a bankrupt gospel: the lies of prosperity theology

What is the prosperity gospel? 

The prosperity gospel, otherwise known as the Word of Faith Movement, or “name-it and claim-it” gospel, is a false gospel that is rooted in New Thought ideology. It is led by who many consider the fathers of the movement, Kenneth Hagin and Oral Roberts, and popularized by mainstream preachers such as Kenneth Copeland, Benny Hinn and Joel Osteen. This doctrine is a false teaching which prioritizes an Americanized version of prosperity and human flourishing. Fixed on the pillars of faith, health, wealth, and success, the prosperity gospel claims that Jesus’ atoning work on the cross, in addition to forgiveness of sin, also provides for the believer the promise of good health, abundant riches, and success in this present lifetime if one just has faith. Many prosperity teachers will hold claim to central Christian tenets, yet, in practice and in preaching, the focus of Jesus and the cross are side characters, if not entirely neglected. Primary attention is placed on the four pillars previously mentioned while the centrality of the gospel is shifted away from Jesus Christ to humanity and our fleshly desires.


Flagrant Errors of this Theology

Over-complicating Faith

In prosperity theology, faith is not understood to be what biblical faith is, a “trust in the person of Jesus Christ, the truth of His teaching, and the redemptive work He accomplished at Calvary.” Instead, faith is interpreted as a law or spiritual force, a “power to actualize reality” through strong belief, positive thinking, and positive confession. Much like the new age teaching of manifestation or the law of attraction, faith, according to prosperity teachers, is a law God must submit to. With the right kind of belief, accompanied by a faith action such as a seed-offering or right confession, the believer can have anything they desire, whether that be for the healing of an individual or a new Louis Vuitton bag. However, Faith is not a force and it is not a law. God is not bound to any act of human will to “respond” to us. He shows mercy to whom He wills (Rom 9:18) and He does whatever pleases Him (Psalm 115:3). Our faith (trust in Christ) only has meaning because of who our faith is placed in, the all-powerful God. It is for this reason faith as small as a mustard seed can move a mountain. Not because faith is anything, but because God is everything.


Misunderstanding of the Abrahamic Covenant

Prosperity teachers primarily base their “right” to decree and declare things from God from the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen 12:1-3) which we know find their fulfillment in Christ (Gal 3:6-9, 14). The logic of prosperity theology goes as follows: “since believers are children of Abraham and inheritors of the promise through Christ’s death on the cross, we too get to share in the manifold material blessings of Abraham stated in Genesis, as part of salvation”. The error in this interpretation of Abraham’s covenant is two-fold. First, prosperity teachers interpret themselves and their biases into scripture. Although the Bible is written for believer’s in the 21st century, it is not written to us, thus simply placing ourselves in the stories of scripture is not biblically sound. The material blessings promised to Abraham were for exactly that…Abraham. Now, a true reading of Genesis 12:3 will allow us to understand that God was going to use His promise to Abraham to bless all other nations with salvation because of the future work of Jesus at the cross. Additionally, Paul clarifies it is the blessing of faith for salvation that he is discussing within the context of Galatians. He is contrasting the old law of works and the new law that saves us, faith. This interpretation error is merely another means for prosperity teachers to sneak the love and priority of money into the gospel by emphasizing material blessings.


Over-Realized Eschatology & Misunderstanding the Atonement

Eschatology is the study in Christian theology that deals with the future coming of Christ and particularly the future destiny of all creation. Prosperity preachers will misinterpret these ideas and confuse the promises God gives to His children. In other words, the promises that Jesus makes about His second coming such as a future freedom from pain, sickness, and poverty (Rev 21:4), are also taught to be for now. Coupled with their belief that Christ’s atonement secures divine health, wealth and success, prosperity teachers teach and act as though health, wealth, and success are the “right” of the believer today that must be “claimed” in faith. However, it is clear from scripture that although God’s kingdom is already here (Luke 10:1), there is an element to the kingdom of God that we must wait to experience upon His return. The kingdom of God is as many theologian’s state, “already but not yet”. It simply means we can know God’s kingdom now but it’s fullness will also be revealed later (John 18:36).


As it pertains to the atonement, Christ came to atone for one thing, the penalty of sin. Prosperity teachers will use verses like Isaiah 53:4-5 or 2 Corinthians 8:9 to claim Christ died for healing and riches. However, the context of each verse shows us something completely different. Isaiah is making commentary of Israel’s sin, using the word “sickness” to describe sin, and Paul is using Christ’s death as an example of ultimate generosity. Prosperity theology attempts to extract conclusions and promises that are not evident in the text when studied correctly.



Arguably the most evident error that most prosperity teachers and followers commit is the act of proof-texting. Proof texting is the practice of selecting singular verses from the Bible (out of context) in order to prove a theological position. Proof-texting in many respects is another form of flawed Bible interpretation in which a person reads their own biases into the text. The unfortunate reality of many who are deceived by this theology is most do not know the Bible as a whole but rather in small pieces. They have only gathered a few verses that prove their point and dismiss a large number of passages that threaten their position. In the end, a vast majority of church congregants are misled into believing something about God and His gospel that simply isn’t true.

