The “Prosperity Gospel” is a seductive syncretism of orthodox traditional Christian belief with idolatrous Baal worship. In this, the new Baal priests promise prosperous lives of health, wealth, and security to followers if they sacrifice to them lots of their money.
The Old Testament is filled with stories of the Israelite people supposedly worshiping Yahweh while also engaging in the practices of its Baal-worshipping Canaanite neighbors. The pantheon of Canaanite deity included gods of war, erotic love, and fertility for abundant offspring and harvest. In other words, erotic pleasure, wealth and overcoming adversaries. Baal, the storm god, was associated with rain and dew that resulted in plentiful harvest of crop and herd.
Worship practices were designed to induce the gods to grant prosperity. A common practice was to consort with sacred temple prostitutes who represented fertility goddesses. Cattle were favored sacrifices, especially powerful bulls that emblemized sexual virility. During times of crisis, such as severe drought or enemy assault, children might be sacrificed, often the first-born male. The Canaanites translated the act of sacrificing seed by planting to induce a crop harvest with sacrificing what might be most precious to them, their first-born son.
Many of the prosperity preachers urge their live and television audiences to plant a seed of faith into their ministry. For example, sow a $100 seed into their ministry and exercise faith for a $10,000 return. A favored misinterpreted scripture is Mark 4:8. “Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.” The truth, though, is that the “seed” in this passage is the Word of God, not money (Mark 4:14).
Prosperity preachers invariably ask their targets to dig deeply and sacrificially into their wallets, pocketbooks, and checkbooks especially if confronted with a serious problem such as a wayward child, a family member addicted to drugs, a lost job, looming bankruptcy. The greater the sacrifice, so they promise, the greater the likelihood of God responding with miraculous generosity. This is Baal religion disguised as Christianity.
Some of the big name prosperity preachers, especially those on television, rake in tens of millions every year. They live in luxurious homes, drive fleets luxury vehicles, and have one or more corporate jets. Their lives of luxury sharply contrast with their many destitute donors desperate for a way out of poverty or other seemingly intractable troubles. Oddly enough, some of the financially destitute look upon these sumptuously wealthy preachers as models to emulate so that they themselves might become rich.
On the congregation scale, it should be said that not all who preach the prosperity doctrine are greedy for gain. Many are decent men and women who love God and desire good things for their congregations. Nonetheless, their teaching tends to be devoid of teachings of Jesus that sharply criticize accumulation of riches.
When a wealthy, young, virtuous man begged Jesus to tell him how to inherit eternal life, Jesus responded by telling him to give all his money to the poor and then come follow Him (Luke 18:18-23). Notice, not to give the money to Jesus and His ministry, but give all that money to the poor. Would prosperity preachers tell their audiences to give to the poor? No, because in their teachings, poverty is a curse for unbelief.
Tragically, the “prosperity gospel” (Baalism) is taking hold of much of Africa. Impoverished people become prey for fabulously rich preachers to scrape the last “widow’s mite” from their pockets. The Bible harshly condemns these mercenary preachers present themselves as harmless sheep yet are mercenary wolves out to fleece the flock.
Jesus warns of wolves dressed as sheep yet underneath are devouring wolves (Matthew 7:15). Jesus goes on to say these false ministers will be recognized by their fruits. When one knows Jesus well, he or she will see that ministers who gain vast personal wealth from the hands of lower-income people are not of Him. Jesus says, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God (Luke 6:20), and further elaborates, “Woe to you who are rich…” (Luke 6:25).
Below are a few of numerous resources on prosperity preachers.