Where do we find the prosperity Gospel?

Joel Olsteen. Name it and claim it.  The prosperity Gospel is popular on television and building mega-churches.

In your observation, how prevalent is it?  How far has the infection spread?  Have you heard it preached in unexpected environments?  

Your comments about its spread, what the future holds, and how it insidiously creeps in to even good churches is appreciated.

Ideas on combating it also appreciated.


The prosperity Gospel is big among evangelicals, but the majority of evangelicals reject it.
19% (3 votes)
The prosperity Gospel is accepted by the majority of evangelicals in the world, but not the majority in the U.S.
13% (2 votes)
The prosperity Gospel is in the majority in both the world and the U.S. among evangelicals.
6% (1 vote)
The prosperity Gospel is in the the majority of evangelical churches and often preached in even fundamental churches.
31% (5 votes)
31% (5 votes)
Total votes: 16
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Aaron Blumer's picture

Had to go with other because I just don't know. Would like to know, though. Does anyone know if Barna or LifeWay etc. have made any kind of effort to measure that?

It would need to be clearly defined. There are values problems across the board in evangelical and fundamental churches but the prosperity gospel is more than that. A good definition would have to at least include active or passive communication that faith in Christ is mostly about living a more prosperous and successful life now, vs. turning from sin, trusting in the all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ, and embracing a life of service to Him as Lord.

Ron Bean's picture

A lot of us have bought into something that looks like a modified prosperity Gospel. Think of the Christian movies (films), plays, and fictional stories where the main character gets saved or right with God and everything in their life gets better. They get a job if they were unemployed, they get better if they were sick, their family is restored if it was fractured, they win the big game against the odds, or they go from alcoholism/addiction to sobriety in days. Tangible prosperity results from a spiritual decision.

We love those stories and their implications. Case in point, a few years ago I wrote a short Christmas play where the unemployed father of a poor family hears the Gospel and receives Christ but doesn't get a job or money or food for Christmas dinner. While it ends with him rejoicing that his sins have been forgiven, I was told to to re-write the ending because it needed to be more positive. (I didn't.)

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Mark_Smith's picture

I personally follow Jesus' view on this:

Matthew 6:30-33

30 If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you—you of little faith? 31 So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the idolaters[a]eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.

josh p's picture

Hard to define because “Evangelical” is also hard to define. I went with most based on reports about the third world from missionaries as well as the kind of incipient-prosperity gospel that Ron describes. See most Christian movies as an example. 

Ed Vasicek's picture

Ron, your point is well taken.

As you mentioned, what you are talk about is only part way toward prosperity theology. 

This simplistic, happily-ever after approach you mentioned is more along the lines of the myth, "what He has done for others, he will do for you." That, of course, is simply not true.  Some people have experience conversion, instant freedom from alcohol and cigarette addiction, and found jobs.  But not all or most.

In those instances, there is not promise of "prosperity," or continued health.  

The common thread, however, is denial of typical reality and a man-centered, rather than God-centered, theology.

Where I do find a hint of Prosperity Theology is in the Book of Job.  His "counselors"  seemed to think that things prospered and life was plain sailing if one walked with God and headed South when one did not.


"The Midrash Detective"

Ed Vasicek's picture

Here is the Wikipedia definition:

Prosperity theology (sometimes referred to as the prosperity gospel, the health and wealth gospel, or the gospel of success)[A] is a religious belief among some Christians, who hold that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for them, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one's material wealth. Prosperity theology views the Bible as a contract between God and humans: if humans have faith in God, he will deliver security and prosperity.

The doctrine emphasizes the importance of personal empowerment, proposing that it is God's will for his people to be happy. The atonement (reconciliation with God) is interpreted to include the alleviation of sickness and poverty, which are viewed as curses to be broken by faith. This is believed to be achieved through donations of money, visualization, and positive confession.

"The Midrash Detective"

Bert Perry's picture

How many of us have heard Psalm 37:25 preached in a way that would seem familiar to Osteen and Jakes?

I would dare suggest that the prosperity "gospel" can be seen wherever passages like Psalm 37 are not understood in the light of the plight of Job, the deaths of most of the Apostles, and the Cross.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ron Bean's picture

But I thought that "God so loved the world that He have His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should be healthy, wealthy and wise and all their problems will be solved." (SMILE)

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Rob Fall's picture

In many ways, the "Puritan Ethic" laid the groundwork for the Prosperity Gospel.

Hoping to shed more light than heat..

Mark_Smith's picture

If you read Matthew 6:30-33 and seek the kingdom of God and his righteous, did Jesus REALLY MEAN that he would make sure you had food, drink, and clothing? Could add a few more modern things given the differences between the modern world and life in the first century, and EXPECT GOD to provide them if we seek after him?

Bert Perry's picture

Mark, I'd simply note that it is at its heart about the necessities of life, and is to be understood in light of other passages noting the consequences of God's discipline and judgment. We might also add--remember Pilgrims starving under socialism--that God's promise of provision seems to be somewhat contingent on our obedience.

So when we view things in context and history, I don't think we can interpret Matthew 6:30-33 as even basic provision (at least seeking His kingdom in work is required!), let alone luxuries of modern life.  

One might infer that where you find convenient looking verses and prooftexting, you will have abuses like prosperity theology which neglect the greater context.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Read 1 Peter, very carefully, along with the Book of Job. Then tell me about the prosperity gospel. Then, read Ignatius' letters.

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Ed Vasicek's picture

The question about Matthew 6:30-33 is akin to many questions about the Sermon on the Mount.  To put it simply, is this a promise or a principle?  How do you know which it is?

Faithful Christians have and do starve to death along with the others in famine-stricken areas.

Much of the Sermon on the Mount uses the "hot and cold" technique of the rabbis -- presenting the extremes and leaving out the middle. 

If taken as a principle, though, the teaching would be to prioritize your relationship with God above other things, and then He will help you in the other realms of life.

"The Midrash Detective"