Dissecting Through the Prosperity Gospel

As all deceptions are, due to the subtle grains of truth the false teachers preach, discerning if someone is teaching the prosperity gospel can be difficult. Here are 3 tools one can use to guard against the lie that is the prosperity gospel.


Study the Scriptures

When Paul and Silas preached the true Gospel, it was the Bereans that went to the scriptures to verify whether or not what they were being taught was true (Acts 17:11). Knowing the truth is the best way to discern when a lie is being told, especially as it relates to false teaching. Study God’s word (2 Tim 2:15) and test all things (1 John 4:1). Don’t believe the lies of false teachers, simply because they are shrewd speakers, perform good deeds, and make claims of doing the miraculous or receiving divine revelation (2 Cor 11:12-15, Matt 24:24, 2 Peter 2:3). Let the Bible, accompanied by the Holy Spirit in our lives, be the filter for whether something is true or not.


See Self-Centeredness

The true gospel is about the selfless act of God to die on the cross for sinners (Rom 5:8), not about the elevation of humanity’s success or greatness. A distinct feature of the prosperity gospel and often their teachers, is a pride and selfishness regarding humanity. Tell-tale signs of the prosperity gospel being taught is when humanity, and our lustful desires, becomes the centerpiece of the faith and Christ is an afterthought or neglected entirely (2 Peter 2:1-2,18-22, Matt 7:15-20, 1 Tim 6:1-10). When listening to a preacher or follower of prosperity theology, notice: are the messages mostly about how God provides earthly benefits for people? Do the blessings of God become the emphasis when discussing obedience or serving God well? Are subjects like repentance or holy living barely mentioned, or only in relation to how one might be blessed from it? Is the preacher leading you to think that you possess god-like powers to manifest things into existence? If the answer is yes to questions like these, you are likely dealing with the prosperity gospel.



In speaking of the last days, Paul outlines that many people will not desire sound doctrine, but instead, find teachers who speak on things that are attractive to their ears and speak to their desires (2 Tim 4:1-5). All sin and temptation ultimately derive itself from inner human desires (James 1:17-18), and thus, if there is an unhealthy desire within us for money, health and success, we will be more susceptible to the lie of the prosperity gospel. As David did, we must ask the Holy Spirit to reveal in us anything that is not like Christ (Psalm 139:23-24), and study God’s word which penetrates to the core of us and sanctifies our hearts (Heb 4:12). In this we can safeguard ourselves from the lies of prosperity theology.


Reaching Loved Ones Stuck in Prosperity Theology

Here are some tips you can use to draw your loved ones to the truth.



It is ultimately God who does the saving work, we are merely vessels He uses. We know it is God’s will that all might be saved, thus we can pray with confidence knowing that God hears us (1 John 5:14-15). Pray for God to soften the heart of your loved one to reach them. Pray for strength to be a good advocate for Christ and not succumb to frustration. Pray throughout the process, it is the greatest tool we have.


Preach the Truth in Love

It is very easy in conversations about Christ to neglect the truth for the sake of sparing our loved one’s feelings. In a sense, we struggle with being both loving and caring while also remaining truthful. Both love and truth are necessary in conversations like these. Be wise and yet full of grace (Col 4:6), remembering that whoever you are speaking to is loved by God and most of the time, a victim of lies. Know that if you do not have love in the midst of your truth, what you are saying is meaningless (1 Cor 13:2). The point of these conversations is not to be right; it is to reveal the truth of God’s love.


Provide Resources

Be prepared to answer those questions, provide resources, and offer your time to support them as they discover the truth. This will require you to study God’s word in order to offer the information. Additionally, there is plenty of resources online by teachers like Costi Hinn, who offer great breakdowns of what the Bible really says on prosperity, health and wealth. Take some time to research others who have done great work in exposing the lies of the prosperity gospel.


Be Patient

Often, escaping from a lie is a marathon not a race. Don’t give up on your loved one simply because they may reject what you are sharing. Be patient in time and in your demeanour. Be patient the way God is patient with his creation regarding salvation (2 Peter 3:9-13). I promise you; it will be worth the wait!



For all the luxury and comfort the prosperity gospel promises, it is ultimately a bankrupt gospel that will leave you and those you know spiritual broken. It is a cheap imitation of the true inheritance of salvation that will never decay or spoil. As disciples of Jesus Christ it is our duty to correct this teaching and preach the true Gospel. Consider how you might contribute to the effort of spreading the true gospel. Seek the Lord for where He may be calling you or what He may be asking of you. We pray that Jesus, Himself may equip you today with the fullness of grace and truth to take a stand for the true gospel and to proclaim it boldly wherever you go. 

Written by: Darius James, May 2024