Recently I have been thinking about a movement called the “Word of Faith” or the “Health and Wealth Gospel”. In this essay, I want to think a little about the way biblical terms and concepts are used by its preachers.
In the event that you are unfamiliar with this sort of teaching the “Health and Wealth Gospel”, as the name implies, teaches that God, the God of the Christian faith, wants all believers to be blessed by wealth and good health; benefits available to those in Christ through the vehicle of their faith, what is usually called “the word of faith”. Now I have to admit that at first glance some of what these men and women are teaching seems true. God does promise to bless His people. Of course, He also promises to bless unbelievers as well, for the God who sends rain on the just also sends it on the unjust. The real problem with this teaching is that it fails to do justice to all the outcomes of faith. Probably the best place to highlight this one-sidedness is Hebrews 11, where we read that by faith some received their dead back to life and some were, by faith, sawn in half. The “Word of Faith” movement seemingly misses just this point. Yet that is not the only misstep.
“Health and Wealth, Word of Faith” preachers all believe that faith becomes sight, something Scripture affirms as well. The problem is that the definition of concepts such as “faith” are not comprehensive or even biblical, which is unfortunate. Especially since Scripture gives us a very concise definition of it “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. It is difficult to see how this definition lines up with the “Word of Faith” concept. “Faith” though is not the only term that seems to be misunderstood by “Word of Faith” preachers. Anyone listening to these men or women for very long will hear a lot about God’s blessing. True enough God wants to and does bless us, but again the concept of blessing is generally left undefined. Few if any “Word of Faith” teachers offer anything like a comprehensive biblical definition, or example, of what it means to be blessed by God. Unfortunate since Jesus gives us several examples of what blessedness looks like (Matthew 5.3-12).
The “Health and Wealth Gospel” fails on several points theologically, which is enough for me to warn others to avoid it. However, I have other concerns as well. The “Health and Wealth Gospel” is tragic in that it tends to appeal to those in great need of hope, and hope is something it does offer, in spades. However, it is an offer that it is not able to deliver, which means the “Word of Faith”, “Health and Wealth” movement is full of people who are either bitter or becoming bitter towards God. People who feel that God does not keep His promises or who feel like second class Christians due to their lack of faith. The “Health and Wealth Gospel” is no Good News, nor can it be. It cannot be for it knows nothing of the Christ of St. Paul, The Christ Who taught him to trust God, even in the worst of circumstances, for He is trustworthy and He loves to raise the dead back to new life. The “Health and Wealth Gospel” can never teach this for It is a lesson that can only be learned by faith exercised in the face of trials, sickness, poverty and even death. All of which are essential to becoming like Christ.