The prosperity gospel, or “health and wealth” preaching, originated about 70 years ago in the United States. At various tent meetings connected to Voice of Healing and similar ministries, preachers like Oral Roberts and A. A. Allen started to teach things like financial sowing and reaping, the prosperous power of faith and that God wants us to be rich.
Their theology was influenced by Baptist theologian E. W. Kenyon, who in turn was highly influenced with ideas from New Thought. This American movement is quite similar to New Age and emphasizes, among other things, the power of the mind to influence physical reality by, for example, naming and claiming health and wealth before it actually has materialized.
Of course, a believer in the prosperity gospel will probably reject the brief historical review above and claim that they believe in these things because it is what the Bible teaches. And so, we must deal with the Biblical material. In this article, I will go through two passages that challenge prosperity teaching, and two that’s being used in its defense. Continue reading The Problem With Prosperity→
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!
The Norwegian channel Visjon Norge (Vision Norway) claimed that donations between 180 and 6,130 dollars would bring blessings from God, as a Nigerian pastor would pray different prayers depending onthe amount of money people donated.
Verdens Gang reports that on October 15, David Sagen who regularly contributes to Visjon Norge explained why he two years ago started to give 2,500 kroner (430 US dollars) to the ministry of Nigerian pastor Bayo Oniwinde every month. Oniwinde had said that he would pray “Joseph’s blessing” over those who donated that amount.
– I told God, that Joseph’s blessing should come now, and really I was just happy that Joseph’s blessing was on its way. And that year, two years ago, many things happened in my business – and yeah, it went very well.
Recently, Christianity Today published a very interesting piece by Costi Hinn. He describes how he and his family lived in unimaginable luxury due to the prosperity preaching of his uncle Benny Hinn. But when he got married, he started to have doubts concerning the health and wealth theology.
That year was a whirlwind tour of luxury: $25,000-a-night royal suites in Dubai, seaside resorts in Greece, tours of the Swiss Alps, villas on Lake Como in Italy, basking on the golden coast of Australia, shopping sprees at Harrods in London, and numerous trips to Israel, Hawaii, and everywhere in between. The pay was great, we flew on our own private Gulfstream, and I got to buy custom suits. All I had to do was catch people and look spiritual!