Does God want us to be rich?
A dangerous doctrine is afoot in some sectors of Christianity and is beginning to choke out the very heart of the Gospel. Those who adhere to this new doctrine suggest that God wants all his children to be independently, materialistically wealthy. This has become such a common teaching among certain Christian groups that it made the cover of Time magazine a few weeks ago.
What we are witnessing is the strange and seemingly impossible union of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and western materialism. According to Webster, materialism is, “a doctrine that the only or the highest values or objectives lie in material well-being and in the furtherance of material progress.” However, the Gospel of Jesus Christ places the highest value on the eternal, such as the Kingdom of God and the human soul. In Mark 8:36 Jesus asks, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” In Matthew 6:19-20 Jesus tells us not to store up treasure on earth, but to store up treasure in heaven, and then in verse 24 says, “You cannot serve God and wealth.” However, the new teachers, with their Rolex watches and million-dollar mansions, say that we can have both.
In this teaching the focus has shifted from Christ being the savior of the sinner to Christ being the conduit of material blessings. This teaching makes man sovereign and God our servant by suggesting that God cannot do anything on his own unless our faith releases Him to work. In other words, if we muster enough faith to claim material wealth, God is obligated to respond to our faith and give us what we want (it makes one wonder how He got this whole universe started without us). However, the Scriptures become the great corrective for this kind of thinking: “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:3) Paul, writing to Timothy, says, “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Timothy 6:9-10) Peter also warns of false teachers who will exploit people by their greed and whose teachings will give all Christianity a bad name (2 Peter 2:1-3). The Scriptures are full of warnings against this so-called “prosperity gospel”.
Billy Elkins is the pastor of Trinity Church of Chickasha, OK. He is a graduate of Chickasha High School, has a B.A. in Fine Art from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, and a Master of Divinity with Biblical Languages from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, FT. Worth, TX. He is currently in the final dissertation phase of a Ph.D. in Apologetics and Philosophy from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, KY.