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Prosperity gospel, as I understand it, is the teaching that God wants to bless us with wealth and health. I can't really see this in the Bible. For example, Paul writes in 2 Cor 12:7-10 (ESV):

7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Or, looking at what Jesus has said:

Matt 22:10 (ESV) and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

John 15:20 (ESV) Remember the word that I said to you: 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.

What arguments (biblical or otherwise) can be used to support prosperity gospel? What does prosperity theology say about passages such as the ones I cited?

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7 Answers 7

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The Prosperity of the Gospel comes down to a matter of the heart: Do you have wealth, or does wealth have you?

Prosperity in the Modern Church

Often viewed as the "Father of the Prosperity Movement", Kenneth E Hagin often pointed to passages such as Matthew 7:11, reading,

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
Matthew 7:11

Kenneth Hagin's point was that it was on the basis of Faith by which men petitioned heaven for all types of requests, both for one's self and for others, and it was on the basis of God being a Good Father that He would do it, even so much more than an evil father would. Saying, "What father wouldn't work himself to the bone to see that his child had a better life than he did."

Often beginning with these two texts, he explained these exactly as written,

Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it will be granted him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they will be granted you.

Mark 11:23-24

And,

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

John 15:7-8

His message that if one simply asked God with simple faith, believing, like the Scriptures said, without doubt, it would be granted. And, through his own experiences with health, he claimed to have tested and proved it.

Prosperous, not Covetous

Kenneth Hagin said that God doesn't mind his people being prosperous, so long as they're not covetous. The issue was the heart, and having a right relationship with God first, from which God would then supply our needs. He points out how, in his language, that the Lord began to ask him what the world and all of its things were created for. And, that God had originally created the world for his man Adam, to use and enjoy. Following this line, God told him that as he learned to listen and rely on His leading, He would make Mr. Hagin "rich". Hagin differentiated "rich" from a "millionaire" by defining "rich" as "abundant supply".

While he was the father of this movement, according to many, he also published The Midas Touch towards the end of his ministry (2002), warning people not to become "money minded".

Following the logic of the arguments, it can be noted that many if not most churches in modern countries own their own buildings, support their own pastors, and those pastors are supplied for in varying degrees. One must also remember, in keeping with Jesus' words of the "wheat" and the "tares", that people will always take things to extremes.

The argument for the prosperity Gospel is simply that if God wanted us in destitute poverty, with absolutely nothing, the Scripture contradicts (Paul rented his house in Acts 28 with some form of money, and people clearly gave a portion of their income elsewhere). The question could then progress to how much does God want you to have? To which, the Scriptures are in fact silent.

Further Support

But, the argument for Prosperity with the Gospel, when approached with integrity, has more to do with supply than it does with greed.

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.

Mark 10:29-30

In the above passage, while not disagreeing with passages such as Luke 14:33 which say we must leave everything, but agrees that there is some form of return, somehow. Although persecutions will come with it, the passage clearly indicates that it will be received 100-fold, in this life as well as the next.

Paul's Approach

In this way, we might also detect a bit of both the opportunity and possibilities with God. In the reading of Paul, we see he willingly forwent a salary (at least at times), because he preached out of compulsion before God--God mandated that he do it. So, he forewent wealth so that he might have a reward from his preaching. One could further the conjecture, based upon his writings in 1 Corinthians 4 and 2 Corinthians 11-12 and various places, that it is the right of the Christian to have all the full measure of what Christ should have been afforded.

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 4:9, says that those who man would consider to be "first" (the apostles) were led around "like those condemned to die". In retrospect, looking at Paul's "boastings" in 2 Corinthians 11-12, we see Paul relating all of his hardships. One could read the passages as saying, "By my right in Christ, I have right to all the blessings that Christ should have had, and was cut short in--including wealth, prosperity, health, comfort, and peace. Instead, I get hard-ships, beatings, mockings, rejection, fastings, sleepnessness, and the like, and it is in this that God's ability shines through the greatest. When I am weak, then I am strong, and it is God showing up through me that brings salvation to you."

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Paul appears to say that though he has all the rights to the blessed good life, he willingly foregoes them for the same reason of Christ, to save souls. His conclusion in this matter, above, echoes what Christ said in the Sermon on the Mount.

