Poverty vs. Prosperity Gospel (Part 1)
Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion. (Prv. 30:8)
This is the first of a three-part message related to the last few messages I posted regarding issues raised by the Grassley Investigation. As I have been indicating in some previous messages, in many Kingdom-related matters, the difference between truth and error is extremes. Those extremes can be at either end of the spectrum. Satan is a master at taking truth and misapplying it or taking it to extremes and thereby transforming truth into error. We see that in Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness after being baptized in the Spirit when the Holy Spirit rested upon Him in the form of a dove. Immediately thereafter, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Mat. 3,4). Each of the three temptations Satan tempted Jesus with were perversions of Truth. In each of them, the devil quoted Scripture, but his application of the Scriptures were an extremism. In each case, Jesus responded with other Scripture that countervailed the Scripture Satan quoted and misapplied.
The Word of God says, “A false balance is an abomination to the LORD; but a just weight is His delight” (Prv. 11:1). The Bible is full of countervailing concepts and paradoxes. Critics and cynics, atheists and agnostics, often seize upon these seemingly contradictory or antithetical statements, principles, and axioms in their attempt to refute and discredit Scripture. But, that is as much folly as are the thoughts of the agnostic or atheist who says in his heart, “There is no God” (Psa. 14:1). Truth is always found between opposing extremes. It’s the extremes that are an abomination to God. From the beginning of time, humans have taken truth and twisted, distorted, and perverted it to make it say whatever they need it to say as support and justification for their evil desires and deeds. There is nothing new about that.
Such is the case with the real truth regarding the matter of prosperity and success versus whatever is the diametric opposite of that, which I suppose is poverty and failure. The real truth, that is, the truth in the mind of God, lies somewhere between these opposing messages.
I am not one of the mean-spirited, unChrist-like “heresy hunters” that exist today, who lurk around every corner, searching the Internet, and pouring over the writings, teachings, and recordings of prominent ministries looking for “gotcha” gnats, while they themselves are swallowing doctrinal and attitudinal camels. I do not condone or ally myself with such persons and organizations, who spend exorbitant amounts of time, effort, and resources on an ungodly agenda of identifying people who they contend are heretics preaching false doctrines and sometimes call false prophets, false teachers, heretics, and the like, primarily because those ministers are teaching doctrines they themselves don’t like or espouse. While I do believe that the Bible gives us clear instruction on how to deal with those who are indeed preaching heresy and who are indeed false teachers and false prophets, I cannot subscribe to the vitriolic and hateful methodologies and agendas of the “heresy hunter” types. While I believe we are to heed the admonition to “keep your eye on (mark, KJV) those that cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them” (Rom. 16:17), there are a growing number of hardcore cynics who misuse such teachings of Scriptures to vehemently oppose and angrily denounce anyone who teaches doctrine contrary to their own personal doctrine or their denomination’s doctrine.
Pilate asked Jesus the question of the ages, “What is truth?” Jesus answered not a word, because the answer was that he was looking at Truth. Truth is not a teaching or doctrine. Truth is a Person. Truth is the Word of God, and Jesus was the Word of God made flesh. Jesus Himself is the embodiment of Truth. The fact is that all truth, that is the wisdom and knowledge of God, is hidden in Christ Himself (Col. 2:3). Truth dwells not in the doctrines of men, but in the innermost being, or human spirit, and it is there that God makes us to know Truth (Ps. 51:6). As Paul said, there is a “hidden wisdom” of which those speaking through the Spirit speak (1 Cor. 2:7), but it is indeed “hidden” — hidden in the Spirit realm, and it is the Spirit Himself, “The Spirit of Truth,” as Jesus called the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:17; 15:26; 16:13; 1 Jn. 4:6). Only He, the Spirit of Truth, can and will guide the believer into all Truth, for He Himself IS Truth (Jn. 16:13). I personally believe that there is no way we can ever be guided into Truth without experiencing both the infusion and the immersion of the Spirit, and I have observed what to me is the incontrovertible affirmation of that proposition in the vast mosaic of diversity that comprises Christendom today.
God’s intention is that no one can know Truth apart from a living relationship with God Himself. His wisdom is deliberately both concealed and revealed in Christ Himself. While we are instructed to “study to show yourself approved, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15), nevertheless, no one can know Truth merely through cerebral study. Study is an exercise to educate your mind, which is part of your soul, but Truth is of the Spirit realm. And, the fact of the matter is, Truth consists of seemingly opposing matters or paradoxes. Give to receive, die to live, et cetera, are paradoxical Truths revealed in the Word of God. But, again, Truth is somewhere between the extremes of the swing of the pendulum.
