What is the Word of Faith movement? Is it biblical?
The Word of Faith movement is a loose collection of preachers and teachers who put great emphasis on worldly success and the power of a Christian to control their own future through positive acts. Though almost always rejected by those who follow it, this concept is also known as "Prosperity Theology." In short, the Word of Faith movement is not only unbiblical, it is completely heretical. This doctrine stands opposed to concepts Christianity has taught throughout its history.
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The core claims of the Word of Faith / Prosperity movement are that God's desire is for all Christians to be happy, healthy, and wealthy. These teachers often claim that God allows a person to "speak" their desires into reality, as though they had a creative power similar to that of God. Sickness, poverty, and other struggles are seen as evidence of a lack of faith, or at least a poor application of it.
Simple logic goes a long way to disproving the claims of Word of Faith / Prosperity teachers. Many ask for donations, so that those who comply will be blessed by God for their generosity. Some live lavish lives, with mansions, private jets, and so forth. This begs the question: why don't such people send money to those who are struggling? If it's an act of faith, resulting in blessing, for a poor person to send them money, won't they be even more blessed if they help the poor?
In practice, of course, this is not what we see in Word of Faith / Prosperity teachings.
Biblically, Word of Faith / Prosperity theology is extremely easy to disprove. The apostle Paul was one of Christianity's most devout, loyal, wise, and committed adherents. And yet, he suffered poverty, persecution, and imprisonment (2 Corinthians 11:16–33). Paul actually asked God—more than once—to remove some affliction he was suffering, and God's response was "no" (2 Corinthians 12:7–9).
If there was any truth to the teachings of the Word of Faith movement, Paul would have been healthy and rich, not oppressed. He would have "spoken" his afflictions away. Clearly, this is not what happened. Likewise, there are other instances where Paul was unable to "speak" healing into others, despite his sincere desire (Philippians 2:25¬–30; 2 Timothy 4:20).
In fact, Paul described those who think of God as a way to get rich as "depraved" and lacking in truth (1 Timothy 6:5). The verses following this condemnation are the antithesis to the entire Prosperity teaching: that we are to be content with what we have, and a desire for wealth is a dangerous temptation (1 Timothy 6:6–10).
Job, as well, shows how bankrupt Word of Faith / Prosperity teachings are. The Bible is explicitly clear that Job's calamities were not because of his own sin (Job 1:8). This is a teaching echoed by Jesus in John chapter 9, where He specifically says that the man born blind was not suffering because of his sin or that of his parents (John 9:1–3).
Another key event is Jesus' temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1–11). This is the one and only place in the Bible where material wealth and prosperity is offered in return for worship (Matthew 4:8–10). However, this offer is not made by God. It's made by the Devil. In other words, it's perfectly accurate to say that the claim, "worship and you'll be wealthy" is literally a message from Satan.
Said another way, there would be no reason for Satan to tempt Jesus with wealth and success, if those are the natural and expected results of faith in God. Jesus was the most perfect person who ever lived—there was no reason for Satan to tempt Him with something if He was guaranteed to get it already! Wealth and privilege are not, in any sense, guaranteed for the believer.
God does not imbue Christians with the power to have anything we want, whenever we want it. God will grant requests which align with His will. Biblically, we see clear evidence of this. Historically, we see this in the lives of the apostles, who clearly didn’t feel God was obligated to give them every whim they asked for. Logically, we see this in the hypocrisy and greed of those who promote the Word of Faith / Prosperity message.
There are many well-meaning people who have been confused by the arguments of Word of Faith teachers (2 Corinthians 11:3). The most loving thing we can do for such people is to show them the truth, so they don't waste their efforts, lives, or resources on spiritual con artists.
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