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Why the Health and Wealth Gospel is, and is not, A Biblical Doctrine

The health and wealth Gospel will always be with the Church, because it is an authentic Biblical doctrine. It is, in fact, an aspect of the Old Testament covenant which God had with His people. Read, and ponder, the following passage:

aYou shall walk in all the way which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you will possess.” – Deut. 5:33

In the blessings and curses which God spoke over His people as they walked into the Promised Land, we have a pretty detailed and full representation of the health-and-wealth gospel. Basically, if you are faithful to God, you will be rich, healthy and happy: if not, you will be poor, sick and unhappy. Read, don’t skim…

Chapter 27

The Curses of Mount Ebal

1  Then Moses and the elders of Israel charged the people, saying, “Keep all the commandments which I command you today.

2 “aSo it shall be on the day when you cross the Jordan to the land which the Lord your God gives you, that you shall set up for yourself large stones and coat them with lime

3 and write on them all the words of this law, when you cross over, so that you may enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, aa land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your fathers, 1promised you.

4 “So it shall be when you cross the Jordan, you shall set up aon Mount Ebal, these stones, 1as I am commanding you today, and you shall coat them with lime.

5 “Moreover, you shall build there an altar to the Lord your God, an altar of stones; you ashall not 1wield an iron tool on them.

6 “You shall build the altar of the Lord your God of 1uncut stones, and you shall offer on it burnt offerings to the Lord your God;

7 and you shall sacrifice peace offerings and eat there, and arejoice before the Lord your God.

8 “You shall write on the 1stones all the words of this law very distinctly.”

9  Then Moses and the Levitical priests spoke to all Israel, saying, “Be silent and listen, O Israel! This day you have become a people for the Lord your God.

10 “You shall therefore 1obey the Lord your God, and do His commandments and His statutes which I command you today.”

11  Moses also charged the people on that day, saying,

12 “When you cross the Jordan, these shall stand on aMount Gerizim to bless the people: bSimeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Joseph, and Benjamin.

13 “For the curse, these shall stand on Mount Ebal: Reuben, Gad, Asher, Zebulun, Dan, and Naphtali.

14 “The Levites shall then answer and say to all the men of Israel with a loud voice,

15  ‘Cursed is the man who makes 1aan idol or a molten image, an abomination to the Lord, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and sets it up in secret.’ And ball the people shall answer and say, ‘Amen.’

16  ‘aCursed is he who dishonors his father or mother.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

17  ‘aCursed is he who moves his neighbor’s boundary mark.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

18  ‘aCursed is he who misleads a blind person on the road.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

19  ‘aCursed is he who distorts the justice due an alien, 1orphan, and widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

20  ‘aCursed is he who lies with his father’s wife, because he has uncovered his father’s skirt.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

21  ‘aCursed is he who lies with any animal.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

22  ‘aCursed is he who lies with his sister, the daughter of his father or of his mother.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

23  ‘aCursed is he who lies with his mother-in-law.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

24  ‘aCursed is he who strikes his neighbor in secret.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

25  ‘aCursed is he who accepts a bribe to strike down an innocent person.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

26  ‘aCursed is he who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’

Chapter 28

Blessings at Gerizim

1  “aNow it shall be, if you diligently 1obey the Lord your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the Lord your God bwill set you high above all the nations of the earth.

2 “All these blessings will come upon you and aovertake you if you 1obey the Lord your God:

3  “Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be ain the 1country.

4  “Blessed shall be the 1offspring of your 2body and the 1produce of your ground and the 1offspring of your beasts, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock.

5  “Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.

6  “Blessed shall you be awhen you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.

7  “The Lord shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be 1defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways.

8 “The Lord will command the blessing upon you in your barns and in aall that you put your hand to, and He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God gives you.

9 “aThe Lord will establish you as a holy people to Himself, as He swore to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in His ways.

10 “So all the peoples of the earth will see that 1ayou are called by the name of the Lord, and they will be afraid of you.

11 “aThe Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the 1offspring of your 2body and in the 1offspring of your beast and in the 1produce of your ground, in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give you.

12 “The Lord will open for you His good storehouse, the heavens, to give rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hand; and ayou shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow.

13 “aThe Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you only will be above, and you will not be underneath, if you listen to the commandments of the Lord your God, which I charge you today, to 1observe them carefully,

14 and ado not turn aside from any of the words which I command you today, to the right or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.

