THE WORD-FAITH MOVEMENT
WOLVES IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING
By: Victor T. Stephens
"For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears." (Acts 20:29-31)
Confession and Wealth (Continued)
Analysis of 3 John 1:2
Citing 3 John 1:2, Word-Faith teachers argue that this verse presents concrete proof of God's desire for Christians to be financially prosperous. Rebutting their "proof" ... firstly, the word "I" is referring to John, not God.
Secondly, the word "prosper" in this verse is not referring to material wealth. If we examine "prosper" in the Greek (euodoo), it will be discovered that it is a progressive word composed of two root words --- "eu" meaning "good" or "well done" and "hodos" meaning "road" or "progress in a long journey, to help on the long road, to succeed in reaching, an act in traveling a great distance."
What we have here is John, writing a letter to his good friend (Gaius), giving a customary greeting and wishing him well in life, body and soul. John's greeting is very similar to the valedictions of the character, "Spock", in the great classic sci-fi series, "Star Trek"; when during his departures he would state to his closest friends, "Live long and prosper."
Thus, the Greek word "prosper" in this context does not co-ordinate with the narrower definition of "prosperity" imposed by Word-Faith teachers. Rather, it simply means "to go well with someone." In fact, the NIV translation correctly reflects this idea in its rendering of 3 John 1:2
‘Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.’ (3 John 1:2, NIV)
"In biblical times the wish for 'things to go well,' along with the wish for 'good health,' was a standard form of greeting. Financial prosperity is completely foreign to both this ancient greeting and 3 John 1:2."
(Geisler, N.L., & Rhoades, "When Cultists Ask: A Popular Handbook On Cultic Misinterpretations.")
An example of a stratagem practiced by Word-Faith teachers as it relates to 3 John 1:2 involves sharing accounts of Christians who suddenly experienced miraculous debt reduction. It is common for many Word-Faith teachers to give testimony about someone who owed money to a certain finance company and then received a letter stating that he/she had a zero dollar balance. Stories such as this are rooted in psychological manipulation; deceiving congregants into believing that the Word-Faith teachers' prosperity doctrine is a means to debt free living.
This author will not speculate on the veracity of their testimonies. However, if such incidents occurred, it should be realized that these were clerical errors on part of the finance companies ... errors that could conceivably result in the termination of the people (possibly fellow believers) responsible for such miscalculations. Lawyers term these mishaps as "unjust enrichment". Failing to offer correction for the intent of financial gain are self-serving and contemptible acts. This does not please God; and such stories should render a glimmering tip-off of the corrupt nature of prosperity teachers. A true man or woman of God should manage these oversights with integrity; informing the finance clerks of the mistake; and possibly saving the person's job. Now...that pleases God!
A Refutation By 1 Timothy 6:3-10
Let’s now examine the first Book of Timothy and find out what it has to say about the Word-Faith teachers' prosperity gospel, as well as the true definition of riches.
"If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself. Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." (1 Tim. 6:3-10)
Here we have it! The First Book of Timothy is a clear and concise refutation to the prosperity doctrine. Let's take note of the following crucial points regarding those who teach that godliness is a means to financial gain; as well the true definition of biblical prosperity:
1. They are conceited. (Have you noticed their arrogance? They call it confidence.)
2. They know nothing. (The blind leading the blind) [Matt. 15:14; Mark 7:7-9; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; 2 Peter 2:1-3]
3. They are men of corrupt minds who lack truth. (They distort the truth and dislike correction) [2 Tim. 4:3-4]
4. They are greedy and believe that godliness is a source of financial gain. [2 Cor. 2:17]
5. We should not have fellowship with them.
6. True riches are godliness coupled with contentment. [Heb. 13:5]
7. The Bible states that we should be content with food and clothing (basic living essentials). Contentment according to Word-Faith teachers consist of large bank accounts, expensive homes, luxury cars, aircraft, jewelry, etc.
8. The strong temptation of greed will cause them to fall into a snare (trap). In a manner similar to drug addiction, Word-Faith teachers will defend and hold on to their false doctrine despite the clear evidence which refutes their position.
In summation of 1 Tim. 6:3-10: From God's perspective, true gain (prosperity) is attained when one lives a godly life and becomes content with their material possessions. Granted there are a number of Christians who have been blessed with much money and other material resources; however, this is not the state or criteria one must reach to be recognized as prosperous by biblical terms.
God's Word alludes to believers who were materially poor, as well as those who were materially rich. Thus, we cannot offer poverty or wealth as an absolute prescriptive pertaining to godliness. To do otherwise would lead to an out of context and unbalanced view of the Bible. Paul exemplified a more balanced viewpoint. In Philippians 4:11-13, he states:
"Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Phil. 4:11-13)
In the Book of Proverbs it states:
"Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread." (Proverbs 30:8)
In their greed, Word-Faith teachers have used the Bible to focus on men who were wealthy while concurrently ignoring scriptures which clearly illustrate that some believers were poor. Then they "cherry pick" other portions of Scripture and mold them in a manner which suits their self-indulgent agenda ... and that is to fleece the flock.
In order to conceal their lust for money, Word-Faith teachers assert that "prosperity is more than just money and wealth." They claim that "prosperity" also means having a happy godly marriage, happy godly children, divine health, etc.
It has already been proven that the Word-Faith teachers' divine health theology has no biblical basis. In regard to a sound and healthy family life, there is no doubt that if Christians apply biblical principles to the lives of their families, there will be many beneficial results. However, this does not mean there is a guarantee that we will not suffer hardships and tribulations within our family structure.
Furthermore, redirecting to biblical principles which form healthy family relationships does not signify that the scriptures Word-Faith proponents employ pertaining to financial prosperity are being used in proper context. That is nothing more than cleverly mixing lies with the truth in order to make the lies appear believable. Satan has been using this trick since he duped Eve near the time of creation. Clearly, his tactics have not changed.
In any case, it should be unmistakable that today's prosperity gospel is a doctrine which Christ would strongly reject. While it is true that some believers have been conditioned to accept poverty, this does not support the justification to develop a doctrine which is not biblically sound.