Following are a few examples of Scriptures prosperity preachers twist to promote their health-and-wealth gospel. A more complete treatment is available in The Apologist’s Tool Kit, available at mobaptist.org.
Prov. 6:2 – You have been trapped by the words of your lips – ensnared by the words of your mouth.
Word of Faith leaders quote this verse to illustrate that our words have power. If we speak positively, we get positive results. But if we speak “negative confessions,” we get negative results.
In truth, this proverb teaches nothing of the kind. Solomon simply points out that whenever you enter into an agreement with someone, you are honor-bound to fulfill it. Nowhere does Scripture teach that our words create reality.
Matt. 9:29 – Then He touched their eyes, saying, “Let it be done according to your faith!”
Referring to this passage, Joyce Meyer remarks, “The Bible says it will be unto us as we believe. That principle works in the negative as well as the positive. We can receive by fear as well as by faith.”
But a simple reading of Matt. 9:27-31 shows that the two blind men express their faith in Jesus – not faith in their faith or faith in their healing. Jesus asks them point blank: “Do you believe that I can do this?” They reply, “Yes, Lord.”
Mark 11:22-23 – Jesus replied to them, “Have faith in God. I assure you: If anyone says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.”
Several Word-Faith leaders insist that a more proper translation of verse 22 is, “Have the God kind of faith,” or, “Have the faith of God.” They twist this verse to support their view that God has faith; further, God used “faith substance” to create the universe. “Cut God open,” says Creflo Dollar, “and you’d see nothing but faith.”
But Greek scholars like A.T. Robertson assure us that the Faith preachers’ interpretation is faulty. “It is not the faith that God has,” he writes, “but the faith of which God is the object.”
Hank Hanegraaff writes, “The Bible makes it clear … that God could never be a faith being. If God had to have faith, He would be dependent upon something outside of Himself for knowledge or power. And that is clearly unthinkable.”
Rom. 4:17 – As it is written: I have made you the father of many nations. He believed in God, who gives life to the dead and calls things into existence that do not exist.
Joel Osteen uses this verse to support the notion that our words have creative power. “Scripture tells us that we are to ‘call the things that are not as if they already were,’” he says. We must conceive them in our minds, believe them, and speak them out. “You’ve got to give life to your faith by speaking it out,” he says.
Is that really what the apostle Paul means in this verse? Of course not. Abraham does not believe in himself, in his faith, or in his own power to create reality. Abraham believes in God. And it is God who gives life to the dead and calls things into existence that do not exist.
2 Peter 1:4 – By these [God’s divine power, knowledge of Him, glory and goodness] He has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature …
Kenneth Copeland explains, “Now, Peter said by exceeding great and precious promises you become partakers of the divine nature. All right, are we gods? We are a class of gods!”
But this is not at all what Peter means, as the context makes clear. Verses 5-11 describe a moral transformation that Jesus produces in Christians, so that they overcome evil desires with goodness, knowledge, self-control, endurance, godliness, brotherly affection, and love.
Prosperity preachers also cite passages such as Ex. 4:16 (Moses serves as “God” to pharaoh); Ex. 21-22 (the Israelite judges are called elohim, or gods); John 10:31-39 (Jesus quotes Psalm 82:6, in which the judges are called gods); and 2 Cor. 4:4 (Satan is the god of this age) to bolster their claim that humans are little gods.
None of these passages ascribes deity to human beings or to Satan. Rather, they describe people or angelic beings that are granted limited authority for a period of time under the sovereign hand of God. Believers are “sons” of the Most High, not by nature but by adoption (Gal. 4:5-8).
This is the last in a five-part series on the Prosperity Gospel.
As we wrap up this series on the Word-Faith movement, let’s ask: What should be our attitude toward wealth and health?
We should be content with what we have.
Paul experiences many hardships in his ministry – beatings, shipwreck, hunger, cold, imprisonment, and much more. Yet he writes that he has “learned” to be content (see Phil. 4:11-12). Further, he reminds Timothy that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6).
We should be indifferent toward wealth.
Prosperity is neither good nor evil. But our attitude toward wealth reveals a great deal about us (see 1 Tim. 6:6-10, 17-19).
Agur’s request of the Lord in Prov. 30:8b-9 expresses a proper attitude toward worldly gain: “Give me neither poverty nor wealth; feed me with the food I need. Otherwise, I might have too much and deny You, saying, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or I might have nothing and steal, profaning the name of my God.”
Jesus specifically warns us against laying up treasures on earth (Matt. 6:19-21) and reminds us that we cannot be slaves to both God and money (Matt. 6:24).
An elderly woman tosses aside her walker and sprints around a crowded auditorium amidst thunderous applause. Hundreds of congregants gasp as a faith healer lengthens a man’s shortened leg in the name of Jesus. Throngs of worshipers fall backward, seemingly lifeless, as an evangelist breathes the Holy Spirit on them.
These are common sights on Christian television, meant to convince us that God continues to perform signs, wonders and miracles through His anointed servants.
But are these truly miracles? Is God really at work, or is some charlatan playing on our emotions so we’ll pull out our checkbooks and “release” our faith with a generous donation?
It’s not always easy to tell. Thankfully, Christian apologists Norman Geisler and Frank Turek offer some good advice in their book, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. The authors remind us that miracles are possible today – God still deals in the supernatural – but it’s important to separate the miraculous from a host of counterfeits.
Leaders of the word-faith movement, also known as the prosperity gospel, say they place a high value on scripture. Unfortunately, their unique interpretation of God’s word leads to unbiblical conclusions about God’s design for the Christian life.
A case in point: 3 John 2, which reads: “Dear friend, I pray that you may prosper in every way and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.”
As prosperity preachers like Kenneth Copeland and Joel Osteen would have you believe, this verse expresses the divine view that every child of God should enjoy financial blessing and perfect health. But is that what the passage really means?
Hardly. In the first place, the Greek word translated “prosper” means “to go well,” not to become rich. Secondly, John uses a common greeting to address his friend, Gaius, similar to salutations we place in modern-day letters.
As Gordon Fee writes in The Disease of the Health and Wealth Gospels, “This combination of wishing for ‘things to go well’ and for the recipient’s ‘good health’ was the standard form of greeting in a personal letter in antiquity. To extend John’s wish for Gaius to refer to financial and material prosperity for all Christians is totally foreign to the text.”