[Most Happy] are those who are poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Matthew 5:3

"His strength being made perfect in weakness", that while Paul was entitled to material prosperity, it was through weakness that God worked the most powerfully.

Conclusion

In the case of Kenneth E Hagin, his primary focus was obedience to God's word, and the purpose of the wealth he received was to further the Kingdom. In the case of Paul, the same would be true.

The case for prosperity, then, stretches from Adam in the garden, through this life, and into eternity (Mark 10:30). It includes losing all, but its focus is on seeking first God's Kingdom (Matthew 6:33).

Of course, there are variations. If the above holds true and is correct, the presence of the false, or people who take it too far or too short certainly does not preclude the validity of the foregoing. Rather, with any Biblical truth, where there is truth to be found, people generally are people and usually find a way to distort it, including the topic of wealth.

Other people would certainly have different approaches, but the above holds more or less true across the New Testament, taking into account a variety of verses on both sides, while keeping the main thing the main thing, as far as I can account for it.

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Thanks for a great answer! This seems balanced and I seem to have understood something. –  dancek Nov 18 at 11:02

Prosperity Gospellers would say that Jesus and the redemption He bought on the cross was preplanned by the Father, "before the foundation of the earth" 1 Peter 1:20 He was chosen before the creation of the world , Rev 13:8 Aramaic Bible in Plain English "those who are not written in The Book of Life of The Lamb slain before the foundation of the world."

Next they would say that the fall of Adam and Eve removed mankind from under the blessing of God, because God had to separate Himself from them because of their sin.

The Blessing of God left with the glory of God, when this separation occurred, evidenced by God's words on the subject that spell a list of changes that the couple would have to accept under a new environment for them which God called The Curse. Gen 3:16, 17, 18 Pain, sorrow, loss, blood, sweat, and tears are listed as the curse.

Then PG-ers would point out that Deut. 28 spells out what further curse can be expected if a life of disobedience was walked in. Moses commanded six leaders from six tribes to stand on Mt Gerizim to pronounce the ‘Blessings’ that would come upon the people for obedience. The other six leaders from the remaining six tribes stood upon Mt Ebal and pronounced the 'Curse's for disobedience.

Deuteronomy 28 lists the ‘Blessings’: 1.God will set you on high above all the other nations of the earth and all these ‘blessings’ shall come upon you (Deut 28:1-2) 2. You will be ‘blessed’ in the city (Deut 28:3) 3. You will be ‘blessed’ in the field 4. You will have perfect offspring (Deut 28:4)5. Your crops will be ‘blessed’ (prosperity provision) 6. Your cattle will be ‘blessed’ (prosperity provision)7. Your flocks will increase 8. Your baskets and storehouses will be full of good things(Deut 28:58)9. You will be ‘blessed’ in all you undertake Deut 28:68 10. You will have complete victory over all your enemies (poverty sickness disease incl.) (Deut 28:7) 11. Your land will be abundantly fertile and productive 12. You will be established as a holy people unto God (Deut 28:9) 13. You will be a witness and an example to all people on earth vs 10 14. All nations will be afraid of you 15. You will be prosperous in goods in children in stock and in crops in all the land vs 11 16. The Lord will open to you all His good treasure vs 12, 17. The heavens will give you rain in due season in all your land, 18. The Lord will ‘bless’ the work of your hands,19. You will be prosperous enough to lend to many nations and you will ‘not’ need to borrow from them, 20. The Lord shall make you the head and ‘not’ the tail vs 13, 21. You shall be above and never beneath.

& ‘Curses’:

'The Curse spelled out in Deut 28: 16 - on This is basically the opposite of all the Blessing is described as. Initially, in the garden of Eden, the Curse began, however, scripture above stated shows us that before the earth was created, the 'Lamb was slain from before the beginning of the world.', meaning it was God's plan to keep the curse off of His people by shedding Jesus' blood, and until then, in the OT the blood of animals was shed as a temporary sacrifice, until the sacrifice would manifest.

The Good News Against the Curse

At the time of Abraham, God made a promise to Abraham and to his seed, which Paul writes about in the NT in the book of Galatians 3:13, quotrng the exact promise and explaining it.

