure…

  • Paul Julian Gould

    You’re not kiddin’, my friend… but if the Zoo person is for real, and that wasn’t a Poe, may G-d have mercy on this nation that has such people claiming citizenship…

  • Paul Julian Gould

    I say this, as there are a few people of my offline acquaintance from whom that could be said word-for-word, and with complete sincerity…

  • KonCern

    It may not be much of an irony if she really believes what she is saying. It becomes delusional, especially since so many really believes there is such a thing as ” American Christianity”…

  • Tim
  • Tim

    I was raised in a Calvinistic model. It’s a loose-ish connection; Prosperity gospel is different in some respects, but it comes from the same misunderstanding of election and how we know if someone is under God’s blessing.

  • Toni Segarra

    Every religion must have its root in love. But love is the most dangerous thing there is: for one has to give his life for the material and psychological salvation of others.
    So, love for others, would be not to disturb people in their activities. Whether spiritual as the economic, material.
    And that is the danger of love: you must let yourself be robbed, deceived, exploited, mistreated, raped, so that the one who provokes us, does it, who has that activity, is comfortable, happy.
    But, as love is total freedom, then the answer, the defense, the safeguarding our lives of those who are indifferent and want to destroy us, that too is love.
    Because love is life itself, live as one lives. That is, love and freedom is the same: the most dangerous. That’s why life itself is the most dangerous thing there is. But that’s what it is.

  • Linnea912

    My atheist dad nailed the “Prosperity Gospel” by observing that the only people who “prosper” under it are its preachers.

    It’s one of the biggest, and worst, frauds ever invented.

  • Richard Worden Wilson

    Pretty well on point here Benjamin. Credit where credit is due–critics of mammonism are part of my tribe, and for Christ’s sake part of his.

  • Great article! I’ve been meaning to write about this for a while and you beat me to it. From a slightly different angle, the “prosperity gospel” is just one specific “Christian” brand of “magical thinking” in the broader sense, that our positive and negative thoughts make things happen in the external world. The Christian version of this is the belief that if you affirm particular Bible verses, e.g. Mark 11:24, and say the right prayers, “name it and claim it,” God will reward you accordingly. If your material desires fail to manifest, it’s because you lack faith. This belief has become pervasive even among mainstream Christians who have never heard of the “prosperity gospel” and are shocked upon being told it is a heresy.

  • Mike Smathers

    Lenny Bruce said it best: “Any preacher with more than one suit is a con man.” Write on Brother

  • theprozacqueen

    Yes, and it can cause people to be very short-sighted. When someone focuses mainly on material wealth and physical health they can miss the fact that there are blessings to be had in other ways. It’s like how someone once said that my mom died from cancer because she didn’t “believe right” when she’s received the ultimate healing…she’s with Jesus and will never suffer again. But “prosperity” people completely miss that. Such a sad view of life.

  • Absolutely correct.

  • David

    Do you take Bitcoin?

  • Frankly

    It’s a ponzi scheme. That’s why it’s mainly the preachers who get rich off it.

  • Bones

    Sure…….

  • Mike Stidham

    Flying does such a number on my sinuses that I feel like I’ve been possessed for a couple of days after flying! When I got my discharge papers from the Air Force, I swore that only extreme circumstances would get me aboard another plane. In 35 years, I’ve held to that vow.

  • Ivan T. Errible

    Or silk vestments.

  • Ivan T. Errible

    Why are you calling him “Doctor”-he didn’t graduate from med school and he’s not a dentist.
    For a group that claims to value humility, there’s a lot of status claiming among xtian leaders…..
    Compensation for shrinking market share?

  • Mike Smathers

    I get your point. Perhaps even a cherical collar.

  • Jon-Michael Ivey

    The Didache (the oldest Christian writing outside of the biblical canon, which may actually be older than some of the New Testament and was what the early church used to explain Christianity to new members) says that any prophet who asks for money is a false prophet and must be shunned.

  • ashpenaz

    While almost no one has heard of Unity, the church founded by Charles and Myrtle Fillmore, it’s a good idea to find out more to better understand prosperity thinking. http://www.unity.org/ Initially, I felt the way Corey did about prosperity–that it was a weirdly selfish heresy. But it’s actually pretty well thought-out if you read the writings of Fillmore and Eric Butterworth. In the same way God doesn’t create sickness, He doesn’t create poverty. Is Corey saying God wants people to be poor? Or sick? If that’s true, then why did Jesus heal people and hand out loaves and fishes and wine? God gives us what we need to live–that’s prosperity, and that means money and health. We have access, through Christ, to all the riches of the entire universe. Where does it say in the Bible that God wants us to lack something? Jesus did all the suffering for us–He was crucified so we wouldn’t have to be. It is His good will to give us the Kingdom–so what is unChristian about abundance? John Piper sees God in suffering–the old Calvinist we are worms in the sight of God. But Jesus says we are friends and not slaves–He kills the fatted calves and gives us rings and the finest robes. And nothing that comes from God’s storehouses causes lack somewhere else: It is the blessing of the LORD that makes rich, And He adds no sorrow to it. (Prov. 8:21)

  • Ulf Turkewitsch

    Sadly you have been seduced by a false gospel, Ashpenaz. The emphasis on the material is not christian theology. The focus is on Christ. Not our wealth and health. The Unity cult is definitely an old cult and sprang out of Gnosticism. Check it out for yourself. It is intelligent, and well thought out. However ,as the Bible states: The wisdom of man is foolishness to God. The Unity cult is only one of many so called higher interpretations of the christian theology. And it is subtle. And it is false.

