Jesus said, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."1
"The message flickered into C.F's living room each night: 'Be faithful in how you live and how you give, the television preachers said, and God will shower you with material riches.'"2
And so the TV listener pledged $500 a year to one TV evangelist and wrote checks to a flamboyant faith healer, and another to a local preacher-made-good. Only the promised blessings didn't come. C.F. ended up having to borrow money to buy food. The explanation given on TV implied that she didn't have enough faith. Now she is understandably disillusioned with all TV ministries. Undoubtedly, unlimited numbers have suffered the same fate.
As Michael Palmer, dean of the divinity school at Regent University, founded by Pat Robertson, said, "More and more people are desperate and grasping at straws and want something that will alleviate their pain or financial crisis."3
Sadly, there is no shortage of TV preachers who, primarily for their own gain, are ready to offer these people false promises under the guise of it being a part of the Christian gospel.
One teacher I know fittingly calls the "Name it and claim it gospel" the "blab it and grab it gospel"—which of course, is NOT the gospel of Jesus Christ.
When God promised the ancient Israelites prosperity and good success,4 he was stating that if the entire nation—as a whole—lived in harmony with God's will and obeyed his commandments, then they would be prosperous and have good success. This was a message to the nation—not to individuals. Furthermore, prosperity and success according to God can be totally different to what man thinks prosperity and good success is; which to many, at least here in the U.S. and other Western nations, means material prosperity. Sadly, many of these people may very well be spiritual and emotional paupers.
Furthermore, do these "prosperity gospel" preachers take their message to the starving masses in India and South Africa and to other extremely needy parts of the world? I don't think so.
Don't misunderstand me; I am not implying that we have to be poor to be a true follower of Jesus Christ. For those of us who live in developed countries we have the opportunity to work hard and be financially prosperous which is wonderful. However, the important issue is: what is our motive for making money and for what purpose are we using it? It does take money to get God's work on earth done—not for TV evangelists to own private jets. Giving is very important. It is one of the major resources for doing God's work on earth—to help the poor, to aid the suffering, and to proclaim the true gospel of Jesus Christ to all the world.
However, in our giving, let us pray for guidance and give to churches and organizations who are truly committed to doing God's work on earth, and not to those who are seeking to build up their own empire and/or ego by offering an easy-believeism, feel-good, non-committed, name it and claim it false prosperity gospel.
Suggested prayer: "Dear God, please give me the desire to know what your Word teaches, the wisdom to live by it, the discernment to identify all false teachings, and the courage to stand up for truth. And please give me a grateful heart for all your blessings, and a generous spirit to support your work on earth. Thank you for hearing and answering my prayer. Gratefully, in Jesus' name, amen."
1. John 16:33 (NIV).
2. Eric Gorski, religion writer for the Denver Post.
4. See Joshua 1:6-9 (NIV).