The term “prosperity gospel” describes an execrable set of ideas in American Christianity, chiefly that wealth is a marker of righteousness, and that believers can ensure material wealth and prosperity through spiritual practices. But “prosperity gospel” is often applied to a much broader set of beliefs, including the beliefs that
- God takes personal notice of us, including our material needs.
- God intervenes in our personal lives.
- God responds to prayer, including petitions about material wants and needs.
- Our prayer, fasting, and righteousness make us more sensitive to inspiration and affect how our prayers are answered.
- We should be grateful for our blessings, including blessings that others don’t have.
- God wants us to be happy.
You’ve probably seen this kind of crying wolf before: “What? You think that fasting, praying, going to church and paying your tithing will make God more likely to help you get out of poverty? Prosperity gospel!”
As it turns out, I’m not particularly interested in how you define the prosperity gospel. I don’t recall that we’ve been commanded to avoid the sin of prosperity gospeling by any possible definition. Our scriptures and prophets have had a great deal to say about the pitfalls of wealth, however, so I’m more concerned about
- Avoiding the love of money and not focusing excessively on material things;
- Not judging people based on their financial condition;
- Making myself as susceptible to inspiration and as prepared for other kinds of blessing as possible;
- Acknowledging that blessings may take surprising forms;
- Acknowledging the hand of God in all things.
If all of this sounds like the prosperity gospel to you…eh, whatever. Call it what you want. I’m more interested in following the teachings of the scriptures and the prophets than in splitting hairs over definitions. If being grateful for blessings or praying for answers to economic problems leads you into temptation, pluck out your own eye, but please leave mine alone. In the meantime, I will go on asking God for my daily bread and help with my flocks, and thanking him for whatever I end up with.
And beyond what the prophets and scriptures teach, my own experience suggests that this much is true:
- God takes personal notice of me.
- God has intervened in my personal life, including on crassly financial and material matters.
- It is easier for me to receive revelation when I am fasting and praying earnestly and living according to church teachings.
- My life is better when I am grateful for the things I have.
If that’s the prosperity gospel, then I’m loving my prosperity gospel.