“But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” —–1 Timothy 6:9-10
Cable television viewers inside the United States of America can click through the channels of their TV sets at just about any time of the day and find at least one program hosted by some fire breathing “Christian,” televangelist preaching the gospel of personal prosperity. The premise of these programs is quite simple. People in the audience should send monetary donations to them to operate their ministries. By giving to these churches, the viewer is told that they are really “Giving to God.” That when they “Give to God,” God will bless them with a far greater amount of money than they gave.
These so called ministers of the “gospel of Jesus Christ,” often have become multi-millionaires off of the donations of their viewers. Over the years, media investigations have exposed various televangelists for living lavish personal lifestyles. Many reside in multi-million dollar mansions; fly around the world on private jet airplanes worth millions more. One prominent female minister purchased a $23,000 dollar marble-topped antique toilet, a $14,000 custom office bookcase, a $7,000 Stations of the Cross in Dresden porcelain, a $6,300 eagle sculpture on a pedestal, another eagle made of silver bought for $5,000, and numerous paintings purchased for $1,000 to $4,000 each.
THE HOME OF A PROMINENT PROSPERITY PREACHER
The concept of the “Mega Church,” has attracted converts in droves to these ministries. Their broadcasts are seen by millions of people throughout the world. Church sanctuaries resemble large sports arenas, as much as they do houses of worship. Joel Osteen, a famous Texas preacher, conducts his Sunday services inside the Astrodome in Houston. Attendance is known to be in the tens of thousands every single week. It should be noted that Mr. Osteen has not been accused of any legal wrong doing.
On some of these television productions the ministers wives serve as their sidekicks. They are known to appear in expensive looking clothing and wearing pricey jewelry pieces. One televangelist has even boasted from the pulpit about the huge mansion he lives in and the Rolls Royce automobile that he drives. Considering the fact that most of these preachers have gone to great lengths to hide their lavish lifestyles, we can at least say we admire this person’s honesty!
PREACHER CREFLO DOLLAR OPENLY BOASTS OF HIS MANSION AND ROLL ROYCE AUTOMOBILE
In late 2007, the activities of these mega churches attracted the interest of government investigators. Republican Senator Charles Grassley, of Iowa, requested the financial records of the ministries of six leading televangelists: Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer, Paula White, Eddie Long, and Kenneth Copeland, to see if federal tax laws have been violated. This will be very hard to prove because religious organizations in the USA are tax exempt. While these evangelists may report earning “modest” salaries on their individual income tax returns, they can use assets owned by their churches in any way that they please. For example, the ministry can build them a multi-million dollar home to live in, but it is owned by the church. Since they only live there, they are not required to pay income taxes on the value of the home that they have received. If they obtain ministry dollars to cover their lavish life styles, they can avoid paying income taxes by claiming it is part of church “expenses.” Their expensive suits, cars, and other items are considered part of the cost of doing church business. For decades, there has been little federal oversight of religious institutions. This investigation is likely to lead nowhere. Back in 1989, a similar investigation inspired by the fall of Jim and Tammy Bakker, lost its head of steam because politicians did not wish to offend the millions of fundamentalist Christians around the nation. After all, these people vote! Televangelists seem quite skilled at playing the victim card before their followers. They often present these investigations as the work of “Satan” to put them out of existence.
IN ADDITION TO RICHES SOME OFFER FAITH “HEALING”
When confronted with the outrage many feel when the wealth of these televangelists is revealed, most defend themselves by claiming that they have been “Blessed by God,” because they are so faithful to him. According to them, they gave to God, so God is now blessing them many times more. They will offer their own fortune as evidence that the “prosperity gospel” really works! Prosperity preacher, John Hagge, had this to say about the “wealth” of Jesus, “Jesus was not poor…Jesus had a nice house! John 1:38 says that Jesus turned to those that were following him and said, ‘Come with me.’ And they said, ‘Where dwellest thou?’ He said, ‘Come and see.’ And Jesus took that whole crowd home with Him to stay in His house. That meant it was a big house! Jesus wore fine clothes! John 19:23 says, ‘He had a seamless robe.’ Roman soldiers gambled for it at the foot of the cross. It was a designer original! It was valuable enough for them to want it!…And then there are Christians that have a poverty complex that says, ‘Well, I feel guilty about having nice things.’ Jesus didn’t!”