Consequences of Disobedience

15  “aBut it shall come about, if you do not 1obey the Lord your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you:

16  “aCursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the 1country.

17  “aCursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.

18  “aCursed shall be the 1offspring of your 2body and the 1produce of your ground, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock.

19  “aCursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out.

20  “aThe Lord will send upon you curses, confusion, and brebuke, in all 1you undertake to do, until you are destroyed and until cyou perish quickly, on account of the evil of your deeds, because you have forsaken Me.

21 “aThe Lord will make the pestilence cling to you until He has consumed you from the land where you are entering to possess it.

22 “aThe Lord will smite you with consumption and with fever and with inflammation and with fiery heat and with 1the sword and bwith blight and with mildew, and they will pursue you until cyou perish.

23 “1The heaven which is over your head shall be bronze, and the earth which is under you, iron.

24 “aThe Lord will make the rain of your land powder and dust; from heaven it shall come down on you until you are destroyed.

25  “aThe Lord shall cause you to be 1defeated before your enemies; you will go out one way against them, but you will flee seven ways before them, and you will bbe an example of terror to all the kingdoms of the earth.

26 “aYour carcasses will be food to all birds of the sky and to the beasts of the earth, and there will be no one to frighten them away.

27  “aThe Lord will smite you with the boils of Egypt and with btumors and with the scab and with the itch, from which you cannot be healed.

28 “The Lord will smite you with madness and with blindness and with bewilderment of heart;

29 and you will 1agrope at noon, as the blind man gropes in darkness, and you will not prosper in your ways; but you shall only be oppressed and robbed continually, with none to save you.

30 “aYou shall betroth a wife, but another man will violate her; byou shall build a house, but you will not live in it; you shall plant a vineyard, but you will not 1use its fruit.

31 “Your ox shall be slaughtered before your eyes, but you will not eat of it; your donkey shall be torn away from you, and will not be restored to you; your sheep shall be given to your enemies, and you will have none to save you.

32 “aYour sons and your daughters shall be given to another people, while your eyes look on and yearn for them continually; but there will be nothing 1you can do.

33 “aA people whom you do not know shall eat up the produce of your ground and all your labors, and you will never be anything but oppressed and crushed continually.

34 “You shall be driven mad by the sight of 1what you see.

35 “aThe Lord will strike you on the knees and legs with sore boils, from which you cannot be healed, from the sole of your foot to the crown of your head.

36 “aThe Lord will bring you and your king, whom you set over you, to a nation which neither you nor your fathers have known, and there you shall serve other gods, bwood and stone.

37 “aYou shall become a horror, a proverb, and a taunt among all the people where the Lord drives you.

38  “aYou shall bring out much seed to the field but you will gather in little, for bthe locust will consume it.

39 “aYou shall plant and cultivate vineyards, but you will neither drink of the wine nor gather the grapes, for the worm will devour them.

40 “aYou shall have olive trees throughout your territory but you will not anoint yourself with the oil, for your olives will drop off.

41 “aYou shall 1have sons and daughters but they will not be yours, for they will go into captivity.

42 “aThe cricket shall possess all your trees and the produce of your ground.

43 “aThe alien who is among you shall rise above you higher and higher, but you will go down lower and lower.

44 “aHe shall lend to you, but you will not lend to him; bhe shall be the head, and you will be the tail.

45  “So all these curses shall come on you and pursue you and overtake you auntil you are destroyed, because you would not 1obey the Lord your God by keeping His commandments and His statutes which He commanded you.

46 “They shall become aa sign and a wonder on you and your 1descendants forever.

47  “aBecause you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things;

48 therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you, ain hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in the lack of all things; and He bwill put an iron yoke on your neck until He has destroyed you.

49  “aThe Lord will bring a nation against you from afar, from the end of the earth, bas the eagle swoops down, a nation whose language you shall not understand,

50 a nation of fierce countenance who will ahave no respect for the old, nor show favor to the young.

51 “Moreover, it shall eat the 1offspring of your herd and the produce of your ground until you are destroyed, who also leaves you no grain, new wine, or oil, nor the increase of your herd or the young of your flock until they have caused you to perish.

52 “aIt shall besiege you in all your 1towns until your high and fortified walls in which you trusted come down throughout your land, and it shall besiege you in all your 1towns throughout your land which the Lord your God has given you.

