The Prosperity Myth

One of the most fervently espoused and financially profitable myths in religion today is the prosperity myth. Basically, it teaches that Christ came to bring economic prosperity to his followers.

It is a cross between the New Guinea "cargo" cults (which look for God to drop wealth from aeroplanes in the sky) and the Hindu caste system (which teaches that it is the will of God for poor people to be poor). The prosperity teaching claims non-Christian nations are poor because they are non-Christian, and Western powers are rich because they are Christian. The role that multi-national corporations play in stripping the poorer countries of their resources is either ignored or is identified as an expression of God's will.
Within a capitalistic economy, the prosperity myth says that religious zeal on the part of the individuals will be rewarded with economic success. A good Christian will work hard for his employer, thus winning promotions over non-Christians, and it will inspire employers to hire Christians because they are the most eager to make money.
A few obscure Bible passages are quoted in support of this myth. In John's third epistle he writes: "Beloved, I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers." The assumption is that prosperity must mean an abundance of material possessions.

However, the Oxford Concise Dictionary makes no reference to material wealth in its definition of the word prosper. It gives only two words as a definition: succeed; thrive. Tradition, however, has told us that success has something to do with things that money can buy. And the prosperity myth draws heavily on that tradition.
If there is any serious doubt as to whether John was talking about wealth, one need only compare his letter with other New Testament records.
St. James says, "Has not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to them that love him? Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgement seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by which you are called? Go to now, you rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. You have heaped treasure together for the last days." (James 2:5-7 and 5:1-3)
St. Paul warns against men who teach that wealth is a sign of God's blessing, saying, "anyone who wants to be rich falls into a trap that drowns men in destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evil." (1 Timothy 6:5-10)
And Christ taught, "Blessed are the poor, for the kingdom of God is theirs...But woe unto you that are rich, for you have received your consolation!" (Luke 6:20-25)


Bible References:

1 Timothy 6:5-10: Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
6 ¶; But godliness with contentment is great gain.
7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

Luke 6:20-25: And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are ye that hunger now: for ye shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for ye shall laugh.
22 Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.
23 Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.
24 But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.
25 Woe unto you that are full! for ye shall hunger. Woe unto you that laugh now! for ye shall mourn and weep.

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