John Oliver recently had a great segment on his show “Last Week Tonight” where he lambasted the prosperity gospel and televangelists. It is hilarious and embedded here for your laughing pleasure. Aside from the moral and ethical stupid of the prosperity gospel however, Senor Oliver didn’t really talk about the three things that really dig at me when the question and conversation comes up, so here they are.
- The kingdom of God is not about you. Shocker right? Here is some information on the kingdom of God by the way, but the thing that the prosperity Gospel does is that it makes me, the believer the focus of the faith and the Kingdom of God becomes a candy store in which if I pay the right admission or if I pray just the right way, then Pops is going to give me the key and I can have all the gummy bears I could ever want.
- God loves you enough to say “no”. I have a four year old son. He says he wants to stick a fork in an electrical outlet. I say “no.” God is an omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent being and sometimes he says “no” to us to. This seems very straightforward to me.
- God’s love is measured by the cross not your standard of living. Do I really need to elaborate on this?
So now we come to the tough question that has more to do with how the prosperity gospel thrives even though there are plenty of churches and pastors saying “that’s heresy.” Because really the prosperity gospel doesn’t have anything to do with the size of my bank account, or how important God thinks I am or how many gifts or blessings he bestows upon me. If the prosperity Gospel relied solely on testimony and the evidence of its truth then the whole thing would have disappeared years ago, enjoying only the occasional resurgence of popularity before disappearing again. Kind of like flagellants. Instead we have seen a steady continuation of this mess. Now in his investigation, John Oliver turned up lots of examples of the poor and sick basically being conned into the prosperity gospel with the promise of riches if they invest in the Kingdom of God Stock Exchange. But there are plenty of other people who are neither poor or sick who also buy into this mentality. You have The Secret, The Prayer of Jabez and I don’t even know how many more books on the topic out there perpetuating and legitimizing this, and then being legitimized by people buying the products. The only possible answer I can think of is that Christianity in the USA has become self-centered. When I become the most important person in my faith, then the Prosperity Gospel is a natural evolution of that belief. God is not my Lord, he’s my Fairy Godmother, there to wave a wand and take me to the ball.
So the tough question – “Do you really believe that you are more important than God?”