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Over the weekend, Pastor Creflo Dollar made NewsOne headlines after being arrested for assaulting his 15-year-old daughter. I’m not particularly disturbed by the minister beating his daughter over the head with a shoe – if you have spent any considerable amount of time around teenagers, you can relate.
What I am disturbed about is something far more dangerous and destructive, namely his use of his pastoral platform to spread “prosperity theology”.
What is Prosperity Theology?
Prosperity theology is a recent philosophical doctrine of the Christian church that teaches that material wealth is the direct result of faith and donations made to the church. It started back when Oral Roberts began teaching prosperity theology in 1947. He explained the laws of faith as a “blessing pact” in which God would return donations “seven fold”.
When televisions became household appliances, prosperity gospel ministers embraced televangelism and came to dominate religious programming in the United States. At the forefront of the televangelism movement was your man, Oral Roberts. It’s also worth noting that Minister Dollar received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Oral Roberts University in 1998, and has since continued in the same tradition of prosperity gospel as Oral Roberts himself.
Prosperity gospel has its basis in the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12:1-3) which states that God determined to call out a special people for Himself through whom He would bring blessing to all the nations. There are three main features to the Abrahamic Covenant:
1. Land (Genesis 12:1). God called Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees to a land that He would give him.
2. The promise of descendants. God promised Abraham that He would make a great nation out of him. Abraham, who was 75 years old and childless (Genesis 12:4), was promised many descendants. This promise is amplified in Genesis 17:6 where God promised that nations and kings would descend from the aged patriarch.
3. The promise of blessing and redemption (Genesis 12:3). God promised to bless Abraham and the families of the earth through him. This promise is amplified in the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31–34; cf. Hebrews 8:6–13) and has to do with “Israel’s spiritual blessing and redemption.” Jeremiah 31:34 anticipates the forgiveness of sin. The unconditional and eternal nature of the covenant is seen in that the covenant is reaffirmed to Isaac (Genesis 21:12; 26:3–4). The “I will” promises suggest the unconditional aspect of the covenant. The covenant is further confirmed to Jacob (Genesis 28:14–15). – Source: The Abrahamic Covenant
Prosperity theology twists the Covenant to mean that God has promised his chosen people financial prosperity and success in the here and now, and all they have to do is believe and tithe. The problem with this interpretation is that it’s never presented this way in the Bible. In fact, there are dozens of verses that speak directly to material wealth in relation to Christians:
People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. (NIV, 1 Timothy 6:9-11)
When it comes to prosperity theology, pastors have everything to gain and their flock has everything to lose. For instance, as a direct result of Pastor Dollar infecting his followers with prosperity theology, he has earned himself two Rolls-Royces, a private jet, a million dollar home in Atlanta, and a $2.5m home in Manhattan.
How many members of Creflo Dollar’s assembly can claim the same results?
When Ministry Watch – a Christian watchdog organization that holds churches accountable for financial transparency – graded Creflo Dollar Ministries, the organization received an “F” (since the good minister refused to reveal how much he earned from his flock). Ministry Watch provides independent advice to Christians considering making donations to a particular church.
Money For Blessings
Money for blessings – that’s the core of prosperity theology. Millionaire Ministers would like you to believe that the bigger your donation to the church, the bigger the blessings. They claim that the size of your offering is in direct relation to the size of your faith (check out the video later on in this article). However, any critically thinking Christian can see the error here:
Jesus was not rich in material nor did he promise to make people millionaires. He promised to save people from their sins and restore the Kingdom of Heaven here on Earth on behalf of his father in the last days. Jesus met people’s needs – not their selfish desires or wants.
Jesus didn’t promise you an Aston Martin, a 5-bedroom home, or a nice Sunday suit. In fact, did he not say “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” in Matthew 19:23-24? Didnt he say ”If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” ?
Christians who tithe faithfully are to be commended, but the bastard that robs his congregation to increase his net worth is worse than a non-believer. 2 Peter 2:3 – says they make merchandise of you, when instead these pastors should be preaching the real gospel of the bible: deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Christ!
So are the people who follow prosperity theology blameless victims of manipulation? Not in my opinion. Prosperity theology is that it attracts followers whose interests lie more in materialism than in service to God. The Bible indeed teaches that the Heavenly Father will provide for his followers, and even bless them in abundance:
“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.(NIV, Matthew 6:24-25, 31-33)
But preoccupation with wealth and success is a dangerous distraction:
Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle. (NIV, Proverbs 23:4-5)
Prosperity Theology Plagues Africans
Prosperity gospel tends to be most successful amongst the people who need it the most: the poor, the vulnerable, and the financially illiterate. It’s no wonder then that the prosperity gospel and its blinged-out ministers have found new flocks in the slums of Africa.
An excerpt from Christianity Today highlights the explosive growth of prosperity teaching in Africa:
…prosperity-tinged Pentecostalism is growing faster not just than other strands of Christianity, but than all religious groups, including Islam. Of Africa’s 890 million people, 147 million are now “renewalists” (a term that includes both Pentecostals and charismatics), according to a 2006 Pew Forum on Religion and Public life study.
They make up more than a fourth of Nigeria’s population, more than a third of South Africa’s, and a whopping 56 percent of Kenya’s.
This Vimeo video examines the rise of the prosperity gospel in Ghana (if you can’t see the video, it’s located here: http://vimeo.com/7196941#at=164)
Prosperity Theology: Spiritual or Material?
There is indeed a relationship between prosperity and theology, and that relationship is the connection between the spirit and the material. Christians believe that the Bible provides instructions on how Christians should relate to the material from a spiritual standpoint.
In this Huffington Post article, Grant Brooke wrote “Except in the U.S., the prosperity Gospel encourages followers to use their money wisely. The proof of salvation, or faith, is directly tied to current economic conditions and individual economic outlook. Believers are more likely to save, live debt-free, and create businesses in order to find themselves in an economic position that garnishes a demonstrable (economic) assurance of salvation.”
Indeed, it is written in that only a good stewart of his money will receive the blessings of his father.
The size of the portion does not matter. What matters is what you do with it. Do you use it to help others? Is the money you have used to help your family obtain the things that it needs (as opposed to what it wants)? Do you carefully consider the items you go into debt for? All of these questions are essential to figuring out what kind of steward you are, and then making a plan to put what God has given you to better use.
We can all agree that Bible teaches that God’s blessings can come in the form of the material, but we can also agree that these material blessings are to be used to be a blessing to others – not to buy Rolls-Royces, a private jet, a million dollar home in Atlanta, and a $2.5m home in Manhattan.
Im just sayin.
Can you really justify prosperity theology as being God’s will?
Is prosperity theology a part of Christianity, or just a means of predator pastors exploiting their prey?
Should Christians be pursuing the path of righteousness or wealth?
What are your thoughts?
Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.