I’ve shared before my experience with prosperity “gospel” teaching. Early on in my Christian life I swallowed it whole. I woke up with TBN on in my house and I went to bed with folks like Benny Hinn preaching to me. I drank the Kool-aid they stirred. I smoked everything they rolled up for me.
Not all of it was killing my soul.
Consider these recent tweets by Joel Osteen. Statements of this sort pepper the speech of TBN throughout each day:
What I learned from prosperity teachers is that God is a really big God that can do anything…so long as we _______.
Such a belief of course is necessary to prosperity teaching. God must be big in order for prosperity teaching to work. Believing that He can turn my $20 seed of faith into a down-payment for a house requires a God that is able to do anything. It requires a God that is able to “call into existence the things that do not exist”.
The second half of that statement is equally important. God is a really big God that can do anything—but in order to get Him to act it requires our faith or our words. Yeah, God can turn twenty bucks into 2,000. But He will only do that if we put that twenty into the pocket of our favorite prosperity teachers tailor made suit coat.
Eventually I dropped the second half of that statement. That is the part that is untrue. The first part, however, that God is really big and can do anything is absolutely true. It was through prosperity teaching that I learned that God was big and can do anything.
What do we learn from this?
Some might take this and say, “see prosperity teachers aren’t all bad! We ought to thank God for them.” I partially agree. I agree that in as much as they do faithfully proclaim Christ I’m grateful that the gospel is preached. I also don’t believe they are all bad. Some of them have really nice hair, probably love their mothers, can teach really well, might even be good leaders, and stand for many biblical principles.
Yet, I still believe they are deadly. Satan parades around as an angel of light and so do many of these false teachers. Rather than thanking them for preaching a half truth I believe the lesson here is that we ought to thank God for being powerful enough to shine the light of Christ through substantial error. His Spirit is powerful enough to bring us through even the most shoddy of teaching.
That’s comforting for teachers too. I want to be as faithful as I possibly can in presenting the gospel. But I also know that the tongue is a fire and I’m not totally redeemed in either my theology or my heart. I agree with Craig Blomberg, “sooner or later every teacher will do damage.” That’s heart wrenching. But it’s also good to know that the Lord leads people through our errors. God can speak through donkeys, and that means He can probably speak through me.
It is also encouraging to know that God can use everything—even a season sitting under rotten teaching for His glory and our good. I’m glad that the false god of the prosperity teachers is subservient to Almighty God that can use anything to serve His sovereign purpose.
May we press on in being faithful teachers and thank God that He is more than able to bring us into full maturity.