53 “aThen you shall eat the 1offspring of your own body, the flesh of your sons and of your daughters whom the Lord your God has given you, during the siege and the distress by which your enemy will 2oppress you.

54 “The man who is 1refined and very delicate among you 2shall be hostile toward his brother and toward the wife 3he cherishes and toward the rest of his children who remain,

55 so that he will not give even one of them any of the flesh of his children which he will eat, since he has nothing else left, during the siege and the distress by which your enemy will 1oppress you in all your 2towns.

56 “aThe 1refined and delicate woman among you, who would not venture to set the sole of her foot on the ground for delicateness and 2refinement, 3shall be hostile toward the husband 4she cherishes and toward her son and daughter,

57 and toward her afterbirth which issues from between her 1legs and toward her children whom she bears; for ashe will eat them secretly for lack of anything else, during the siege and the distress by which your enemy will 2oppress you in your 3towns.

58  “If you are not careful to observe all the words of this law which are written in this book, to 1afear this honored and awesome bname, 2the Lord your God,

59 then the Lord will bring extraordinary plagues on you and 1your descendants, even 2severe and lasting plagues, and miserable and chronic sicknesses.

60 “aHe will bring back on you all the diseases of Egypt of which you were afraid, and they will cling to you.

61 “Also every sickness and every plague which, not written in the book of this law, the Lord will bring on you auntil you are destroyed.

62 “Then you shall be left few in number, awhereas you were as numerous as the stars of heaven, because you did not 1obey the Lord your God.

63 “It shall come about that as the Lord adelighted over you to prosper you, and multiply you, so the Lord will bdelight over you to make you perish and destroy you; and you will be ctorn from the land where you are entering to possess it.

64 “Moreover, the Lord will ascatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth; and there you shall bserve other gods, wood and stone, which you or your fathers have not known.

65 “aAmong those nations you shall find no rest, and there will be no resting place for the sole of your foot; but there bthe Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing of eyes, and despair of soul.

66 “So your life shall 1hang in doubt before you; and you will be in dread night and day, and shall have no assurance of your life.

67 “aIn the morning you shall say, ‘Would that it were evening!’ And at evening you shall say, ‘Would that it were morning!’ because of the dread of your heart which you dread, and for the sight of your eyes which you will see.

68 “The Lord will bring you back to Egypt in ships, by the way about which I spoke to you, ‘You will never see it again!’ And there you will offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but there will be no buyer.”

