“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Acts 2:42–45, NRSV
How often do Christians think about radical sharing as a miraculous demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power? Pentecostals and charismatics believe that the Holy Spirit endows believers with spiritual gifts and that signs and wonders continue to be part of Christian experience today. Sometimes the “flashier” gifts, like tongues, healing, and prophecy, can take precedence over more seemingly “mundane” gifts, like forms of assistance (1 Cor 12:28). This is understandable. If Christ is really present with us through the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit empowers us to heal and perform miracles, why wouldn’t we be out demonstrating the amazing works of God? One thing we must take care to consider is our motives, and the passage above shows us why. When we hold a distorted view of “signs and wonders” that separates us from how Jesus calls us to live, we fall into a warped practice of the gospel.
My grandmother and aunt were both charismatics, and they worked at the local Christian television station. There were many times when I was growing up that I would watch that television station simply out of curiosity. This was before I became a committed Christian, and some of the theology that I saw on this station seemed very strange to me. It was through this television station that I was first introduced to the Prosperity Gospel.
I came across many shows featuring Mike Murdock, Rod Parsley, Jesse Duplantis, and Joel Osteen. I distinctly remember being turned away by their preaching. I was a big fan of Jesus at the time, but I wasn’t comfortable with Christianity. And they were a big reason why. I remember seeing their fame and fortune, and I had a very difficult time reconciling that with the poverty and humility I read about in the Gospels.
Benny Hinn is for many synonymous with the prosperity gospel of “health and wealth”. The Israeli televangelist has for decades been preaching that you get rich if you donate a lot to him, that Jesus was rich and that luxury and affluence signifies a “blessed” life.
Needless to say, many were surprised when he said this:
I think it’s an offense to the Lord, it’s an offense to say give $1,000. I think it’s an offense to the Holy Spirit to place a price on the Gospel. I’m done with it. I will never again ask you to give $1,000 or whatever amount, because I think the Holy Ghost is just fed up with it.
I don’t want to get to Heaven and be rebuked. I think it’s time we say it like it is: the Gospel is not for sale. And the blessings of God are not for sale, and miracles are not for sale. And prosperity is not for sale.
A lot of headlines has described this as Benny Hinn denouncing the prosperity gospel. He did point out, however, that he still believes in prosperity, since “the Bible clearly teaches it.” But his understanding of what prosperity means has changed:
When I was younger, I was influenced by the preachers who taught whatever they taught. But as I’ve lived longer I’m thinking, wait a minute, you know this doesn’t fit totally with the Bible and it doesn’t fit with the reality. So what is prosperity? No lack…
Did Elijah the prophet have a car? No. Did not even have a bicycle. He had no lack. … Did Jesus drive a car or live in a mansion? No. He had no lack. How about the Apostles? None lacked among them,” Hinn said. “Today, the idea is abundance and palatial homes and cars and bank accounts. The focus is wrong … It’s so wrong.
At Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice, we’re happy that Hinn has changed his mind on this. The Bible warns against those receiving money in order to impart God’s gifts and blessings to others (Acts 8:20). Paul goes against the idea that one can gain financially through faith in his first letter to Timothy:
These men regard godliness as a means of gain. Of course, godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, so we cannot carry anything out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. Those who want to be rich, however, fall into temptation and become ensnared by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. (1 Tim 6:5-9)
So was Benny influenced by his nephew? Maybe, but Costi’s departure from charismaticism makes me doubtful that his words would have much authority for Benny. I think that Benny genuinely describes the cause for his change of opinion when he says
I’m sorry to say that prosperity has gone a little crazy and I’m correcting my own theology and you need to all know it. Because when I read the Bible now, I don’t see the Bible in the same eyes I saw 20 years ago… The more you know the Bible the more you become biblically based and more balanced in your opinions and your thoughts, because we are influence.
I do think that Bible study helped Benny realize his errors. And I take this as great encouragement to continue to point to the Scriptures when discussing with fellow brothers and sisters why we should care about peace and justice. People are not beyond redemption and correction. Even those with deep convictions can change over time. We should not give up pointing to what the Bible really teaches about poverty and wealth.
Micael Grenholm is editor and contributor for PCPJ.
Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!
“I really believe that if Jesus was physically on the earth today he wouldn’t be riding a donkey. Think about that for a minute. He’d be in an airplane preaching the gospel all over the world.”
— Jesse Duplantis
Recently, Charismatic televangelist Jesse Duplantis said that God wants his congregation to raise tens of millions of dollars for him to buy a private jet. Unfortunately, this mentality is not unique to Duplantis. Creflo Dollar got himself a $70 million jet, and Kenneth Copeland recently got himself a new jet. In the following video, both Duplantis and Copeland talk about the multi-million dollar jets they have had over the years, and why God allegedly wants them to have them:
Unfortunately, this mentality is not new in the Charismatic world, and it is quite widespread. It is especially common if you turn on a Christian television station. There are far too many examples of these preachers — from Joel Osteen to Mike Murdock.
The theology that these preachers build upon is known as “prosperity theology” or the “prosperity gospel”. The major distinction between this school of thought and mainstream, orthodox Christianity is the claim that God wants his people to have material wealth and prosperity. Health and wealth are seen as evidence of God’s blessing in your life. So, Duplantis buying a mulit-million dollar jet isn’t a sign of greed, but of God’s blessing. Continue reading Jesse Duplantis’ Jet Dream is Unchristian.→