Christ Redeemed Us from the Curse

12However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, ---- 13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us---- "- 14in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Jesus Came to Redeem Us From the Curse attached to Disobedience to God Paul writes Christ came to redeem us from the Curse by becoming a Curse for us, and also, in 2 Cor 5:21 Paul writes that Jesus was made to be sin on our behalf. How could Jesus become sin, if He had none Himself? Jesus chose to become one with sin, the same way He wants us to become one with His rightouesness by faith, just by believing because He said so.' The Lord God laid on Him the iniquity of us all.'is how the Father made Jesus become sin itself. ( from Isaiah 53:6) This was also prefigured by the snake that was lifted up on the pole, a foreglance at Jesus after He became one with sin and was lifted up on the cross for us.

2 Cor 5: , 21

21He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

These are the reasons from scripture the Prosperity Gospel adherents believe support it being God's will to Bless abundantly and prosper us in the New Covenant, because it was always His will, only the fall interrupted it. Jesus becoming the curse for us removes the curse for us, so that we can receive the Blessing spoken about to and upon Abraham, who is our own father of Faith.

PG-ers believe Jesus came to redeem Eden and that He did so at the cross. They believe that the Kingdom of God was present with Jesus on the earth and that the cross made the Kingdom of God accessible to believers on the earth, after Jesus left. The Kingdom of God is Eden restored now, to PG-ers. They believe it is possible to live in Heaven on the Earth now, or Eden, and they also believe Jesus is coming and will set up a physical Kingdom on the Earth as well. Jesus himself said the Kingdom of God was here, when He was here, so much more so now, post cross and redemption. This Eden on the earth now is accessible by faith and living in repentance, and requires overcoming all that Satan will throw at them, because they believe as well all the scriptures about persecution coming against the child of God, and especially the ones that says greater persecution will come to those who receive '100-fold houses, lands, family, etc.' for Jesus' sake because they gave.

PG-ers are great believers in giving, especially of money, which they call investing in God's kingdom and laying up treasure for themselves in heaven. They especially give to the poor and are known to pick poor areas of cities to provide new furniture, clothing and extra food for the freezers of the most poor they know. (like Jesus did_) They practice giving to each other as a form of love, to include air planes, cars trucks boats, houses cottaqges warehouses full of things, etc.

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The initial definition links health and wealth and the arguments 'against' then challenge the 'wealth' side. The health side, to my mind is unambiguous. Jesus healed everyone who came to him. There are some he didn't heal but they didn't actually come to him. This is New Teatament and it is physical. It is manifestly for this life. Healing was part and parcel of the kingdom - witness Paul at Malta, for example.

Paul's thorn in the flesh may well be related to the Old Testament term 'Thorn in your side' and the immediate context points not to illness but to persecution. In his book on healing Francis MacNutt distinguishes between suffering from the outside - hostility, rejection, persecution and suffering from the inside pain, sickness, depression etc. The atonement of Christ virtually promises trouble from he outside whilst offering redemption from the trouble from the inside.

Additional point with respect to the comment below. Paul Tournier in Guilt and Grace makes exactly this point. That if you believe in healing miracles, what does it do to those who don't receive them? Tournier sites it as one example of how patients can feel guilty about being ill. On the other hand if you remove the possibility of recovery, you remove hope. I'm not sure that the answer is simply to conclude that 'God has chosen not to heal' either. A healthy 'I don't know why.' may be a better response. Francis MacNutt in 'Healing' - simply says that we are inefficient channels of God's grace. That's why we don't see as much healing as Jesus did. Healing is there in the atonement. We may not be great at appropriating it but if we say it is only there for some, we are in danger of going down a route of some kind of limited atonement.

