Throughout most of Church History the spiritual current, especially of the Catholic and Orthodox churches has been that the most spiritual possible lifestyle is to be poor. Keying off of Scriptures like “Blessed are the poor…” and “Sell everything you have and come follow me,” the mindset has been that in order to truly follow Christ you must impoverish yourself. Now, of course, at any given time only a few are willing to do this at one time, and so they are considered the most Spiritual. This promotes a general sense of guilt among the middle class and of pride among the self-impoverished. Moreover, it creates a universal rejection of Earthly wealth for Christians, leaving it to be pursued by either those of other faiths (such as the medieval Jews) or by Christians who do not really believe the Gospel. This promotes a general place of powerlessness for the church, and of “scraping by” for the average person. Ironically, which teaching its people to be poor, the church itself held greater riches than most kings, building increidble edifices to promote itself. The outcome of promoting poverty then, was to have a rich clergy and a poor laity.
In the wake of the great healing revival of the 1940’s and 50’s two things happened. First, the healing crusaders like Oral Roberts and Jack Coe and others had built huge and very costly ministry empires which required a remarkable amount of money was needed. Secondly, the anointing waned on many of these men, depriving them of the power which would both draw people to their services and money to feed the ministry empire. Largely because of these two factors, the doctrine of “Faith” which they had developed with regard to getting people healed began to grow into a doctrine of Wealth. Slowly the ability to get out of a wheelchair was replaced with the promise to get material goods. Instead of “if you have faith, you can be made whole” it was “if you have faith, you can get out of debt.” Now at the time, I believe the shift was subtle, but a generation later, what had happened became clear — the power of God had been traded for money. We live under a system of “prosperity” now, where ministers promise that giving (to them) is the way to wealth, and implicitly that if you do so you will become rich like them. These rich ministers are the ones who had “faith” to get wealth, and by “sowing in” to their ministries you can get the same thing. The great irony again is that this has not produced a race of billionaire Christians, what it has primarily produced is the same exact thing that the old Catholic “poverty mentality” did — rich ministers and poor laymen.
Does this mean that God does not want his children to prosper? By no means. I believe that God desires to give His children great wealth so that we can “make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, and then “they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” (Luke 16:9) In other words, we are given the financial resources to advance His Gospel and reach every living creature. If that is your heart and practice with your wealth, God wants to give you the increase. What these “prosperity” preachers are doing is just the opposite, however. They are taking huge sums of money which otherwise would be putting others into ministry to spread the Gospel and helping those in need and spending it on lives of difficult to imagine luxury. And they feel no pangs of conscience about it because in their system being rich is a sign of being blessed.
Anyone can get rich by telling you that by giving them money, you will get rich. That is what they call a “pyramid scheme” and rightly so. It’s the devil’s method. Take from the many to enrich the few. Real prosperity, then is the business man who uses his God-given talents to bring wealth into the Kingdom. God does not tell such a man he must live on nothing. He tells him that if his heart is in the right place, he’ll want to give greatly to the cause of the Gospel. If you have a business or hold a job, God wants to give you the increase, but it’s not going to come by giving more money to a “prosperity” preacher. It’s going to come by your God given talent, the favor of God on your life, and by giving to reach the ends of the Earth with His message.
We’ve come to a place where we think that having a private jet is a sign of the anointing. It may be a sign of the anointing, but a sign that the anointing has been misused. We need to fear the Lord, because he does not take use of positions in His house for personal gain lightly. This is not unlike the sin of Gehazi. He saw that he could get a couple of talents of silver and some robes from Elisha’s anointing and look where it took him? He became a leper. The sons of Eli thought their spiritual inheritance was best used to gain better portions of meat from the people’s sacrifices. God killed them. It’s amazing how in every reformation of the church from Jesus, to Luther, to our time, that one of the great issues is the abuse of money. I believe the Lord has winked at many in our time because they legitimately believed they were helping the people, but a time is soon coming when He is going to reform the church again.