Why, you might ask? Well, at it’s core, the so-called “prosperity gospel” finds its deepest flaws in its philosophy of what God’s ultimate goal in a person’s life is, as well as how He measures
success. If you are looking for a Biblical breakdown on this matter, there are many articles you can read, either online or in book form. Now that the methodology of this treatise has been set, let us get started!
You may (or may not) have noticed that I have given the term “Materialistic Christianity” first billing in the title instead of it’s more common moniker, “The Prosperity Gospel”. This is for a few
reasons. First of all, I believe it is a more accurate name for the actual belief itself and what it produces. Secondly, to attach the term “gospel” to this belief is to give it a weighty legitimacy that it does not deserve, so “Materialistic Christianity” it is.
At the center of this belief is the use of the Greek term, εὐοδόω (yoo-od-o’-o), in the New Testament in verses such as 3 John 1:2. The term is actually the product of two words, εὖ (yoo), which means, “well done or to fare well,” and ὁδός (ho-dos), which means, literally, “the road or journey,” or metaphorically, “the way of thinking; the course of conduct.” εὐοδόω to the believer essentially meant that success or prosperity in life was measured by how well you accomplished your journey of life - Did you accomplish or fulfill all that you were called to be in this life?
For Paul, prospering meant that he had run his race fully (2 Tim. 4:7,8), with no bearing on how materially blessed he was. In fact, it was his belief that he was to be content whether he was poor or rich, full or hungry (Phil. 4:12). εὐοδόω can be summed up in this one phrase Jesus Himself used to end one of His parables: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Why is this distinction in the definition of this term so important? It simply comes down to this: the difference in philosophy between relief and freedom.
The danger of materialistic Christianity is that it makes the goal of Christ’s life in you to make your life better on this earth. It puts all of its eggs in the basket of THIS life - the temporal, flawed, corruptible one. It says that all of God’s promises are not just mine, they are mine RIGHT NOW. It is not God’s will for me to go through any adversity or material lack. So much of what you see from the proponents of such beliefs is not much different from the prodigal son, who demanded the fullness of his father’s inheritance and tried to make it his before it was his time. Materialistic Christianity is the church’s contribution to the development of the Entitlement Generation that exists today, the one that says, “It’s mine, and I want it right now!”
In the end, the flaw of Materialistic Christianity is that it puts the emphasis of Christ’s work as a means of relief instead of the power of freedom. We want Him to provide relief for us; when I don’t have money, He HAS TO give it to me. When I am sick, He HAS TO make me well. We become that child who begs his mother of father for the toy he wants, saying, “I NEED IT,” then breaking down into a fit in the middle of the store when he doesn't get it.
Materialistic Christianity breeds weak believers, ones who are embolden in their faith when things are well, but fall apart and cry out, “Why have you forsaken me!” when God should dare have the audacity to have them walk through the fire of adversity or tribulation for our own growth. Even worse, we will make immature, pleasure-based decisions, then “claim” our "inheritance” when we are forced to face the consequences!
God’s aim is not to give you relief; He wants you to be free! Materialistic Christianity teaches you that joy & peace comes when God removes all adversity from your life and blesses with money, wealth, and health in every area, but the true gospel teaches that joy & peace comes when those things no longer have mastery over you.
So what is real? Is true life about this temporal existence or the eternal one? Which is more real? Isn't it time we stop attempting to hold God hostage to an idea of “prosperity” that isn't actually prosperous?
Prosperity, εὐοδόω, in a believer’s life is not measured by what you can gain materially, but by how well you complete your journey. That is the TRUE philosophy of Biblical prosperity. THAT is the real Prosperity Gospel.