Suffering and the Prosperity Gospel
False teachers typically turn Bible doctrine on its head. They take passages out of their context and apply them to whatever point they want to make. Of course, in the process, they ignore many Bible passages that assert reality and disprove their message. The doctrine of suffering is an easy target for these charlatans because, simply put, no one wants to suffer.
The prosperity gospel has spread across the globe because it appeals to our natural desire for health, wealth and happiness (2 Timothy 4:3-4). In other words, it focuses on man’s purposes instead of God’s purposes. It focuses on this world instead of the next.
It is a false gospel because it proclaims that mankind’s biggest problem is the effect of sin, not sin itself. This false gospel proclaims the good news that you can have your best life now in the midst of this fallen world. Christians need not wait for eternity. Who needs a redeemed creation when we can have now the same world Satan offered Jesus?
Prosperity teachers need to learn the lesson Jesus taught Peter in Matthew 16:21-28. They do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men. God’s plan included the suffering of Jesus. It includes suffering for all who follow him. Prosperity teachers want us to believe we can gain the whole world while assuring us we are in no danger of losing our soul. Instead of Jesus being worth more than our worldly possessions (Matthew 13:44-46), prosperity teachers see him as a means to obtain them.
As they quote Psalm 35:27, prosperity teachers like to talk about how it pleases God to give us wealth. This shouldn’t surprise us because God is a good father who gives good gifts to his children. But good fathers don’t spoil their children by giving them only what they want. Good fathers also discipline their children (Hebrews 12:4-11). God disciplines his children so that we may share in his holiness. Suffering produces in us something prosperity cannot—it produces a person who seeks the will of God instead of evil human desires (1 Peter 4:1-2).
God created everything good. Since, all human suffering is the result of sin, we should hate sin more than the suffering that results from it. Since, everything that is good is from God, we should love God more than his gifts. But the prosperity gospel teaches that it is more important to avoid suffering than to deal with sin and it is more important to obtain God’s gifts than to treasure him.
Suffering teaches us that we are totally dependent upon God. Without suffering we might never know whether we truly hate sin or whether we truly love God. Without suffering we might never know whether Satan’s charge against Job applies to us:
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” Job 1:9-11
It seems that prosperity teachers don’t even want to find out.
Maybe they already know.
Excellent read! I very much agree. I especially like your choice of Scripture in Matthew 16. Verse 26 of that chapter makes it real clear that the eternal is much more important than our finite worldly riches.
Thank you Dale for publishing your thoughts on the subject.