But the fact that not everything is false doctrine does not mean than nothing is false doctrine! Any religious system that perverts the basic nature of the gospel of Jesus Christ is false doctrine. I think Cindy Fleenor was taken in by false doctrine. Fleenor is a 53-year-old accountant from Tampa and a believer in Jesus who got into the habit of watching well-known television preachers, and that for her became church. The message that she heard preached was basically the same— be faithful in your living and in your giving, and God will shower you with great material prosperity. This led here to give regular and large donations to Benny Hinn, Joyce Meter and Paula White.
Well, not only did Fleenor nor become wealthy, she went broke. She was reduced to borrowing money from friends and even going to those shady payday loan companies just to buy groceries. And just as bad, she accepted the stock answer as to why the blessings of God didn’t overflow into her life—she didn’t have enough faith. She said, “I wanted to believe God wanted to do something great with me like he was doing with them. I'm angry and bitter about it.” Coincidently, the ministries to which Fleenor contributed are three of those that are currently being investigated by the Senate.
As mentioned yesterday, one of the characteristics of false teachers is that they “think that godliness is a means to financial gain” (1 Tim 6:5). Can you twist some NT passages to make it appear that Christian faith will bless you with overflowing prosperity? How about Luke 6:38?
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
That is a favorite verse of the Rolex and Rolls-Royce religion set. Of course, that pesky thing called context makes it plain that Jesus is talking about forgiveness here and not money. But then, what’s a little proof-texting among friends?
It is one thing to point to verses talking about God’s blessings and make it appear that this always means money. But it is another thing to show how this prosperity gospel worked in the lives of the first Christians. Jesus Himself died penniless with only the clothes on his back. Did He not have enough faith? Paul was rich and successful BEFORE he met Jesus on the Damascus Road, but he counted all of that as garbage (Phil 3:7-8). The only material “wealth” Paul mentions are some books and a coat he wanted Timothy to bring to him before he died in prison. And the only shot the Apostle Peter had at wealth and prosperity was before he was an apostle when his boat was miraculous filled with fish to the point of sinking. He walked away and left them there to rot so that he could follow Jesus (Luke 5:11).
Christianity didn’t make Jesus materially rich. It didn’t make the first Christians rich. In fact, they were hounded and persecuted because they dared to wear the name of the Nazarene. To preach that “God wants us to be prosperous and we will if we have enough faith” perverts the gospel of the cross. And that is the essence of false doctrine.