Is the Prosperity Gospel Financial Heresy?

October 5, 2008 by  
Filed under Economics, Money and Behavior

Mr. ToughMoneyLove tends to avoid mixing religion and personal finance for a variety of reasons.  However, I am going to make a very brief exception to that policy this Sunday.

This week Time ran a story on the possible role of the “prosperity gospel” in the sub-prime mortgage mess that has played a significant role in the current economic crisis. I certainly don’t agree with the premise that God should be blamed for what has happened.  But the article makes an interesting anecdotal review of how believers in the prosperity gospel could be led to accept that divine intervention would prevail over their lack of financial resources.  According to the prosperity preacher, that belief is enough to put the believer in a home he or she cannot afford.  I think we can all agree that there is no logic to that belief.  On the other hand, religion is based on faith, not logic.

I submit that are two hard truth takeaways from this story.  First, the “prosperity gospel” is really intended to bring economic prosperity to those who preach it, not to those who listen to it.  Second, an all too common rationalization offered by broke people when they make yet another discretionary purchase is that they “deserve” that car or gadget or vacation.  The prosperity gospel reinforces that misguided rationalization and gives it another dimension.  Just as I believe that poor people are not being punished by God, I also believe that wealth on earth is not bestowed based on spiritual merit.

What do you think about the prosperity gospel as a contributor to current economic conditions?

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3 Responses to “Is the Prosperity Gospel Financial Heresy?”
  1. PT says:

    I think there is some truth to the prosperity message taught in Christian churches (at least the passages referenced are biblical), but like anything, it can be warped and taken to the extreme. Which is what some pastors/churches have done to their benefit, like you say.

    Yes, I think it helped contribute. Like you say, it helped to contribute to the notion that people “deserve” something just because.

    But thinking you deserve something and getting it unjustly are two different things. The lenders never should have extended credit to those who traditionally weren’t deserving.

  2. pit says:

    The people I know who subscribe to the “prosperity gospel” believe that being prosperous is God’s stamp of approval on their lives. They believe that the poor are the way they are because of being mentally retarded, drug use or just plain lazy or incapable of making good decisions. They will not admit to any adverse situation in their life because it would reflect badly on them and be proof that God was withholding his blessing on them because they were doing the wrong things or not doing the right things in the eyes of God. They feel compelled to look prosperous and in good health even if that isn’t so.

  3. Pit – I have not been in the audience when the Prosperity Gospel has been preached although I have seen it on TV. What you describe is so sad and so contrary to scripture.

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