Joyce Meyer says an unbalanced view of faith and prosperity leads to blaming people and their lack of faith for their life problems. But that’s only half of the issue. The real problem with the prosperity gospel is that it creates a culture where doubts, fears and questions are not welcome.
In a recent Instagram video, Meyer said her teachings about prosperity had become “out of balance.”
“I’m glad for what I learned about prosperity, but it got out of balance. I’m glad for what I learned about faith, but it got out of balance. And so every time somebody had a problem in their life was ‘cause they didn’t have enough faith. If you got sick you didn’t have enough faith. If you’re child died you didn’t have enough faith.”
I grew up in the prosperity gospel. For the first 18 years of my life, I didn’t just believe the prosperity gospel. I defended it. I nearly ended friendships over my persistence that their health problems, financial struggles and the like, were because of their lack of faith.
Jesus said, “If you have faith like a mustard seed, you can move mountains.” And that is the core teaching of the prosperity gospel.
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So when a friend took a step of faith and threw her glasses into the pond because she decided to trust God to heal her eyesight, I was inspired. The result was a new pair of glasses. And when I saw people with cancer decide to trust God rather than go to the doctor, my faith was strengthened.
Being honest about our doubts and fears is often the first step to truly trusting God.
The kind of faith I would constantly see or hear about challenged me to trust God. So I would often find myself on the floor alone in my room, confused, frustrated and angry with myself. I believed God desperately wanted to answer my prayers, but my faith just wasn’t strong enough. So I would repent for my lack of faith, and ask Him for more of it.
Despite its shortcomings, the prosperity gospel isn’t all wrong. In fact, there is plenty we can learn from it.
We should strive to have unwavering faith, despite circumstances. And we should speak life, because “Life and death are in the power of the tongue,” (Prov. 18:21). Those are lessons I learned from my prosperity upbringing.
But the danger of creating a culture that defines faith as unwavering optimism about our lives, is that faith stops being about trusting God. Instead, faith becomes a mask we wear to hide from God and from others. We put on a fake smile to keep everyone around us from seeing that we have doubts and questions, and we call it faith.
When faith teachings become “out of balance,” they rob people of the freedom to ask questions and wrestle with their faith.
Growing up, I couldn’t even say that I had a headache without being told, “You mean you’re healed in Jesus name.” Because saying I had a headache was not declaring life over myself, and it certainly wasn’t faith.
One of the most beautiful pictures of faith is in Mark, when Jesus was about to heal a man’s son. Jesus asked the man, “Do you believe?” And the man responded, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief,” (Mark 9:24). But often the prosperity gospel doesn’t make room for that honest response. And if it does, it certainly doesn’t call it faith.
Joyce Meyer wants to reassure us that our problems don’t necessarily mean we lack faith. But faith is not the problem with the prosperity gospel. We should, of course, always strive to trust God to heal, bless and set people free.
What people need to hear is not that faith doesn’t always guarantee a problem-free life. Experience has already taught us that.
What we need to hear is that doubts, tears, questions and fears are not a lack of faith. If they were, then the Psalms are full of lyrics written by people who had no faith in God. What we need to hear is that being honest about our doubts and fears is often the first step to truly trusting God.