That being said, Jesus came to institute a new covenant with us, and to inaugurate a new dispensation or time. We are not part of a physical earthly kingdom anymore, but part of an eternal and spiritual one. The blessings to God’s people are no longer land, peace, wealth and happiness but – first and foremost – the inheritance of the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13), which is manifested in a change of character (Gal. 5:22-23), in freedom from sins (Rom. 6), in spiritual gifts for the building-up of the Church (1 Cor. 12-14), and in divine peace in the midst of the difficulties of life (John 16) – which is a foretaste of Heaven (Eph. 1).
The health and wealth gospel is not so much an alien heresy to the Bible as it is a misinterpretation of it. If you want to go searching for proof-texts where God says He wants to bless His people with money and health, just read anywhere you like between Genesis and Malechi and you will find plenty. Also, you can read many verses in the New Testament which speak of spiritual riches, and convert the concept back to cold hard cash, happy kids and good health.
You will know you have been infected by the Gospel of Health and Wealth when you begin thinking like a good Jew: like the disciples of Jesus who, upon finding a man born blind from birth asked, “Who sinned, this man or his parents that he should be born this way?” This is, after all, the logical consequences of the Health and Wealth Gospel: if anyone is sick or poor or unhappy, it ultimately comes down to sin – theirs or their parents – or else a lack of faith – theirs, or those who pray for them. But what is Jesus’ answer? “Neither, but [this happened] so that the glory of God might be revealed.” (John 9:2-3). In this case, Jesus God was glorified in healing the man who did not ask. But in the case of Job and of the Apostle Paul, God was glorified in not healing the man, even though he asked multiple times. God explained, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” And after his ordeal Job testified, “ (Job 42:5) Finally getting it, the converted Paul exclaims, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Cor. 12:9)
God is glorified in healing, most definitely. But He is also glorified in the patient sufferings of His servants under physical distress. This is why Paul says that the secret of contentment as a Christian is to be able to do “all things through Christ, who strengthens” – to be able to make do with little, or with much, poverty or prosperity, abundance or suffering need. (Phil. 4:12-13).
Jesus promises His disciples that if they choose to follow Him, they will have a lot more of hardships to look forward to than they will have wealth and plenty: this is why Jesus told his followers and would-be followers over and over, “anyone who would follow me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mat. 10:38, 16:34, Mark 8:34, 10:21, Luke 9:23, 14:27).
God did not heal everyone who came to Him. First, as has been mentioned, there is the case of Paul. Secondly, there is the case of Jesus. Although we are never told that Jesus got sick – perhaps He was incapable of sickness, until He received the sins of the world onto Him at the cross – we do see that He pled with tears and sweat drops of blood asking to be spared the physical agony of the Cross. God said no. And God was glorified in His sufferings.
And this is the fundamental reason why Biblical – and especially pastoral/caring – Christianity is and always will be opposed to the Health and Wealth Gospel. Aside from being wrong, this “Gospel” hurts people. Specifically, weak people. Hurting people. Sick people. People like Jesus in the garden, Paul with his thorn, Job in his garbage dump. This gospel comes to the hurting in the church and – whether with words, as Job’s friends, or with voiceless accusations – this gospel trains people to seek out and condemn those who are poor, sick or unhappy.
“Oh, you lost your job/have an apostate son/got cancer, do you? And what do you think is the source of your misery? In a word: You are a sinner. you did this to yourself. God is punishing you. You deserve it. You’re not good enough. Not like us rich, healthy, happy Christians. God loves us. We have been chosen. But not you. You are sick. God is angry at you. Repent, and beg God for money and health – or else continue to suffer for your sins.”
That is the biting reality of the Health and Wealth Gospel: now tell me – does that sound like the Gospel of Grace to you?
But it simply does not follow that all rich and healthy people of the world are blessed of God, while all of the sick and poor people are cursed. Has Africa done something to offend God? Is North America and Europe God’s New Jerusalem? No. Rather, “God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong,” (1 Cor. 1:27). And further, “God choose the poor 1of this world to be crich in faith and dheirs of the kingdom which He epromised to those who love Him.” (James 2:5)

So, is it a blessing of God to be wealthy in the New Dispensation? Perhaps, but God gives some Christians wealth so that they can give it away to needy Christians “so that there may be equality.” (2 Cor. 8:14).

Does God want us to pray for health, wealth, and “the abundant life” (aka the American Dream)? No, He does not.

“You ask and ado not receive, because […because why? Because they ask without faith? Because they ask in the wrong way? Because they have not given enough money to their church? no, but…] you ask 1with wrong motives, so that you may spend it 2on your pleasures.You aadulteresses, do you not know that friendship with bthe world is chostility toward God? dTherefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (Jas. 4:3-4)

Far from being a blessed lifestyle, the American Dream is adultery, and enmity towards God: the true righteousness of God is not found in seeking after and glorifying health, wealth, and satisfaction in life: “For all of these things the heathens chase after. But seek first the kingdom of God, and these things will be added to you – along with persecutions.” (Luke 12:31, Mark 10:30)

God wants to use your life. The good stuff, and the bad stuff. He wants to be glorified in it.

He wants you to enjoy all of the good things He has given you. Every good and perfect gift comes from God (James 1:17) and He wants us to enjoy them. It is not bad to enjoy life! God has created good things for us to richly enjoy: pleasure is not evil, but is sanctified when it is coupled with a spirit of gratitude (1 Tm. 4:3-5). But then, your sufferings are not evil either. Or, rather, they are evil but God knows how to make good come out of evil (Gen. 50:20) and He makes all things work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to His purposes (Rom. 8:28).

And so, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you;

13  but to the degree that you ashare the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the brevelation of His glory cyou may rejoice with exultation.

14  If you are reviled 1afor the name of Christ, byou are blessed, cbecause the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

15  Make sure that anone of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a 1btroublesome meddler;

16  but if anyone suffers as a aChristian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to bglorify God in this name.

17  For it is time for judgment ato begin 1with bthe household of God; and if it cbegins with us first, what will be the outcome for those dwho do not obey the egospel of God?

18  aAnd if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, 1what will become of the bgodless man and the sinner?

19  Therefore, those also who suffer according to athe will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.” (1 Peter 4:12-19)

 

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