PASTOR HAGEE’S WORDS ARE UNSCRIPTUAL
First of all, John 1:38 makes no mention of a house where Jesus lived. It simply said that “two” disciples of John the Baptist, not a “whole crowd,” followed after Jesus. They asked of him “Where dwellest thou?” Jesus replied “Come and see.” Based on this vague account of scripture, Pastor Hagge wants his audience to believe Jesus lived in a large luxurious home. In doing this, he can justify himself living in a mansion. In quoting John 19:23, Hagge makes the claim that since the Roman soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ garments as he hung on the cross, that they must have been really expensive garments. Of course the scripture does not say if they were valuable or not. Once again by claiming Jesus wore really expensive garments, it then is OK for these prosperity ministers to do the same. In truth, there was one reason why the soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ garments. It was so that prophecy would be fulfilled. Psalm 22:18, speaking of the future rejection of the Messiah predicted, “They parted my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.” This scripture would have been fulfilled weather or not Jesus was wearing an expensive vestment or a filthy rag.
THE SCRIPTURES SHED LITTLE LIGHT ON JESUS’ ECONOMIC CLASS
The advocates of the prosperity gospel are correct in one thing. There is no evidence in scripture that Jesus was poor. Still, there is little evidence to show that he was wealthy either. Based upon what we know from the gospel accounts it is probably a good guess that the Savior had a fairly middle class upbringing by the standards of his time. His earthly father, Joseph, was a carpenter. Jesus at age twelve traveled to Jerusalem to observe Passover. The family traveled in a group of people on foot. There is no indication that Mary and Joseph were riding in any kind of fancy carriage. Jesus grew up in the town of Nazareth, a city that seemed to be looked down upon throughout Israel (John 1:46), at the time of Christ. It is possible that our Lord worked alongside of his earthly father, Joseph, as a carpenter before he began his ministry at age thirty.
It seems to be beneficial for money hungry televangelists to claim that Jesus was a wealthy man. If they can make enough people believe this, then fewer people will question the wealth and splendor that they obtain for themselves while they claim to be doing God’s work.
PROSPERITY GOSPEL APPEALS TO HUMAN SELFISHNESS
Perhaps the worst aspect of preaching the gospel of material gain is that it appeals to something that Jesus Christ deplored selfishness. Is the potential of greater wealth here upon the earth the only reason to become a follower of our Lord? Would these so called “Christians” only receive Christ if there was something luxurious in it for them in the here and now?
This false doctrine of greater prosperity in exchange for following the Lord appeals to greed and materialism. If Christians are to give their money to a cause it should be because it comes from their hearts and not because you might get something back. One “Mega Church” raising funds displayed a chart showing what would happen if people sent them money. If one gave ten dollars, the chart said that they were sure to get back one thousand. If one gave one hundred dollars, they would get back ten thousand! The televangelist was promising people a “one hundred fold” increase!
Even more sinful than the sheer greed being sold by these people is the fact that millions of Americans in these times are truly hurting financially. One wonders how many destitute and desperate people have sent their last dollars in hope for the “blessing” promised by these preachers? How many elderly widows have sent in large sums of their retirement income just to support these prosperity ministers? Did not Jesus condemn the religious class of his day, for among other reasons that they took advantage of widows? Matthew 23:14 reads “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater condemnation.”
WE CAN NOT READ THE HEART
While there appears to be much wrong in the world of televangelism, it is not our place to pass judgment upon them. Their deeds are truly between them, their donors, and God. We, as imperfect human beings, cannot read what is in another’s heart. It is possible that they truly believe this concept of prosperity in exchange for faith. It would be truly tragic if they are imposters only out to make a fortune. The purpose of this article is to illustrate just how unscriptural and misguided this concept is, and how those who advocate it have completely failed to grasp the spirit of Jesus Christ and his desire for all mankind.
JESUS AND APOSTLES NEVER SOLICITED MONEY FROM BELIEVERS
When one reads through the gospels, the book of Acts of the Apostles, as well as the epistles of Paul, Peter, James, John, or Jude, there is not one example of Jesus or his followers making an appeal for money. Early Christians shared their resources if they were able, Acts 4:32. They were not forced to do so; it was done on a strictly voluntary basis. Not one time was Jesus or his Apostles heard soliciting donations while they were preaching the gospel of the Kingdom. In addition, the purpose of the donations of early Christians was not to enrich the Apostles. The money was used to pay for the expenses of the church, as well as to assist all brethren in need.
