Prayer Request: More Negative Prosperity-Gospel Stories

Joyce Meyer, an influential charismatic author and speaker, recently admitted: “I was glad for what I learned about prosperity, but it got out of balance.” In a January 8 video posted on her Instagram account, Meyer, speaking before a large audience, stated:

I’m glad for what I learned about faith, but it got out of balance; and so every time somebody had a problem in their life was ‘cause they did not have enough faith. If you got sick, you didn’t have enough faith. If your child died, you didn’t have enough faith. Well, that’s not right. There’s nowhere in the Bible where we’re promised that we’ll never have any trouble. I don’t care how much faith you’ve got, you’re not gonna avoid ever having trouble in your life.

I’m confident that both Job and Jesus would wholeheartedly agree.

Meyer’s statement is a departure from one of the tenets of the prosperity gospel. The prosperity gospel emphasizes the avoidance of suffering or failure. These are not the marks of your best life now. If you suffer or fail in life, it’s because you haven’t exercised enough “faith”—a kind of spiritual energy or force that needs to be released.

In this warped view of faith, if you generate enough of it, then God will come through for you. If he doesn’t, then the problem is your lack of faith. In other words, faith is not a God-centered act of the will, stemming from God; rather, it’s a human-centered spiritual force, directed at God. This false view of faith turns God into a personal cosmic genie who exists to grant your wishes.

Faulty Faith  

As Meyer basically admits, this false view of faith is what she used to believe. For example, in her 2008 pamphlet Healing Scriptures, she wrote:

I have faith, for I am a believer. I believe I receive my healing, and my faith makes me whole. . . . The power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in me. My faith puts that power into active operation in my body. Disease has no choice. . . . If healing does not occur, the problem is a person’s lack of faith.

The underlying assumption here is that it’s always God’s will to heal someone; therefore, if they aren’t healed, the problem must reside within the person. Bill Johnson, senior pastor of the influential Bethel Church in Redding, California, believes it’s always God’s intention to heal. He wrote:

When [Jesus] bore stripes in his body he made a payment for our miracle. He already decided to heal. You can’t decide not to buy something after you’ve already bought it. There are no deficiencies on his end—neither the covenant is deficient, nor his compassion or promises. All lack is on our end of the equation.

While Johnson doesn’t specify a lack of faith in either the ailing person or the “miracle healer,” his belief nonetheless places the burden on the person; the implication is that you’re doing something wrong because God won’t act. Is there something wrong with Johnson because he has had surgery and he wears glasses?

Step in the Right Direction?

Meyer’s admission—that a person’s lack of faith is not the reason they suffer or fail—is a positive development. But while she recognizes she got out of balance, and hopefully is moving toward a biblical theology of faith and suffering, people shouldn’t assume she’s completely divested herself of prosperity-gospel teachings.

In the same clip where she admits she was out of balance, she calls faith a force; and in another recent Instagram video, she exhorts the audience:

[I]f you have faith, then God can do amazing things in your life. But you gotta at least start with an attitude, “Something good is going to happen to me. Come on. Something good is going to happen to me.” And if you can’t do anything else, at least grab a hold of that—that something good is going to happen to you.

To be fair, she clarifies that something good will happen because God has a good plan for you, so you can trust in that truth. But what if God’s good plan for you includes hardship? Are her exhortations substantially different from another tenet of the prosperity gospel: Just think positive thoughts and tell yourself what future success you desire? Such “positive thinking” is pagan philosophy disguised as biblical truth.

Pray for More Light

May Joyce Meyer continue to find balance and keep seeking the truth in the Scriptures. Perhaps she will follow the example of Benny Hinn’s nephew, Costi Hinn, who has explicitly denounced the errors of the prosperity gospel.

May we hear more negative confessions about the prosperity gospel come forth from its leading teachers.

Truly converted in 2012, Costi Hinn left his uncle’s ministry, repented of his teaching, and tried to persuade family members of the truth. Now a pastor, Costi recently co-authored (with Anthony G. Wood) the book Defining Deception: Freeing the Church from the Mystical-Miracle Movement, which exposes the teaching of prosperity-gospel teachers and movements such as Third Wave/New Apostolic Reformation.

We need to be praying for those who teach this false gospel. How then should we pray?

  • Pray that God will open the eyes of teachers caught up in the false teaching of the prosperity gospel. May they embrace God’s truth and repent.
  • Pray that the people entrapped in the false teachings would seek truth and be delivered.
  • Pray for those, like Costi Hinn, who are actively sharing the truth with those enamored with the prosperity gospel.

May we hear more negative confessions about the prosperity gospel come forth from its leading teachers.