There are two different types of “prosperity gospels,” one being espoused by many television evangelists who are all competing for your hard earned money. And then there is God’s prosperity gospel. They are not the same! It is important that you understand the difference between the two.
The prosperity gospel as taught by the TV evangelists is also sometimes called, “plant a seed” doctrine. Both are a means of getting you to send them and their organizations money for which they claim you will receive in return, many times over what you send them. They are very good to always back up their claims by quoting Scripture passages which are all taken out of context, or conditional quotes based on another passage that they conveniently leave out.
For example, a highly abused biblical passage is this one:
“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32).
The conditional phrase is left out:
“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed” (John 8:31).
Verse 32 is conditional in that there is a condition in knowing what the truth is.
Knowing the truth means that we are His disciples and we follow Him and His Word. In other words, the “truth” isn’t just floating around for anyone to find; it must be found in the light of Christ. So what we see is a text taken out of context becoming a pretext. The paragraph quoted can have a completely different meaning unless it is read in context with the surrounding passages.
Applying this false ideology to the “plant a seed” doctrine, money hungry evangelists often quote these biblical passages:
“The sower sows the Word of God….and these are they by the wayside, where the seed is sown; but when they have heard, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts…and these are they likewise which are sown on a stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness.
And have no root within themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word that was sown, immediately they are offended and these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful and these are they which are sown on good ground, such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirty fold, some sixty, and some an hundred” (Mark 4:14-20, emphasis added).
So, in context, it is clear that the seed is the Word of God, not money!
Another very popular biblical passage quoted out of context: “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Malachi 3:10).
By reading the passages from Malachi BEFORE this, we find that Malachi was referring to “livestock” as the tithe and not money. The Lord was not accepting the people’s offerings because the livestock was of poor quality. They had visible defects, and thus, were not fit to be sacrificed before the Lord. The dishonesty of the people had brought a curse in the failure of their crops and the suffering which necessarily followed. Malachi was reminding the people to repent, and bring the full tithe into the storehouse, and God, would in return, send rain from heaven to sustain their crops and fields.
Now does all this mean we should NOT tithe our money? Of course not, tithing is but ONE means of honoring God and obeying Him. One cannot merely tithe his money, faithfully even, and expect God to grant him health, wealth, and happiness in return IF in his heart he is still harboring or actually committing other grievous sins. God expects us to give Him our best effort. Notice, I said “effort.” We are still human, and no matter how hard we try to follow God and keep His commandments, we still fall short of that goal. But, we must try to do our best, and be quick to ask Him for His forgiveness when we do fail, which will happen.
Let me try to bring this thought “home” so to speak. Let’s say that you faithfully tithe your money…give God the first ten percent of everything you make…faithfully attend church as often as possible, treat everyone with kindness and generosity, etc., but you are not married to the one you are living with. In other words, you are committing fornication in God’s eyes. Or perhaps, you just refuse to quit cheating a tad in your business ethics, or you are a reckless drunkard, or you curse like Barnacle Bill, the sailor…the list goes on. You get the point: One cannot hold back on God IF he is a true Christian, and expect God to bless his life in every way. You must make every effort to Give God your best.
Now having said this, what is God’s prosperity gospel? To find the answer we must go to Deuteronomy, the fifth book of the Bible. But first, I want the reader to understand that God is the same today as He was 4000 years ago, and if we’re still around another 4000 years from now, He’ll be the same then as well.
“Jesus Christ is the same today, yesterday, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8).
Meaning, if God said it yesterday, He still means it today. Now, let us see what Deuteronomy teaches.
The truth is that obedience to God brings blessings to us. That is a primary principle in what it means to be a child of God. Failure to understand this basic principle and implement it is to forfeit God’s BEST in your life. If you obey the Lord, you show your love for Him. It is often the case that Christian’s get out of fellowship with God and no longer fully trust Him. If you have trust and faith in God, you will obey Him.
ILLUSTRATION: I have a sweet, old aunt who has this kind of trust and faith. For a short time, I lived in her basement. She lived near the Gulf of Mexico in Florida and I remember the time a very bad hurricane was headed our way. The wind outside was screaming, the huge pine trees in her yard were swaying to and fro, and the rain was pouring down so hard you could barely see. I knew that any minute a giant tree was going to fall on the house and crush us or we’d just get blown away.
I was running around like a chicken with its head cut off, worrying myself sick, and what was my dear sweet aunt doing? She was calmly reading a book. I asked her how she was able to be so calm and relaxed in the midst of such a terrible storm? And she merely smiled and replied, “God knows where I am. Everything will be okay.”
We never even lost our power that day and night. The next morning I went out expecting a massive clean-up job of downed trees and limbs, and bless my soul, there was almost nothing on the ground needing cleaning up. A miracle? You better believe it!
If you go to the doctor and he tells you that you have a particular medical problem and prescribes some medicine for you, you take it. That is proof you have faith in him because you are willing to do what he tells you. God is our Creator. He created us and the entire universe. He SPOKE it into existence. Do you really believe that? Proof of that would be to trust Him and do what He says.
We say we believe that the Bible is God’s Word, but if we do not live by what God has said, then do we really believe the Bible is God’s Word? You can believe that God exists with head knowledge, but that’s not what I’m saying here. If you don’t follow your doctor’s instructions, you don’t believe him and you have no trust in him and no faith either. Likewise, you have no faith or trust in God until you do what He tells you.
Another illustration: General George Patton was once asked what he thought of the Bible. He replied, “I read it every” (BLANKY, BLANK DAY). There is no magic in just reading the Bible. A lot of folks read the Bible, and are totally lost in sin, and will go to hell when they die. God’s blessings come when we apply His Word to our lives. Knowing the principles of the Bible does not bring God’s blessings. If we do not apply them, it is simply a mental exercise. Yet, if we, with our hearts, truly trust the Lord, then we will apply the Word to our lives, and then the Holy Spirit blesses and guides us.
But do not expect God to bless you if you don’t live as He says—which means to live a decent respectable abundant and happy life. He will allow you live as you want to. However, don’t expect to live a happy and productive life. Don’t expect to win over to Christ your family and friends who are lost and on their way to hell. Don’t expect God to answer your prayers, and don’t be alarmed when God begins to chasten you to correct your sin.
In Deuteronomy 11:8-15, God promised the early Israelites a blessing. In verse 8, He told them to keep God’s commandments, and they would be strong. In verse 9, He told them keep God’s commandments, and their days would be prolonged. In verse 13, He told them to diligently obey God. That means with great attention and energy. What then, was God’s promise? (1) I will send you rain. (2) I will send you grass in your fields. God says our material prosperity is tied to our obedience to Him.
If you do not do what God says, then do not be upset by the trouble that will come your way. God loves us too much to let us continue on in disobedience to Him. Just as loving earthly fathers punish their children in order to teach them to behave correctly our loving heavenly Father does likewise to His children.
So, what is the conclusion? God is still the same today as He was in ancient Israel’s day. He promised to bless them IF they obeyed Him. And, He will bless us today IF we obey Him. Obedience brings blessings. Disobedience brings a loss of fellowship with God and trouble down on you. What will it be for you? A blessing or God’s chastisement? It is entirely up to YOU. God wants to bless you, but you have to let Him.
Now this will not work for you if you are not a true born-again Christian. You must trust God to save you from your sins, repent of them, believe on His son, Jesus, who died for you, and turn to Him for salvation.
“For God so loved the World, that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes on Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Choose today, tomorrow is not promised to anyone.