The "Prosperity Gospel" - we've all heard of it. Its champions are some of the richest ministers in the US: televangelist Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer in St. Louis, Joel Osteen here in Houston, T.D. Jakes from Dallas, and Creflo Dollar in Atlanta to name a few. What do they preach? Basically, that when Christ said we'd have "abundant life", He was talking about The Benjamins (a favorite phrase of Husband's - please allow me to use it here). God wants you to be materially rich and temporally happy - healthy, wealthy and wise, as it were.
This is so contrary to the Gospels you just wonder where to start. But it feels good to believe in, and so more and more people flock to it. If you already have money, the Prosperity Gospel tells you that must mean God is blessing you (and therefore you must be doing His will). If you lack money, God wants you to have it: hang in there, follow the rules, and soon you'll be rolling in dough.
Unfortunately, just like secular materialism, Prosperity Gospel leaves its followers as empty as their wallets usually turn out to be. God doesn't make people materially rich as a reward for following Him; in fact, some of His most faithful followers experience pain and hardship beyond what many of us can fathom. If you pin your hope in Christ on an Earthly reward, you'll be just as disappointed as if you slept in every Sunday and never bothered to set foot in that flashy mega-church.
If money and health are God's rewards, what about the millions of Christians outside the US who live in poverty unimaginable to the rest of us? They lack clean water, they watch their children die from disease, they move from place to place to avoid war and famine. Is this because Christ doesn't love them as much as he loves us fat, happy Americans? Can any of the people who believe what these false prophets preach even look at websites such as Compassion International or Living Water, and see the suffering that God's faithful endure? How can they square such sights with the false message they chomp down every Sunday? The short answer is: they can't.
And that's where these preachers of false doctrine do the most damage. If God rewards His people with worldly riches and health, then how can charities like these dare ask for a handout? Shouldn't all those people just pray for riches and health, the way Joel, Joyce, et al tell us to do? And if prayer is all that's needed, then no one writes a check, no one sponsors a child. And the Light that is Christ is not spread throughout the world, His Gospel is not proclaimed, and we as Christians fail to help "the least of these" as He has commanded.
"Poverty is the load of some, and wealth is the load of others, perhaps the greater load of the two. It may weigh them to perdition. Bear the load of thy neighbor's poverty, and let him bear with thee the load of thy wealth. Thou lightenest thy load by lightening his." ---St. Augustine