Note: This post is an excerpt from the book Christian Minimalism: Simple Steps for Abundant Living.
One of the major reasons that many Christians hesitate to live out radical generosity and serve others is a pervasive American heresy called the “prosperity gospel,” which proclaims that wealth and health and success are all a sign of God’s favor. Connected to prosperity gospel is the idea that has been coined “name it, claim it”; as in, if we name what material possessions, health, wealth, and success we want from God, we will be able to claim those things and have them for ourselves.
The prosperity gospel is extremely hurtful, both to those who practice it and to those who come in contact with it through subscribers.
The prosperity gospel causes spiritual crises.
If we believe that wealth, health, success, and material possessions are all because of God’s favor, when we do not have those things we assume that we no longer have God’s favor, which can cause a huge faith crisis; if we believe we no longer have God’s favor, then we assume that God no longer loves us because we did something to lose God’s love—and we must do something to earn back God’s love.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast.Ephesians 2:8-9
God’s grace is given unconditionally to us. God loves us, no matter what. The prosperity gospel can cause us to think otherwise.
The prosperity gospel promotes conspicuous consumption.
Those who subscribe to prosperity gospel believe that material possessions and being economically well-off shows God’s favor.
If that is someone’s starting point for thinking about wealth and possessions, then it will follow that one should show off one’s wealth and possessions, which means buying more and more things and accumulating more and more wealth to show that one does indeed have God’s favor. This combines Christianity and American consumer culture in a dangerous way; people are indirectly encouraged to live beyond their means and go into debt in order to live the way prosperity gospel preachers expect.
The prosperity gospel is in direct opposition to Jesus’s teachings about money and possessions.
Jesus lived among those who were economically poor, and invited those who were rich to divest themselves of their riches and possessions and share with those in need, like Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) and the rich young man (Mark 10:17-27).
Prosperity gospel keeps us from sharing with those in need.
If we believe riches and possessions are an indication of God’s favor, we will want to keep that “favor” for ourselves and not share it with those who truly need it. It assumes that economic disparity is not only a given reality, but an act of God.
God is against economic disparity and oppression, and invites us to work against them. We see this in Jesus’s words and parable in Luke 16:10–31; our actions around money and possessions have a wide-reaching effect, and we are called to share with those in need.
Prosperity gospel is the opposite of Christian Minimalism.
The prosperity gospel is the antithesis of Christian minimalism. We are still loved and blessed by God, even when we do not have lots of money or wealth or possessions.
In fact, Jesus loves us and is with us, especially when we are not successful or wealthy. Jesus wants us to shed those things that keep us from being closer to him, not accumulate them (Luke 12:15). We are called to say no to prosperity gospel and live the way Jesus wants us to live.
Did you like this post? Check out the Christian Minimalism book!