Is prosperity part of the “Good News” announced by the Church of Jesus Christ to the world? That’s a question author Randy Alcorn grapples with in this excerpt from his book, Money, Possessions & Eternity (Tyndale, 2003):
I’ve thought about prosperity theology and Scripture enough to reach a conclusion about what God thinks of it. Although some have tried to justify their prosperity theology by using isolated proof texts, in reality it is the product of the materialistic and success-driven psychology that dominates industrialized nations. The health-and-wealth gospel will thrive in North America, Western Europe, Korea, Japan, Singapore, and other economically progressive countries. But where does it fit in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Laos, Haiti, or Afghanistan? Far from being a reflection of biblical teaching, prosperity theology is a product of our place and time, a reflection of our materialism and self-absorption.
…In America, a sharp-looking businessman stands up at a luncheon to give his testimony: “Before I knew Christ, I had nothing. My business was in bankruptcy, my health was ruined, I’d lost the respect of the community, and I’d almost lost my family. Then I accepted Christ. He took me out of bankruptcy and now my business has tripled its profits. My blood pressure has dropped to normal and I feel better than I’ve felt in years. Best of all, my wife and children have come back, and we’re a family again. God is good–praise the Lord!”
In China, a disheveled former university professor gives his testimony: “Before I met Christ, I had everything. I made a large salary, lived in a nice house, enjoyed good health, was highly respected for my credentials and profession, and had a good marriage and a beautiful son. Then I accepted Christ as my Savior and Lord. As a result, I lost my post at the university, lost my beautiful house and car, and spent five years in prison. Now I work for a subsitence wage at a factory. I live with pain in my neck, which was broken in prison. My wife rejected me because of my conversion. She took my son away and I haven’t seen him for ten years. But God is good, and I praise him for his faithfulness.”
Both men are sincere Christians. One gives thanks because of what he’s gained. The other gives thanks in spite of what he’s lost.
Material blessings and restored families are definitely worth being thankful for. The brother in China would be grateful to have them again; indeed, he gives heartfelt thanks each day for the little he does have. And while the American brother is certainly right to give thanks, he and the rest of us must be careful to sort out how much of what he has experienced is part of the gospel and how much is not. For any gospel that is more true in America than in China is not the true Gospel [pp 89-90, Italics mine].