Healthy, Wealthy and Lies

by Costi Hinn on January 1, 2022
Featured in Answers Magazine
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Despite its promises of health, wealth, and happiness, the prosperity gospel sells a bankrupt gospel.

You can hardly watch a Christian television network without seeing preachers in expensive suits proclaiming God’s desire to bless the audience with financial and physical security. Their message goes by various names: the health and wealth gospel, the word of faith movement, seed faith, and “name it and claim it” Christianity. But perhaps it’s best known as the prosperity gospel. I should know—at one time I was right in the middle of it.

The Hinn family is known for its association with healing services and the prosperity gospel. I was three years old when my father launched his church, following the model set up by my well-known uncle, Benny Hinn. My father even founded The Signs and Wonders School of Ministry to supposedly teach anyone—who was willing to pay—how to speak in tongues or perform miracles.

The prosperity gospel is one of the most dangerous theological ideas in the world today.

Propagating the prosperity gospel certainly caused my family to prosper. By the time I was 13, we had a 10,000-square-foot home with a sports court and private gate. We drove multiple Mercedes-Benz vehicles and vacationed in expensive hotels around the world. Not until college did God send people with the right questions to crack my false beliefs and plant seeds that would eventually lead me to the truth. My early life gave me a front-row seat to experience what I now know to be an insidious theology. In fact, the prosperity gospel is one of the most dangerous theological ideas in the world today. It spans the globe, spiritually abusing people from all walks of life in devastating ways.

The Prosperity Gospel Distorts the Biblical Gospel

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the garden of Eden, they plunged mankind into spiritual death and the reality of living in a world plagued by disease, suffering, poverty, violence, and physical death. Our fallen world makes the perfect environment for prosperity gospel proponents to spread the false idea that God’s highest goal is to remove all suffering and scarcity.

But is the gospel about the gifts or the Giver? Is the gospel about earthly riches or eternal life? Is the gospel about monetary gain or the glory of God?

We can properly understand the biblical gospel by looking at what is perhaps the most comprehensive gospel passage in the entire Bible. Ephesians 2:4–9 contains explosive statements regarding God’s mercy on us as people helplessly dead in sin. The verses assure us that we are saved only by grace through faith and remind us of what God accomplished in Christ on our behalf.

The prosperity gospel distorts the biblical gospel by making the good news all about us and possessions. Prosperity gospel preachers manipulate the gospel, claiming salvation will make you happy, healthy, and wealthy. I’ve got news for you—actually, I’ve got good news for you: the gospel is about your soul’s eternal security, not a comfortable 75 years enjoying earthly riches. The gospel is concerned with repentance and faith in Christ as your Savior—the ultimate treasure of your longing soul.

The Prosperity Gospel Insults God’s Nature

The prosperity gospel teaches that, like a cosmic magic genie, God will grant our wishes if we rub him the right way with positive confession or significant monetary offerings. The prosperity gospel makes God a puppet and us the puppet master, pulling his strings as we please. This version of God does not introduce people to their Creator, whose love is not bought and whose blessings are free.

God is sovereign and infinite. Still, he has made himself known to us through divine revelation (Scripture) and his Son, Jesus Christ. Psalm 115:3 reminds us, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” Because his attributes are beyond human control, he cannot be manipulated by a formula. God doesn’t submit to us. We submit to him.

The Prosperity Gospel Weakens the Atonement

Jesus accomplished the atonement when he bore our sins on the cross and rose again, conquering death (1 John 2:2). Though here on earth we can enjoy the expectation of what is to come in eternity, the full benefits of the atonement await in the future. For example, Jesus died for our sins and gave us eternal life, but we’re not living in eternity yet (John 3:16). Jesus promised his disciples that everyone who sacrifices to follow him will receive a hundredfold and eternal life (Matthew 19:29). But is everyone getting their hundredfold yet? No. The atonement provides for a heaven with no sickness, no tears, no sin, and no pain (Revelation 21:4). But are we all sinless, free of disease, never to cry again or wince in pain? No. The atonement means that those who inherit everlasting life in heaven will receive a glorified body (1 Corinthians 15:42–53). But are we floating around in glorified spirit-bodies yet? Again, no.