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Welcome to the site. We are glad you decided to participate. This answer is a bit hard to follow, though I do see a genuine attempt to answer the question. Perhaps, is there more information you could edit in that would better develop your thoughts? –  fredsbend Oct 6 at 18:46
    
Here are some meta posts about this site to help you learn how we do it here: What this site is about and How this site is different. I hope to see you post again soon. –  fredsbend Oct 6 at 18:46
    
All you've done is say what the prosperity gospel is, not argue for it. To say that God will cure every Christian of depression is naive, dangerous and abusive to the many faithful Christians who God chooses to not heal. –  curiousdannii Oct 7 at 0:12
    
Thanks for the comments. I've made an initial response to curiousdannii in the text - because I certainly don't intend to be abusive. I hope to get back to fredsbend's comment later –  Mike Oct 8 at 9:49
    
Good edit Mike. To promote that 'God chooses to not heal' could equally be viewed as'naive, dangerous and abusive' - it all depends on what is 'Truth': I think the second part of your comment is actually off-topic for this forum @curiousdannii - I haven't flagged it, but at the very least it is not constructive. –  bruised reed Oct 8 at 12:18

Psalm 37:4. Delight yourself in the lord & he will give you the desires of your heart.

Luke 12:31. Instead seek his kingdom & these things will be added unto you.

Jeremiah 29:11. For I know the plans I have for you,declares the lord,plans for wholeness & not for evil, to give you a hope & a future

There are numerous passages of Scripture that supports the idea of success & prosperity. Prosperity is not only limited to money. I believe that there is always a word of revelation or truths for every generation in relation to God's prophetic timetable. There are people who have taken this teaching too far & distorted the fundamental principles that governs this Biblical teaching.

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Welcome to the site! This is a good first answer! As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": help page, How we are different than other sites? and What makes a good supported answer? –  David Stratton Oct 22 '13 at 12:40

Some verses the prosperity gospel are built on are:

John 10:10 NIV The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Philippians 4:19 NIV And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

3 John 1:2 NIV Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.

While I believe these all do say that Christ's death does allow us to have good in this life, I don't believe they should be our only focus. As mentioned in your question, there are many verses which say we will also face adversity.

I also believe that the life and prosperity God wants for us is most likely not the prosperity of riches and glory on this earth that is being offered in this movement.

I do not pay too much attention to those that preach only prosperity, because it often seems dry and lacking to me. I am just guessing, but I would bet that they avoid the passages you provide. It just wouldn't make people feel good to know that they might have problems. And of course, when people don't feel good, then it just causes more problems, so that wouldn't be good, right?

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In regards to the three verses mentioned, none of them mentions material wealth. –  Nathan Osman Aug 30 '11 at 22:31

The main argument as I see it, for the "Prosperity Gospel", comes from the Old Testament. So prayer of Jabez is an example - but this is a flawed application of the prayer of Jabez.

Blessing in the Old Testament is physical. Faithfulness to God, by David, Solomon, Job, Abraham, Jacob etc were was rewarded by having many posessions. The old testament prophets speak of how much physical blessing will ensue if you following God.

However, the New Testament redefines blessing to be spiritual, blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1).

The prayer of Jabez is a prayer calling on God to fulfil his promises - as they were then - That Jabez would enjoy blessing on earth and that the territory promised him would be given to him.

The N.T extends God's promises beyond the mere physical to the eternal.

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It seems like this would be an oversimplification of the issue when one considers verses such as Mark 10:30, and also in the reduction of the definition of "blessing" in the OT to "physical". Wouldn't the witness of Scripture be consistent across testaments, even if concealed in a mystery? The real blessing would have been the spiritual the whole time, wouldn't it? All of the promises of the OT were in the context of a relationship with Himself, even though the plan of salvation was hidden until Christ, but they were still there. –  Benjamin Hoogterp Nov 18 at 7:27
    
I hear you that it was always spiritual - never really thought about this. And although I would agree that the "witness of Scripture is consistent across testaments", what you mean by that might be different. The reality is that living under God's rule was different for Abraham than it is for us. And Theologians have thought about this and have come up with the term Progressive Revelation to describe the nature of God's revelation. That is not all at once... and that it changes over time –  Michael Wiles Nov 18 at 11:06

One reference is from the Prayer of Jabez

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request.

1 Chronicles 4:9-10

Personal note: I think it is quite a reach to go from asking God for success to expecting success, fame, fortune, etc. We should remember that we are under Grace, so we can't demand from or trade with God for anything. When He answers prayer, that's a bonus.

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