The Apostles worked at various jobs in addition to preaching the gospel of Jesus. Paul spoke of “laboring with his own hands” 1 Corinthians 4:12. In the previous verse, he speaks of how he and his brethren both, “hunger and thirst,” and that they were “poorly clothed.” Considering this, we ask advocates of the prosperity gospel, does this sound like the Apostle Paul and his brothers were receiving earthly riches for their faithfulness to Jesus Christ? Certainly not! The reward of the true Christian is the “Divine Nature,” a life on a higher plane in Heaven. 2nd Peter 1:4. It is these true saints of God who will have the opportunity to bless “All the Families of the earth” during Christ’s one thousand year restitution period. Genesis 12:3, Acts 3: 19-21, Revelation 20:1-6, 1 Corinthians 6:2.
Early Christians were greatly persecuted. See the example of Stephen, the first Christian martyr. He was taken out and stoned to death for preaching Jesus to the unbelieving Jews. Paul was thrown into prison and eventually beheaded. James, the brother of Jesus, was stoned to death. It has not been completely documented but Christian tradition says that the Apostle Peter was crucified upside down. Early Christians endured true suffering for Christ’s sake. They were willing to give up everything that they possessed to advance the teachings of Jesus Christ. They did this expecting no sort of riches while living in this world. They looked forward to living alongside Jesus and his Heavenly Father, as spirit beings in Heaven.
“IT IS EASIER FOR A CAMEL TO GO THROUGH THE EYE OF A NEEDLE” —–Mark 10:25
One of the better known conversations of Jesus during his earthly ministry was an encounter that he had with a wealthy young man who expressed a desire to gain eternal life. The Savior explained to him that one must keep the commandments of God. The man had no problem with this because he felt he had observed them from his youth. It was the next thing Jesus requested of him that he was not ready to hear. “Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” Mark 10:21. Upon hearing this, the rich young man went away sorrowful. Verse 25, tells us that he grieved. Our Lord then said to his disciples the famous words; It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Now ask yourself, if Jesus was advocating the prosperity gospel of modern day televangelists, would he have not said to the young man, “One thing you lack, Go your way, sell all that you have, come back and give it to me, and my Father will return to you ten times the amount of money that you gave?”
“TAKE UP YOUR CROSS AND FOLLOW ME”
True Christians are instructed to present their bodies a “Living sacrifice.” Romans 12:1. The Apostle Paul describes this as a “reasonable service.” We are not to desire or expect material riches at this time. Right now Jesus is seeking out a “Little Flock,” a “People for his name,” to sit alongside him in Heaven. This is the class who partake in the first resurrection as mentioned in the 20th chapter of Revelation. They will have the responsibility of judging the world of mankind during the one thousand year reign of Christ. This one hundred and forty four thousand receive a reward of life on a spiritual plane. 1st Corinthians 6:2.
BEING WEALTHY IN ITSELF IS NOT A SIN
Clearly not all wealthy people are evil. A great many have obtained their wealth through hard work and innovative ideas that result in an invention of a product that benefits all. Being rich is NOT a sin. Christians, just like the rest of the world, are going to have people who excel at their professions. Let us now return to the “eye of a needle” story. Many people have looked at this scripture and compared the Lord’s words to a tiny sewing needle. In seeing this they come to the conclusion that no rich man can enter into Heaven. Of course no camel can get through the eye of a literal needle. This idea is unreasonable because when you think about it, no human can pass through the eye of a sewing needle either. The needle’s eye spoken of in the Bible was a very narrow gate that visitors passed through at night to get into walled off cities. While the gate could be easily entered by people, it was very difficult, but not impossible, to get one’s camel through the opening. Apparently it took quite a bit of ingenuity and strength, because the camel likely put up a struggle, but people managed to get their camels into the city through these “needles eyes” by unloading everything the camel was carrying and reloading it after the camel was on the other side. The sin of wealth comes with the “Love of money.” 1 Timothy 6:10. For most people, becoming wealthy takes up every waking hour. Instead of being consecrated to the will of God, they are consecrated to making money and holding on to it. The competitive environment in the business world all too often leads people to moral compromises.
Someone striving to be a true “Saint” of God who happens to be wealthy, has a unique set of trials to overcome. How will they use their riches? Will they use it to shower themselves in luxury items or will they use it in the Lord’s service? Will they feed the hungry and cloth the naked? Will they use their resources to get the truth of Christ’s great ransom sacrifice out to the world? It is how they deal with these issues that determine whether or not the Lord tells them at the end that they “Have had their reward.” In their own way, a wealthy person striving to be part of Christ’s true church will have just as many fiery trials as a poor person. The experiences will just be different.
