Red Letter Christianity vs. The Prosperity Theology

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There are those who would preach that if we make Jesus our choice in life, each of us will drive a Rolls Royce.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Jesus does not promise prosperity.  He tells us that the servant is not greater than the master, and if they persecuted Him, they will persecute us—that is, if we are faithful to Him.  He teaches that unless a person takes up the cross, he cannot be a follower.  He tells the rich young ruler that if he does have money and goods, he should give all to the poor.  When the disciples ask Jesus about rich people being saved, He makes it clear that this would be extremely difficult.  I think that the preachers of the Prosperity Theology do not make this sufficiently clear.

Also by Tony: Committed to Unhappiness: Consumerism is the Enemy of the Church

When Jesus says, “The foxes have holes and the birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head,” it kind of precludes the fact that if we are walking in His footsteps that we should not expect to have magnificent houses here on earth.

Jesus does not argue that the blessed people are those who enjoy “the good life, American style,” but are the ones who are persecuted for righteousness’ (justice) sake.

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Tony Campolo is the Founder and President of EAPE and Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Eastern University. Look for Tony in your area and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo Credit: Fedor Selivanov /

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Tony Campolo

Tony CampoloTony Campolo is Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Eastern University. Look for Tony in your area and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.View all posts by Tony Campolo →

  • 22044

    I think I agree…but I’m wondering if the teachings of prosperity theology might be fleshed out a bit.
    When I think of prosperity theology, I think of the Word-Faith movement (perhaps your first sentence indicates an agreement with that), which is a cancer in the Christian church. It deifies humans, reduces the nature of God, and redefines or rejects some of the essential doctrines of orthodox Christianity.

  • otrotierra

    Thank you Tony Campolo!

  • SamHamilton

    I agree Tony. Yet we preach that everyone should be able to live the “American dream,” which is essentially a materialistic goal.

    • Benjamin

      No, “we” do not. I do not. Many conservative Christians do not.

      • SamHamilton

        Our leaders do.

    • Would you be willing to expand upon who “we” are? Because Tony is clearly not a part of the “we,” so it would seem that even we gathered here are not wholly this “we,” and I would appreciate clarification.

      • SamHamilton

        When I said “we” I meant “our society,” and “our political leaders.” Sorry, should have been more clear.

        • No worries. Thank you for clarifying.

  • Denver Guy

    A local church, with satellite uplink and at one time corporate jet, found that the downturn in the economy made “Bishop L” a bit less of a prophet on the prosperity front. The church attendance plummeted, and eventually he “retired” and relocated to the west coast. The church had heart, but people apparently came for the wrong reason, and the Bishop himself was diverted by the glittering power of that prosperity “message.”

  • Mark Munger

    My first exposure to Tony Campolo was 30 plus years ago while doing a Bible Study called the Success Fantasy. It’s nice to see and hear you haven’t changed.

  • michaelhindes

    Thanks Tony – Richard Rohr “the gospel is a loser’s script, not a winner’s script”

  • donny1020

    Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. — James 5:1

    But woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation. — Luke 6:24

    Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich
    man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto
    you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than
    for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. — Matthew 19:23-24,
    Mark 10:23-25

    There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine
    linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar
    named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, And desiring
    to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover
    the dogs came and licked his sores. And it came to pass, that the
    beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the
    rich man also died, and was buried; And in hell he lift up his eyes,
    being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.
    And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send
    Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my
    tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. But Abraham said, Son,
    remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and
    likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art
    tormented. — Luke 16:19-25

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