Over a decade ago I even planned an entire book challenging prosperity teaching. The prospective publisher turned it down, shortsightedly complaining that no one believes in prosperity teaching anymore. I knew from wide experience that this death knell was premature, but the book would not likely have accomplished much anyway; I would have been preaching to the choir.

I would probably go further against prosperity teaching than most people. I am committed to living simply for the purpose of meeting others’ needs. For many years when I was single lived as close to subsistence as possible, so that I could give away as much as possible. I have long believed that our nation’s prosperity will eventually come to an end, and Christians need to learn to live simply and serve others.

Nevertheless, many who hold this teaching are genuine believers, and I find it ironic that for the first time ever I am forced to come to their defense! In some locations where I ministered, my primary colleagues in reaching nonbelievers with the gospel assumed prosperity teachings because they had been taught them.

At the same time, these teachings were incidental to their faith that was also nourished by regular study of Scripture. More than their commitment to prosperity teachings, they firmly believed the saving gospel, lived sacrificially, and were leading people to Christ. Some in time did recognize errors on various points and left them behind. Surely the solution for their wrong teaching was loving dialogue rather than pronouncing them excluded from the kingdom. Indeed, excluding them from the kingdom would actually act on a false gospel, adding to faith in Christ’s saving work other doctrinal conditions for salvation.

Meanwhile, not everyone accused of prosperity teaching is actually an advocate of it in the form in which we criticize it. Prosperity teaching is far too widespread, but preachers who genuinely read their Bible often begin to adjust their teachings in light of it. Granted, some conspicuously prosperous preachers, especially in particular countries, use prosperity teaching to exploit their flocks. Others, however, have begun moving in a more balanced direction. These others have begun emphasizing principles of economic development and encouraging a work ethic to transcend poverty. They may still overemphasize prosperity, but some of these mediating voices are merely telling their people things that most North American Christians, charismatic or not, have taken for granted for most of the past century.

In one survey, a majority of Africans—not just Pentecostals—affirmed that God can provide prosperity through faith. Western critics, however, have drawn mistaken conclusions from such surveys. Conversations with Africans from some of these locations leads me to believe that many Africans responded “Yes” to this question simply because they mean that they are depending on God to supply their desperate needs. This is something that Jesus tells us to do (Matthew 6:25-32), and can be antithetical to prosperity teaching.

Of course, many of these same Christians would buy exotic homes and fancy cars if they could. I do not personally find that desire consistent with Jesus’s teaching. But they are no different than the majority of noncharismatic Western Christians who pursue the American dream. Everyone needs sound teaching on use of resources, whether faulty teaching has given them a theological justification for their consumerism or not.

Source: Excerpt from Authentic Fire: A Response to John MacArthur’s Strange Fire, edited by Dr Michael Brown.