Prosperity Gospel

prosperity gospel false teacher kenneth copeland

The prosperity gospel teaches that God always wants you to be healthy, wealthy, happy and that your words have power, also know as “positive confession”.  While this may sound great, it couldn’t be further from what scripture teaches.

The “Prosperity Gospel” or “Word of Faith” is a movement that has grown out of the Charismatic movement.  Proponents of this teaching are well known “pastors” (I use this term very loosely) such as Joyce Meyers, T.D. Jakes, Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, Steven Furtick, Hillsong, and Bill Johnson of Bethel Redding (Jesus Culture).  Please note that this list is not all inclusive.

The prosperity gospel teaches that God always wants you to be healthy, wealthy, happy and that your words have power, also know as “positive confession”.  While this may sound great, it couldn’t be further from what scripture teaches.

There are five major theological errors that the prosperity gospel teaches.  I’ll try to keep these brief, but I can’t make any promises 😉

  1. The Abrahamic covenant applies to New Testament believers and is meant as a means to material gain and entitlement.The prosperity gospel teaches: The prosperity gospel teaches that the primary purpose of the Abrahamic covenant was for God to bless Abraham materially. Since believers are now Abraham’s spiritual children, we have inherited these financial blessings. As Kenneth Copeland wrote in his 1974 book The Laws of Prosperity,

    “Since God’s covenant has been established and prosperity is a provision of this covenant, you need to realize that prosperity belongs to you now!”

    The Bible teaches: The primary “proof text” that the prosperity teachers use is Galatians [3:14], which refers to “the blessings of Abraham [that] come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus.”  If we read this verse in context, really just the second part of the same verse, we see that the Apostle Paul is reminding the Galatians of the spiritual blessing of salvation, not any material blessing or promise of wealth.

    (Galatians [3:14]) “in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.” (emphasis added)

  2. Jesus’s work on the cross extends to the “sin” of material poverty.The prosperity gospel teaches: Kenneth Copeland has said that “the basic principle of the Christian life is to know that God put our sin, sickness, disease, sorrow, grief, and poverty on Jesus at Calvary.”  This belief stems from a theological error that claims that physical healing and financial prosperity were provided for in the atoning work of Jesus on the cross.The Bible teaches: Christ was not interested in people finding, or even looking for material gain.  He came to “seek and save that which was lost” (Luke [19:10]).Here are the two major errors that prosperity teachers make:

    “First, many who espouse prosperity theology have a fundamental misconception of the life of Jesus. For example, teacher John Avanzini proclaimed on a TBN program, Jesus had “a nice house,” “a big house,” “Jesus was handling big money,” and he even “wore designer clothes.” It’s easy to see how such a warped view of the life of Christ could lead to an equally warped misconception of the death of Christ.” -David W. Jones

    Jones goes on to say, “A second error that leads to a faulty view of the atonement is a misinterpretation of 2 Corinthians 8:9, which reads, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich.” While a shallow reading of this verse may lead one to believe Paul was teaching about an increase in material wealth, a contextual reading reveals Paul was actually teaching the exact opposite principle. Indeed, Paul was teaching the Corinthians that since Christ accomplished so much for them through the atonement, they should empty themselves of their riches in service of the Savior. This is why just five short verses later Paul would urge the Corinthians to give their wealth away to their needy brothers, writing “that now at this time your abundance may supply their lack” (2 Cor. [8:14]).”

  3. Christians must give in order to gain a material “kickback” from God.The prosperity gospel teaches: Prosperity teacher Robert Tilton referred to this idea as the “Law of Compensation.”  This “law” is supposedly based on Mark [10:30] and says that Christians need to give generously to others because when they do, God will give them more in return.  This is supposed to lead to a cycle of ever-increasing prosperity.  Kenneth Copeland said in his book The Laws of Prosperity, “True prosperity is the ability to use God’s power to meet the needs of mankind in any realm of life.”  Ken’s wife Gloria said in her book God’s will is Prosperity, “We have been called to finance the gospel to the world.”  Gloria defines her idea of what this means in her book God’s Will p. 54 when she says this, “Give $10 and receive $1,000; give $1,000 and receive $100,000…in short, Mark [10:30] is a very good deal.”  Yikes!With this in view, it’s not hard to see their real motivations.  Especially since Mr. Copeland owns his own jet.The Bible teaches: Jesus taught in the parable of The Good Samaritan to give seeking nothing in return (Luke [10:30]-37).  And to the rich young ruler in Mark [10:21] Jesus taught that our affections must be on Him, not material possessions.
  4. Faith is a self-generated spiritual force that leads to prosperity.The prosperity gospel teaches:

    “According to prosperity theology, faith is not a God-granted, God-centered act of the will. Rather it is a humanly wrought spiritual force, directed at God. Indeed, any theology that views faith solely as a means to material gain rather than justification before God must be judged faulty and inadequate.” -David W. Jones

    In his book, The Laws of Prosperity p.19 Kenneth Copeland writes,  “Faith is a spiritual force, a spiritual energy, a spiritual power. It is this force of faith which makes the laws of the spirit world function. . . . There are certain laws governing prosperity revealed in God’s Word. Faith causes them to function.”

    The Bible teaches: Faith is trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches that grace and faith are a gift from God and the purpose is to save the lost from their sin.  Faith is not exercised by men for material gain.

    “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (emphasis added)

  5. Prayer is a tool to force God to grant prosperity.The prosperity gospel teaches: 

    Prosperity gospel preachers often note that we “have not because we ask not” (Jas. 4:2). Advocates of the prosperity gospel encourage believers to pray for personal success in all areas of life. Creflo Dollar writes, “When we pray, believing that we have already received what we are praying, God has no choice but to make our prayers come to pass. . . . It is a key to getting results as a Christian.” Creflo Dollar, “Prayer: Your Path to Success,” March 2, 2009, (accessed on October 30, 2013).

    While prayers for blessing are not necessarily wrong, the prosperity gospel has overemphasized man and has made prayer into a cudgel used to beat God into submission to man’s desires.

    The Bible teaches: If we were to read the next verse of James, we would quickly see that God does not answer selfish requests that are man-centered and do not honor His name.

    “You ask and to not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:3) (emphasis added)


In light of Scripture, the prosperity gospel is fundamentally flawed. At bottom, the prosperity gospel is actually a false gospel because of its faulty view of the relationship between God and man. Simply put, if the prosperity gospel is true, grace is obsolete, God is irrelevant, and man is the measure of all things. Whether they are talking about the Abrahamic covenant, the atonement, giving, faith, or prayer, prosperity teachers turn the relationship between God and man into a quid pro quo transaction. As James R. Goff noted, God is “reduced to a kind of ‘cosmic bellhop’ attending to the needs and desires of his creation.” (The Faith That Claims James R. Goff Jr.)  This is a wholly inadequate and unbiblical view of the relationship between God and man.  -David W. Jones

Adapted from an article written by David W. Jones