The prosperity gospel has rightly been called a theological perversion, a false gospel, America’s most poisonous export to the world. It is glamorous, glitzy, seductive, and anathema to every faithful follower of Christ.
The message is simple: God’s desire for every Christian is that they be healthy, wealthy, and happy. We simply name what we want and God’s hand will move to give it to us. Sadly, this message is deceiving millions, and it might have infiltrated your parenting.
Over the years I have watched loving parents unwittingly teach their kids principles of this false gospel. All were caring parents and wanted the best for their children, and all attended faithful gospel-preaching churches. None realized they were communicating a different message at home.
How can we detect the presence of this teaching in the way we lead our children?
3 Diagnostic Questions
Ask yourself if any of these ideas and practices have subtly invaded your home:
1. Do you unwittingly center your life around your children?
The prosperity gospel teaches we are the center of the universe and God is here for our happiness. The biblical truth, however, is while God’s love overflows for his people, we are made for him. He, not us, is the center.
In our desire to love our children, we can send a similar false message. While caring for them, it’s easy to communicate: You are the center of my universe. I am here to serve you.
The truth is that while parental affection and care should abound, we must also love our children in the truth. And a core truth is that kids are cherished members of our family but not the center. We train them to love and honor others, including their parents. Gospel-centered parenting leads us to call our children out of their natural self-orientation to a sacrificial love for God and others.
Ask yourself, “Is my love indulgent or godly? Am I orienting my life around their desires? Or am I calling them to love and honor others?”
You parent your children best by teaching them they are loved but not the center of your world.
2. Do you unconsciously prioritize their material prosperity?
The prosperity gospel teaches us the greatest gifts God can give his children are material blessings. But the biblical truth is that God himself, and the spiritual blessings surrounding him, are his greatest gift to us (Eph. 1:3).
As parents we all want the best for our children. But with almost limitless choices before us, we must prioritize. And the choices we make will reveal what we truly believe is best.
Stop and take a look at your family activities. Listen to what you are excited about. There’s certainly nothing wrong with relishing the game-winning home run or the latest electronic device. Just make certain you’re even more excited about the gospel at work in and around you. Choose priorities to give your child the best advantage possible—a godly church and a unified home. Pray that your parental love will be coupled with the wisdom to discern what’s best for them (Phil. 1:9–10).
You parent your children best by pointing them to true prosperity—abundant life in Christ (John 10:10).
3. Do you unwisely protect your children from life’s trials?
The prosperity gospel teaches God doesn’t want us to suffer. The blessed life is one with little or no pain. But the biblical truth is that none of God’s children escapes suffering. Painful trials are part of his good plan to mature us (James 1:2–4). Even Jesus learned obedience from what he suffered (Heb. 5:8).
As a parent you intuitively understand the need to protect your kids. But we can corrupt this love by refusing to allow them to experience trials. Often, our shallow understanding of biblical suffering is revealed in our parenting.
When we never allow our children to experience the natural consequences of their behavior, we are subtly preaching a different gospel. And when we refuse to give proper, corrective discipline, we are acting differently than our heavenly Father: “The Lord disciplines the ones he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives” (Heb. 12:6).
For our family, some of the sweetest times of spiritual fellowship and growth have come after walking through a painful experience together. Rather than causing harm, these trials or discipline became a severe kindness from God.
Think for a moment about your parenting. Does your love seek to bubble-wrap your children and pain-proof their world? Or is it a wisdom-filled approach, allowing momentary trials designed for eternal maturity?
You parent your children best by understanding the sanctifying role of trials in their lives.
God’s Best Gift
You love your children and you love the true gospel. Don’t undermine it by teaching them something false during the week.
Remind them that even as we enjoy God’s world, his best gift is himself. And because you’re called to reflect the heavenly Father, you will correct and discipline them in love.
Their souls might depend on it.