Prosperity preachers write checks with their mouths that the Bible doesn’t cash. They teach that salvation and healing are a “package deal,” guaranteeing health and wealth here on earth. According to them, all you have to do is, by faith, tap into those things Christ already paid for. This damaging lie takes something beautiful about our Savior’s eternal work on the cross and turns it into a petty transaction for fleeting comforts.

The Prosperity Gospel Demeans Jesus Christ

Paul said, “To live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). The Bible teaches that bringing glory to Jesus Christ should be the ultimate motivation and reward for the Christian. Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory, the sustainer of all things (Hebrews 1:3), and the only way to heaven (John 14:6). Jesus promised an abundant life of spiritual blessings by abiding in him, regardless of bank account or quality of health (John 15:4–8). All the health and wealth this world can offer will never compare to the vast treasure of abiding with the Son of God both now and for all eternity.

The prosperity gospel makes human satisfaction merely material. In this hollow gospel, Jesus is a central focus only as the way to getting what you want. This version of Jesus is a shell of who he really is. The prosperity gospel promises people the abundant life that Jesus offers, only to deliver a gospel with no Jesus at all.

The Prosperity Gospel Twists Scripture

The Bible as a whole can seem intimidating, but it is simple to understand if we approach it the right way, believing what it says from the very first verse in Genesis. It’s perilous to read into the text or say things about the gospel that the Bible doesn’t say.

The Bible is a compilation of Spirit-inspired writings by human authors to an audience with real-life applications for readers today. For example, when we read Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we need to keep in mind the intent of his letter and the experience of his audience at that time. The church in Ephesus had been warned about false teachers infiltrating from within (Acts 20:28). Because the newly established church was in the epicenter of false worship to Artemis (a Greek goddess), it needed sound doctrine as the surrounding culture abused and maligned marriage vows and roles. No wonder Paul dedicates the first three chapters to essential doctrines and the last three chapters to instructing Christians on how to live and worship. Knowing these contextual keys helps us properly understand the background of the letter and how we can effectively apply the Scriptures to our lives today.

The prosperity gospel ignores the age-old interpretative rules that careful scholars have used for generations. Rather than looking at context, prosperity gospel preachers take passages whose meanings are plain and twist them to say something untrue. For example, James 4:2 says, “You do not have, because you do not ask.” Though this passage is speaking about covetousness, prosperity gospel preachers use this verse to encourage the “name it and claim it” philosophy in which people manifest their desires by speaking them. “Whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7) becomes a promise that if people sow more money in the offering, they will reap a greater material reward. Of course, this passage has nothing to do with money but with doing good, for which we will reap eternal rewards.

Who stands to gain the most from this distortion of Scripture? The preachers who use the offerings to fund their high lifestyle. Like an imposter taking a heartfelt letter from a king to his royal subjects and twisting it for evil purposes, prosperity preachers take the Bible and twist it into a tool for abuse.

The Properity Gospel Overcomplicates Faith

When it comes to our salvation, faith is monumentally important to understand. Our salvation, our faith, and our ability to do good works on this earth are all gifts from God (Ephesians 2:8–10). Faith in Jesus Christ saves us, and the evidence of genuine faith is our obedience to Jesus’ commands (John 14:23–24). Jesus doesn’t make being his follower complicated. He promises that his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:30), and that his people can cast their anxieties on him because he cares for them (1 Peter 5:7). Though it may not be an easy life, the Christian life is full of freedom in him.

