I was recently in Quito, Ecuador, to do some historical research, to preach at a local church, and to participate in an Ask Me Anything session. I thought you may be interested in this question and answer about the prosperity gospel. And I thought you might find it interesting to see what it’s like to work with a translator. (A note on working with a translator: The main challenge I find is that I need to speak in phrases to allow the translator to catch up; sometimes the memory plays tricks and you just can’t remember what you said last!)
Would you explain the prosperity gospel and why so many people follow it?
The prosperity gospel is about today. The prosperity gospel is about what I can gain in this life. And it’s about what I can gain out of this world. So the prosperity gospel assumes that the best I can have is what I can have in this world right now. If you imagine the kind of gospel a human being might create, it would probably sound an awful lot like the prosperity gospel. You don’t really need Jesus Christ, you don’t really need salvation for the prosperity gospel. You don’t need the mind of Christ to imagine a health and wealth gospel.
The true Gospel is from beyond this world. The true Gospel calls me to live in this world, in a way that reflects the next world. So the prosperity gospel is storing up treasures on earth. The true Gospel is storing up treasures in heaven. The prosperity gospel reflects the mind of human beings. The true Gospel reflects the mind of God. But the prosperity gospel is much more attractive to unbelievers. Because all of us want to be rich, all of us want to be healthy. And all of us want to believe that if we have those things it means God loves us. But the prosperity gospel can’t explain Jesus. If the prosperity gospel is true, why did Jesus Christ suffer and die, why was He poor? If the prosperity gospel is true, why was the apostle Paul in so much pain, why was he sick? Why was he poor? Because they were looking beyond, they were looking out of this world.
So God calls us to something we would never want unless we were in Christ. And when we come to faith in Jesus Christ, we have new desires. And our desires are not to be rich in this world, but to be rich in the next. Our desires are, to be with Jesus Christ. And our desires are to make Him look great. Our desires are to bring glory to God. The prosperity gospel is just, it’s too cheap, it’s too easy. The true gospel demands that we be changed from inside. You can only want the true Gospel if you’ve been changed by Jesus Christ.