Thursday, October 31, 2013

Resources against the prosperity (health and wealth) heresy.

Lately, I've noticed so many people in my facebook newsfeed seem to be embracing the so-called prosperity gospel, a theological concept that because you are a Christian, God will always bless you with health and wealth and temporal "successes." Consumed with their business endeavors and quest for material riches, I am sadly watching and praying as they hastily run towards this vision of success, all the while noticing with a heavy heart as their real-life relationships and grounding in gospel truths fade away.

Below, you will find some resources that can help you to soundly combat the prosperity gospel, both for your own mind (meditate on these things!) and for your conversations with friends when it arises. I compiled this list from personal research and from a facebook friend's post on the subject in a group of Catholic women. I hope it helps someone.

First: The Word of God.

The Word of God warns clearly against men who teach the prosperity gospel.

1 Timothy 6:5, 9-11

5 and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.
9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith...

Ephesians 5:5

5 For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Ephesians 5:6–7

6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not become partners with them;

Believers should be:

1 Timothy 3:3
3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.

Hebrews 13:5
5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

1 Timothy 6:10
10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

Luke 12:15
15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Matthew 6:24
24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Jesus himself pursued humility and poverty, choosing no place to lie his head.

Matthew 8:20

20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."

You might also find this list of prooftexts for suffering

Next: the Church's inspired words... encyclicals.

Populorum Progressio (Paul VI) addresses it very clearly, as does Caritas in Veritate. (Pope Benedict XVI)

The Prosperity Gospel has its roots in American thought. Studying a condemned heresy that might help you to understand will help too. The heresy is called "Americanism."

You can read more about it here and here.

As my friend pointed out:
The health and wealth "gospel" is a pretty American phenomenon that depends on "me," "what I want," "what God is doing in MY life," and "my own personal relationship with Him." This goes against everything the scriptures and Tradition teach.
John Paul II wrote an apostolic exhortation "Ecclesia in America" that talks about the communal nature of faith (rather than individualism that seems to be at the heart of the health and wealth gospel)."

As far as the idea of health being guaranteed to us, you can read about the doctrine of redemptive suffering. The best way to understand this is to read the stories of the saints on redemptive suffering applied.

My favorite saint, Blessed Mariam (of Jesus Crucified), also known as the Little Arab, said:
I desire to suffer always and not to die. I should add: this is not my will, it is my inclination. It is sweet to think of Jesus; but it is sweeter to do His will. 

1 comment:

  1. Fr. Larry Richards, a diocesan priest in the Erie, PA diocese said this in regards to the "prosperity gospel":

    "If you can't preach the Word of God to a woman in Africa, holding her dying child, then you're not preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

    Great post!



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