Paula White, the spiritual advisor to President Donald Trump, has recently come under fire for the release of her new book, "Something Greater: Finding Triumph Over Trials." Pastors are accusing her of promoting the so-called "prosperity gospel," although the previews of her book don't indicate that this is a primary theme. White has always denied the accusations that her ministry's main focus is material wealth and blessings, but this hasn't tempered the controversy that follows her.
The modern movement of the prosperity gospel in the U.S. can be traced back to the 1980s with the rise of televangelism, and it has been a source of contention among many Protestant churches. This year, prominent televangelists Benny Hinn and Joyce Meyer both rescinded their stances on the prosperity gospel. Hinn told his online viewers, "I am correcting my own theology ... The blessings of God are not for sale." Meyer admitted her views were "out of balance."
Of course, many people are not forgiving of spiritual leaders when they confess to having made a mistake, but I honestly believe that Hinn and Meyer were trying to encourage their congregations to give cheerfully. Somehow, the focus got unfortunately misdirected, with many people giving as though they were playing a religious lottery rather than giving in reverence to God.
I have followed the ministries of Hinn and Meyer. Many of Meyer's messages emphasize the spiritual renewing of the mind and overcoming of emotional and physical abuse through the love of Christ. Hinn's spiritual gift is healing, and from what I've observed, both he and Meyer sincerely want to help people reach God.
From reading that Hinn and Meyer promise to redirect their messages on giving and witnessing the ire directed at White, I hope people will be motivated to study what the Scriptures actually teach about money. If they "get into the Word," as we often say in church, they'll learn there is no such thing as the prosperity gospel. This is a man-made catchphrase with no biblical foundation.
There are over 2,000 Scriptures in the Bible that discuss money, and many Christians are often shocked to discover that Jesus talked a lot about the importance of financial stability and responsibility. In fact, money comes in at a strong second to the kingdom of God, which Jesus accentuated the most to the multitudes who followed him.
One Old Testament Scripture that provides a basis for Jesus' teachings on fiscal wisdom is Ecclesiastes 10:19, which says, "Money answereth all things." The "things" in this verse are our earthly needs and wants. Our basic needs include a home, food, transportation and clothing. These needs require money.
When we're looking to buy a house or a car, we must have adequate finances. Telling the real estate agent or car salesman that we love Jesus does nothing for our credit rating. And if we want to splurge and take a European vacation every summer, we don't need a miracle to book the airline tickets; we need money.
Jesus taught that being a generous giver — not only with money— brings prosperity and "good measure" into your life, says Luke 6:38. But one of the key Scriptures for financial prosperity is Malachi 3:10, which commands believers to bring tithes — a tenth of their gross earnings — to God, and in return, God promises to "open the windows of heaven."
Some churches have made tithing a "gimme" gimmick, but if taught properly, people would understand that tithing is a worship that represents a covenant relationship with God. When I tithe, I am expressing to God that I trust Him for my provision and I am a partner with Him in kingdom ministry. Do I expect to be blessed financially? Yes, but I give because I love God, not because I covet material things.
I think Hinn and Meyer now understand better that when they preach the Gospel of Jesus, they are automatically teaching people how to be prosperous. Giving is an important part of the church, and if applied with correct biblical principles, it does yield great rewards.
Dr. Jessica A. Johnson is a lecturer in the English department at Ohio State University's Lima campus. Email her at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter: @JjSmojc. To find out more about Jessica Johnson and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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