Faith isn’t giving money to get his love. Faith isn’t paying a fee for his saving grace. Faith isn’t going broke to get healed. Faith isn’t traveling to a special service to receive his anointing. Faith is repenting of your sins and turning to him, believing that he is the Son of God. Any religion teaching that you need to do good works, give enough money, or speak enough positive declarations to unlock God’s saving grace or abundant blessings on your life is a false religion. Christian faith is believing in Jesus Christ for eternal life and experiencing the joy, freedom, and blessing of knowing Christ—for free.

The prosperity gospel turns faith into a works-based system and confuses it by adding burdens that people cannot carry. The Pharisees did the same thing when they were manipulating and exploiting people (Luke 11:46). Jesus called them “whitewashed tombs” and “a generation of vipers” for requiring the people to do what they themselves were not willing to do.

The Prosperity Gospel Ruins Christianity’s Witness

To make his point that worship of material possessions is not the mark of his followers, Jesus said, “So therefore, any of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). Yet the prosperity gospel worships material goods—and the world knows it.

The prosperity gospel couldn’t be worse for our Christian witness. Men and women who preach the prosperity gospel on Sunday are laughing all the way to the bank on Monday. The world looks on as these impostors make a mockery of Jesus, the pastoral leaders of the church, and the Bible as the foundation we stand on for teaching.

Unfortunately, many people are leaving the church because of this abuse of power. Christian leaders are expected to be free from the love of money (1 Timothy 3:3), not obsessed with raiding the offering buckets. Christian leaders are expected to care for people as loving, humble shepherds (1 Peter 5:2), not to act as manipulative salesmen. Finally, Christian leaders are expected to use their God-given authority to protect people from deception and boldly steer the church into truth (Hebrews 13:17).

The Prosperity Gospel’s Unbiblical View of Money Abuses Vulnerable People

Money is like a microscope, magnifying the treasure of our heart. Knowing that money would be no small issue for human beings, God gave instructions that help us use and view money the right way. The book of Proverbs is full of wisdom that can save us from health-and-wealth headaches. It tells us wisdom is better than riches (Proverbs 3:13–14), trusting in riches does little good (Proverbs 11:28), money gained by deception doesn’t last (Proverbs 10:2), and it’s better to have little money but keep your integrity (Proverbs 16:8). Beyond Proverbs, the Bible says that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). It is certainly at the root of the prosperity gospel.

The prosperity gospel attracts those who are looking to get rich off people desperate for hope. What these desperate, vulnerable people need is a pastor who will love them, protect them, and give them real hope. Yet prosperity gospel pastors and evangelists are too motivated by money and material gain to care for people. This can be seen in the contrasting lifestyles of the preachers and their followers—private jets, luxury cars, opulent houses, extravagant travel. In fact, this gross inequality was one of the issues that made me rethink my involvement with spreading the prosperity gospel.

Pastors and evangelists are meant to minister and sacrifice.

Pastors and evangelists are meant to minister and sacrifice. They should target vulnerable people to serve their spiritual and physical needs, not to squeeze every dollar out of them in exchange for empty promises.

Taking Action

If the prosperity-gospel Jesus is not the real Jesus, then the prosperity gospel is not the real gospel. Without broad-brushing every person involved in the prosperity gospel, it is no stretch to say that there are millions of false converts who think they are saved but are being deceived (2 Timothy 3:13). That’s why our mission is so vital. The Holy Spirit guides people into truth (John 16:13), but God’s people need to be those who proclaim truth (Romans 10:14–17). He said that knowing the truth brings freedom (John 8:32).

We must expose prosperity gospel preaching and avoid those who preach and partner with it (Romans 10:16–17; Ephesians 4:11–14). We must stand firm against this dangerous false teaching and fight to bring the truth to those whom the prosperity gospel exploits. When we stand on the authority of God’s Word, we may not experience health or wealth here on our fallen earth, but our treasure is laid up in heaven.

Costi W. Hinn holds a masters in theology from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has written several books, including God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel and More Than a Healer. He is founder/president of For the Gospel ministries and is host of the For the Gospel podcast. Costi and his wife, Christyne, have four children.

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