  • ashpenaz

    I see no connection between Gnosticism and Unity. I find that the writings of Fillmore and Butterworth to be very well thought out. Here is a lecture series by Butterworth which shows the actual antecedents of New Thought: https://www.truthunity.net/audio/eric-butterworth/antecedents-of-new-thought

    As you can see, there are many major Christian figures involved (and no Gnostics). I hope you will give it a look.

  • Ulf Turkewitsch

    I hear you Ashpenaz, Will reply .

  • Ulf Turkewitsch

    The antecedents of New Thought are ancestors of western culture, such as Plato, Aristotle, and Emerson. Not of true Christianity. Jesus is the one in question here. Since I have friends who are Unity members, and have studied this cult, I have experience with it. It is an eclectic cult, taking ideas from other religions, and cults, and philosophies. If you read their websites all you will get is their propaganda. Unity is considered a New Age cult. It borrows from mysticism, Buddhism, Hinduism, the occult. These are a few. If you ask a unity cult member if he believes in Jesus he may say yes. But only as a teacher, and a wise man. They dont believe Jesus is divine and the son of God. He is just a man, and how can a man judge ,justify or save you. They dont believe in the trinity, judgement, the resurrection, atonement, justification or the virgin birth, just to name a few. Oh,,, they may say that they believe in some or all of the above. But what does that mean exactly. To them God is not a personal spiritual being but a force, energy, love, power etc. etc. They dont believe in heaven or hell or judgement. Those are all in your mind. Since they believe in reincarnation, (or the transmigration of the soul,) there will be no final judgement. They as other eastern religions and cults, try to attain heaven or enlightenment by their own efforts. It is self enlightenment. It is all accomplished by thinking the New Thought. They say that you must change your thinking about everything. To New Thought. They say that will get you to heaven or God or anything you want. Sort of like the famous writer, Peale. He wrote a popular book called: “The Power Of Positive Thinking”. That thinking like this will solve all of your problems, make you healthy, rich, and popular. The New Thought simply elevates man to God , makes him the master of his destiny. This cannot be done, no matter how many misguided people tell you it can. The cult also practices forms of mysticism, and the occult. New Thought is kind of mind control. This is not Christianity by any stretch of the imagination. They twist the scriptures to their interpretation. Anyone can do that, but what good is it. Better to search out true Christianity . God is real and knows you, and has a plan for you. If you search for God you will find Him, but only if you honestly want to. It may take lots of looking, and if you dont give up until you are sure you will find what you are looking for. I did.

  • ashpenaz

    So, essentially, you’re saying that the only way to be a “real” Christian is to believe in penal substitutionary atonement. Anything which is not PSA is heresy, right?

  • Ulf Turkewitsch

    Have you checked out Christianity Ashpenaz? Christianity is much more than PSA. It is also much, much, much more than a philosophy. Those only barely scratch the surface. If Christianity was a thought system then all the smart people would get it and accept Christianity . And all the less smart or intelligent people would miss the truth of Christianity. But definitely check it out for yourself.

  • ashpenaz

    Yes, I have checked out Christianity. I’m not sure why you would assume that someone who sees value in the teachings of Unity has somehow not thought through the range of Christian ideas. I think that if you met more people in the New Thought movement, you’d see that most have put together their Christian faith from a wide and diverse Christian background seldom found in mainline or evangelical churches. The fact that I find that New Thought makes more sense than evangelicalism, Catholicism, progressive Christianity, etc., doesn’t mean that I haven’t given all points of view a great deal of thought.

  • Ulf Turkewitsch

    I am sure that you have examined other religions in detail. That is good. You seem to be a person of wisdom and have great understanding of the issues. It was good talking to you. Fare well.

  • Jeremiah

    The prosperity gospel is the apostasy. plain and simple. It does not define Jesus true mission statement but rather it promotes a selfish, self indulgent world view. Those who preach this hersey and those who are seduced by it, are one and the same. Wide is the road to perdition and many take this road. Narrow is the way to eternal life and you cannot embrace this world and God simultaneously. One must give way, while the other is trusting in God and not in mammon and materialism.

  • Jeremiah

    What about the vest? ha

  • Davin Sugiman

    Replace God with uncle. Uncle is real and knows me, and has a plan for me. If I search for uncle, I will find him.