Thursday, July 11, 2019

Prosperity for All

When I was a young Christian the so-called “Prosperity Gospel” was relatively new and restricted to the fringes of the Charismatic Movement. When I first heard of it in the early 1970s my reaction was, “Well, this will never last. How dumb do these prosperity preachers think we are?” It just goes to show how reliable my prophetic instincts are. If only I had known about "blood moon" cycles back then, but that is another story.
     Today the Prosperity Gospel defines the “Charismatic Movement,” which I must enclose in quotation marks this point since it has become a far different beast than it was fifty years ago. Has God already written "Ichabod" over that group's door?
     Many of the older charlatans like, say, Kenneth Copeland and Jesse Duplantis, are still successfully peddling their wares. Meanwhile, one of the rising stars of the next generation of “Charismatic” merchandisers (Paula White) supposedly is the “spiritual advisor” to the White House. Say it isn’t so, Mr. Trump!
     Perhaps, God in His righteous indignation at the secularists, liberals, Democrats, Muslims, socialists, gays, lesbians, immigrants and others Evangelicals love to hate has placed her there to hasten the economic downfall of our wayward country. Mr. President, surrounding yourself with overdressed con artists and liars is not the way to assure your reelection!
     I don’t care how much personal wealth prosperity preachers rake in; they have their reward, the very thing for which they lust. But it is the “meat that perishes” and will only last a few short years. I fear for them for God is just. His judgment may linger as He mercifully allows them time to repent. But He is also concerned over the fate of His children and cannot stand by forever while wolves in sheeps' clothing plunder His flock of God.
     The most infamous case of the 1980s was the downfall of Jim Bakker. The Feds went after him with a vengeance for defrauding his contributors which resulted in a stiff prison sentence. Mr. Bakker suffered the loss of wealth, fame, reputation, ministry, and of his marriage. Reportedly, while in prison, he saw the light and repented of his abusive ways.
    Mr. Bakker got a second chance. He received an early release after which he published the appropriately titled book, I Was Wrong. In it, he detailed the lessons he had learned in a very hard way. Yet today he is back to old tricks, only now he uses fear rather than greed for his sales mechanism, hawking survivalist products to gullible Christians with warnings about imminent apocalyptic doom. Well, with one of his ilk whispering into the President's ear, maybe his "sky is falling" routine is not totally off the mark.
     No, the real concern is the hurt being done to Christians and the harm to the cause of Christ. The prosperity preachers proclaim another gospel and a different Jesus. They do not serve the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” but the false god, Mammon.  How many sinners’ hearts have been turned from the true gospel after watching the infantile shenanigans of a Jesse Duplantis or Christians sending money in response to Kenneth Copeland’s self-serving con?
     None of this should come as a surprise, though the “success” of the Prosperity Gospel certainly surprised me. I may have overestimated the intelligence of fellow Christians but far more likely I underestimated the ability of Satan to deceive. He is a much cleverer fellow than I sometimes give him credit.
     In the end, we will discover the prosperity preachers are among the most deceived of all. They need our prayers. But the Apostle Paul did warn us more than once about coming deceivers teaching  “doctrines of demons” with which to scratch our itching ears. Did he not warn the Thessalonians that the “day of the Lord” would not come unless first there comes a “falling away?”
     Unfortunately, wittingly or not, apostasy and the corruption of the gospel of Jesus Christ is precisely what the Prosperity Gospel and its proponents have achieved. This is by no means that only deception making the rounds today but it is one that has forever changed the “Charismatic Movement,” and not in a good way. It no longer is "Charismatic" in any biblical sense. Is it even Christian anymore?


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