SEVERE JUDGMENT FOR THOSE WHO BECOME RICH THROUGH SINISTER MEANS —-James 5:1-6
In our day and age we read on an almost daily basis about various financial scams that have robbed hard working people out of their life savings. We have seen over the past twenty years corporate CEO’s paying themselves astronomical salaries, sometimes in the tens of millions of dollars per year! At the same time these CEO’s made the decision to export the jobs of millions of American workers to other countries where employees can be exploited at peasant wages. There are drug kingpins in places like South America who have become billionaires by producing illegal drugs like Cocaine and Marijuana and then exporting it into the United States. These people are willing to kill anyone who gets in their way.
We are told in scripture that the time is coming when God will no longer stand for this. Open your Bible to the Book of James. Chapter 5 verses 1-6 has this to say. “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! 2- Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. 3- Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. 4- Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabbath. 5- You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. 6- You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you.”
OUR TREASURE IS IN HEAVEN ——Mark 10:25
The Christian who becomes more than an overcomer in this life can expect a great treasure upon their death. Those who become part of the bride of Christ will become LIKE HIM. They will receive a new nature. One of immortality – meaning that they cannot die. One of the great errors of conventional Christian teaching is that man possesses an “immortal soul.” Being immortal makes the possibility of death impossible. We are told in the book of Ezekiel 18:4, “The soul that sins shall die.” The word soul properly translated does not make one a spirit being. The word soul comes from the Hebrew word (Nepesh) which means “breathing creature.” For example in Genesis 2:7, speaking of the creation of man, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” The proper translation here as illustrated in the New King James Bible is “and man became a living BEING.”
Those who become partakers of the divine nature as described by the Apostle Peter in (2nd Peter 1:4) are those who partake in the “first resurrection” mentioned in Revelation 20:5-6. For these the “second death has no power.” These are the “one hundred and forty four thousand” members of spiritual Israel mentioned by John the Revelator.
MY FATHER’S HOUSE HAS MANY MANSIONS ——John 14:2
Televangelists are not all wrong when they say followers of Christ will be rewarded with mansions. They just fail to grasp where these mansions are! They are not beautiful houses here upon the earth, these mansions exists in the splendors of Heaven. This reward of the divine nature will be so much greater than any material house on the earth that it cannot be compared. 1 Corinthians 2:9.
Shortly before the end of his earthly ministry Jesus began to prepare his apostles for his departure from their midst. He explained to them that in his “Father’s house there are many mansions.” He then went on to say that he would go to prepare a place for them, and that one day he would come back to “receive them.” John 14:2-3.
“THE SAINTS WILL JUDGE THE WORLD” —–1 Corinthians 6:3
One might rightfully ask what will these beings do in the future? In addition to enjoying life on the highest living plane possible, the members of Jesus’ “Little flock” will be given the responsibility to judge all of mankind during God’s great one thousand year judgment day mentioned in Revelation the 20th chapter. It is at this time when Satan the devil is bound to a symbolic “bottomless pit” that the vast majority of mankind will get their chance at true salvation. This is the time that God, through his Son Jesus Christ, will permit the inhabitants of the world to “Learn righteousness.” Isaiah 26:9. This is when God’s judgments will be “in the earth.” This is the long promised “Millennium” period spoken of by true Christians for so long. This period is also referred to in the book of Acts as the “Times of restitution of ALL things,” Acts 3:21. This is when men will receive their first real chance to receive Jesus Christ as their Savior. This is when they will be taught righteousness. It is at the end of these one thousand years that Satan will be released for a “little season,” Revelation 20:7, where he will go out to deceive the nations one last time. After fully learning what is right and what is wrong, if men and women still choose to follow the ways of Satan, they will be cut off along with him, from life forever. They will die the “second death.”
“A NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH” ——Revelation 21:1
Following the final destruction of Satan and all who choose to follow him, the world as we know it will be restored to the paradise conditions of the Garden of Eden. While not immortal like the true church of God in Heaven, men will live forever on a perfect earth. This will be the final result of the great “Ransom” sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for ALL mankind. 1 Timothy 2:6.” Jesus came from the seed of Abraham who God promised would “Bless ALL the families of the earth.” Genesis 12:3. This is why the angel in Luke proclaimed that the birth of Jesus was news of “great joy which will be to ALL people.” Luke 2:10. Sadly, most so called Christians today have not been taught the full meaning of Jesus’ great sacrifice. For Jesus, a perfect man, died as a RANSOM which evened the scales of God’s justice for the sin of the first man, Adam. “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall ALL be made alive.” 1st Corinthians 15:22.”
