While finishing up Romans 16 last month, I was struck by Paul’s ending. The next day, when I went to Jude, I was awestruck even more at how the two chapters correlated (specifically the ending of Romans 16 with Jude). Now, Paul has talked about false teachers a bunch in the New Testament, but, there was something in particular that time, and also about Jude, and I knew I had to speak on this topic again (previous post can be found here).
I want to start by saying that many of us who identify as Christian have likely sat under or listened to a false teacher a time or two, or three (some may even be doing so now). I know I’ve listened to some in my infancy and toddler stages. What I realized on “coming out” of it was that those deceivers are extremely crafty, twisting the words of God “just enough” to throw you for a loop. As Paul says, in Romans 16:18, by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve. That is so true (of course!), and I’ll give you an example of how they go about these things, specifically referencing prosperity.
In the Old Testament, we find much wealth, and promises of wealth, among the people of God. King David was wealthy, Solomon, his son, was wealthy, Abraham was wealthy, Jacob and Isaac were wealthy… In passages like Proverbs 10:22, we see that the blessing of the LORD makes rich, and the blessings of obedience laid out in Deuteronomy 28 (e.g., the LORD will make you the head and not the tail). And these “leaders” take these truths and twist them to their advantage and to the flock’s disadvantage. “God doesn’t want His people poor,” they say. “Look at Solomon, David, Abraham,” or, “If you’re poor, it’s because you don’t have enough faith or haven’t sown enough seeds,” and/or, “Read Deuteronomy 28 to see God’s promises of wealth to His followers.”
… And this type of “gospel”—the prosperity “gospel”—isn’t hard to pull over the babe’s head (and some longer-time Christians who don’t have a proper view of God’s Word), because it “seems to be” in line with the Word; it sounds like truth, especially in view of the Scriptures they present.
Nevertheless, these “leaders” (purposely) fail to tell, or make clear, to their followers that those promises were made to the nation of Israel, under the Old Covenant (God now makes us spiritually rich! Cf. Ephesians 1:3). They also fail to point out that not all of the people of God—of the nation of Israel—were endowed with wealth (e.g., Elijah, Moses, Jeremiah, Habakkuk). And they also fail to speak on Jesus’ repetitive warnings of the dangers of riches in the New Testament (the Old as well).
Jesus says, in Matthew 19:24, that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.” He says, in Matthew 6:19-20, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moth and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” In Luke 12:13-21, Jesus calls the rich farmer a fool (wicked, depraved) for laying up treasure on earth (the farmer was self-centered/selfish with his gain) and not being rich toward God (using his wealth to honor God’s purposes in the earth).
Riches, as we see, and chasing riches, can prove disastrous to our souls.
Sisters, life (true life) does not consist in the abundance of possessions (Luke 12:15); life is all about Christ—it’s in Him that we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28), not wealth. Prosperity deceivers mask this truth, a ploy of their father satan, to endanger your soul (no, true Christians cannot lose their salvation, but their souls can be affected by worldly deceit). This is why God doesn’t want us caught up in materialism, or anything of this world. He calls us to be content in Him and the provision that He provides (1 Timothy 6:6-10).
Now, does God give wealth to some believers? Yes. He gives wealth for the blessed person to be rich toward Him, His church, the needy (cf. 1 Timothy 6:17-19). However, it must be understood that this isn’t, or won’t be, the lot for all. Some will, indeed, be poor, unlike what’s taught in modern-day society. Jesus says, in Matthew 26:11, that “the poor you will always have with you,” and in James 2:5, He commands the poor to be “rich in faith.” (Note: not all are poor because it’s their lot from God. Some are poor because of their slack hand – see Proverbs 10:4.)
This, dear friends, is the true message of Christ.
Sure, the riches promised by the prosperity teachers (as a “supposed” mandate of God) may tickle your ears and excite your flesh, but it is destructive, and is by no means a promise of God to His people today.
That said, make it a point this year (and beyond) to:
1) read your Bible thoroughly, using proper/godly study materials to help you accordingly;
2) be diligent in guarding your gates. Follow the Holy Spirit’s leading always, especially when seeking out new pastors (possibly even about your current pastor), podcasts, blogs, etc.; and
3 [the key] pursue Christ in all His fullness! In your full-on pursuit of Him (studying His Word, praying, fasting, assembling with other believers who are in pursuit of Him), your mind will be changed/renewed drastically, making you less and less (and less!) susceptible to the worldly/false “gospel” abounding today.
If you do these things diligently, sisters, from a sincere heart, you will no longer be sucked in by vipers who are in opposition to God’s Word, and wholeheartedly enwrapped in Christ.