Prior to the 1950s there was a “poverty mentality” that prevailed throughout the church. It was so prevalent because of hundreds of years of preaching of what could be called a “Poverty Gospel,” vis-a-vis, the modern “Prosperity Gospel.” As part of the restorational process God initiated in the early 1500s and continues today, in which God has been gradually restoring truths lost during the Church’s 1,200 year long corporate apostasy, God began restoring the truth that He desired to provide the needs of believers and “that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers” (3 Jn. 3:1). One of the people God began using to preach this truth to the Church was Oral Roberts, who was castigated and virtually ostracized by his denomination for merely teaching that God was a good God. Soon, others began proclaiming similar teachings regarding God’s desire to bless and prosper His people both financially and physically. There was much truth in what some of those neo-pentecostal preachers and healing evangelists, and later Charismatic preachers, preached in this regard. However, as time went on, especially during the subsequent Charismatic movement with its various sub-sects extremes and distortions emerged. Just as Satan always sows tares among the wheat, he also sowed error in and amongst the truth.
Fast-forward all the way up to 2008, and we find that there is unfortunate proliferation of counterfeit gospels transpiring throughout Christendom. One of the most prominent of those is a false “Prosperity Gospel” that is being preached over many pulpits and espoused and pursued by many in the figurative and literal pews today. My personal view is that the modern “Prosperity Gospel” is a counterfeit gospel that has brought immeasurable spiritual harm to the Body of Christ at-large on a global basis. In my mind it is an incontrovertible fact that the pendulum has swung too far to the extremes concerning prosperity and success in the preaching and teaching of some, especially among some camps. Unfortunately, when that happens the back swing of the pendulum is equidistant in the other direction as well.
I want to make it clear that I am by no means one of these “prosperity preachers,” and am in no way allied or associated with any of the camps who espouse the extremes of the “Prosperity Gospel,” which I believe is an abomination unto God because of it’s false balance. In fact, I’m not part of any camp except God’s. I have no denominational or protodenominational affiliations, alliances, or alignments. My desire is to be aligned with the Truth. Of course many would make the same claim, but any truth taken to extremes becomes error, yet the error of the extremists does not make the Truth any less true. I’m for the true or correct balance in all things; and I believe God is too.
The problem is that when writing about such matters where there is controversy, error, and excess on both ends of the spectrum it is difficult to speak the truth without sounding to those who favor one extreme of the pendulum swing that you are part of and aligned with those favoring the other extreme. What needs to be understood is that I am advocating for neither side of extremes, but strive to be an advocate for the Truth. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and Sadducees for being spiritually blind leaders of the blind, and that both the blind leaders and the blind followers end up in a spiritual ditch as a result of their blindness. The path of righteousness and Truth is lined with ditches on both sides. In the process of refuting error, we must be careful not to fall into one ditch or the other; both is nonetheless a ditch. Rather, we must be careful to stay on the straight and narrow path of Truth and righteousness.
In regard to the matter of God’s provision for believers in particular, we must be careful not to swerve too far to either side so as to fall into a spiritual ditch of error. We must not “throw out the baby with the bathwater.” There are a great number of passages of Scripture telling us how much God indeed does want us to “prosper and be in (good) health even as our soul prospers” (3 Jn. 2). But, the last part of that Scripture is the weightier and balancing part. Prosperity, success, and divine healing and health taken out of context of the rest of Scripture that speaks of seemingly antithetical and counterbalancing matters can become an abomination to God because that is precisely what God calls “a false balance.”
I really believe the only safeguard against error in matters of Truth is that we must have a contemporaneous co-existence of the Spirit with the Truth in order to come down on God’s side with a correct, rather than false, balance. As the Spirit said through the Apostle Paul, matters of Truth are spiritually appraised or discerned. That’s why Jesus called the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth. May we all seek and possess the “Truth” of the Spirit in all these vital matters of the Kingdom. What I see is that there is two sides of this coin regarding this matter of God’s provision for us. In the next two posts, my intent is to bring a balanced message regarding this matter.
A passage I believe gives us the key to understanding the Truth on this subject is Proverb 30:8: “Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion.”
In the next post I will show both sides of the same coin, for there is indeed two sides of every coin, as the old saying goes. There is Truth on both sides, but we need both sides, with neither side being defaced, for it to be legitimate tender, allegorically speaking, that is, Truth!