IN THE END ALL WILL BE HANDED BACK TO THE FATHER
The Apostle Paul describes the work of Jesus and his true church in 1st Corinthians the 15th chapter. During the one thousand year day of judgment, God’s son will destroy all of his enemies. The final enemy to be destroyed is death. It is after this period that Jesus will hand the creation back to his Father. This is one of many Biblical accounts that disprove the erroneous doctrine of the so called “Trinity,” the idea that Jesus is in truth, God. Examine verse 28. “Now when all things are made subjected to him (Jesus) then THE SON HIMSELF WILL BE SUBJECTED TO HIM (The Father.) Now ask yourself, if Jesus is God why would he be ever subjected to another?
MANKIND WILL RECEIVE MANY MATERIAL BLESSING IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD
In God’s kingdom everyone will have enough of what they need. There will no longer be war, poverty, sickness, or pain. Look how this is described in the book of Isaiah the 35th chapter, “The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; 2- It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice, even with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, The excellence of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, The excellency of our God. 3- Strengthen the weak hands, And make firm the feeble knees. 4- Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “ Be strong, do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, With the recompense of God; He will come and save you.” 5- Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. 6- Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, And streams in the desert. 7- The parched ground shall become a pool, And the thirsty land springs of water; In the habitation of jackals, where each lay, There shall be grass with reeds and rushes. 8- A highway shall be there, and a road, And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, But it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, Shall not go astray. 9- No lion shall be there, Nor shall any ravenous beast go up on it; It shall not be found there. But the redeemed shall walk there, 10- And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, And come to Zion with singing, With everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”
“THIS IS OUR GOD, WE HAVE WAITED FOR HIM” —–Isaiah 25:1-10
1- “O LORD, You are my God. I will exalt You, I will praise Your name, For You have done wonderful things; Your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth. 2- For You have made a city a ruin, A fortified city a ruin, A palace of foreigners to be a city no more; It will never be rebuilt. 3- Therefore the strong people will glorify You; The city of the terrible nations will fear You. 4- For You have been a strength to the poor, A strength to the needy in his distress, A refuge from the storm, A shade from the heat; For the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall. 5- You will reduce the noise of aliens, As heat in a dry place; As heat in the shadow of a cloud, The song of the terrible ones will be diminished. 6- And in this mountain The LORD of hosts will make for all people A feast of choice pieces, A feast of wines on the lees, Of fat things full of marrow, Of well-refined wines on the lees. 7- And He will destroy on this mountain The surface of the covering cast over all people, And the veil that is spread over all nations. 8- He will swallow up death forever, And the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces; The rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken. 9- And it will be said in that day: “Behold, this is our God; We have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the LORD; We have waited for Him; We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” 10- For on this mountain the hand of the LORD will rest, And Moab shall be trampled down under Him, As straw is trampled down for the refuse heap.”
OUR TRUE PROSPERITY IS FUTURE
While we should be thankful for any blessings that we receive in this life, do not mistake it as a reward for your Christian “righteousness.” Those striving to partake in the first resurrection are promised trials and tribulation, all of which must shape us into MORE than overcomer’s. We have to love our enemies, keep God’s commandments, and love our neighbors as ourselves. In addition to that, we have to have faith in our Lord Jesus Christ with a zeal for good works in his service. For we are told “Faith without works is dead.” James 2:26. We are to suffer with Christ so that we might reign with him. (2nd Timothy 2:12.)
AVOID PROSPERITY MINISTERS
We cannot urge you enough to stay away from televangelists preaching prosperity in exchange for you sending them money. This principle while growing in popularity is not of God but of Satan. It is part of the great Anti-Christ system of false religion. Given that we are told to “suffer” with Christ if we wish to reign with him, how in the world does this fit into a lifestyle of church bought mansions, jet planes, expensive jewelry and clothing?
If you wish to give your resources to charitable causes, that is a noble act of kindness. Make sure that when you do this that you know what your money is being used for. There is any number of reputable charities, Christian and secular, that would appreciate your generosity. There is no need to contribute to the lavish lifestyle of anyone claiming to be a “Man of God.”
In all things use the “Spirit of a sound mind.”