I few years ago, I spoke from the epistle of Jude on the subject Contend Against Creeps. The title is taken from verse 4 which begins, For there are certain men crept in unawares.Jude speaks of false teachers that arise in the church whose purpose is to distort the true gospel of God and lead unsuspecting people astray. We discussed many examples of this when studying 1 Thessalonians chapter 2 and the subject Proofs of Your Preacher.
False teachers are given much space in both Old and New Testaments because they are one of Satan’s primary attacks against the true church of Jesus Christ. The false prophet is easily discernable if you pay attention to the scriptures as your guide to distinguish them. A common thread of heresy that runs through them is greed and sexual perversion. Let me comment on greed as my topic today since the greediness of health, wealth, and prosperity doctrine is sweeping the world.
Paul wrote: For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things. (Philippians 3:18-19) There is a lot of junk on television and radio that purports to speak in the name of Christ but is really nothing more than preaching from those whose God is their belly (Phil. 3:19). As Paul states in this verse, there are many who are far more concerned about earthly things than heavenly. Often in my preaching I give warnings about the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel which is not really the gospel at all. However, I don’t want you to think that God has no concern for the material. If we think so, we miss the truth of the word nearly as much as the “go for the gold” prosperity preachers.
The truth is that God is concerned about the material. In the Lord’s Prayer, the first “our” petition is not about the spiritual but about the material. Jesus taught the disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” The wisdom of Christ is always perfect because God knows you can never be useful to Him if you cannot survive. What use has God for great spiritual people if they are dead? Jesus said before the instructions in the prayer, “Your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” God committed Himself to care for us so that we need not be anxious about our next meal (Matt. 6:26).
Caring for the material in this way is vastly different from what is taught by the prosperity gospel. In the prosperity gospel, the focus is moved away from the spiritual benefits of the material to the fleshly appetites of the material. God provides for us for one purpose—that we might glorify Him. Must you be rich to glorify God? If so, you deny scripture’s teaching that we should give God glory in all things and thank Him for all things (1 Thess. 5:18). Jesus said, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This teaches us to depend on God to supply on a daily basis rather than hording up so that we forget we are dependent on God.
The health, wealth, and prosperity gospel does produce rich people. The riches are raked in by greedy preachers who have duped greedy followers into “sowing their seeds of faith.” Interestingly, when Jesus gave the great parable of the sower (Matt. 13:3-23), there is not one mention of money. Jesus sowed the gospel of salvation that changes dead sinners into living saints. The prosperity of heaven gained is the only prosperity found in the gospel.
Jesus is concerned about the material insofar as it sustains your ability to sow the real seeds that He wants sown. Consider that you are kept alive for God’s purpose, to honor and glorify Him by being a witness of the life-changing gospel of salvation.
Pastor V. Mark Smith