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The Miracle That Made Me Question the Prosperity Gospel

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The flaw of the prosperity gospel isn’t that God loves to bless us. It’s that His blessings are conditional.


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Prosperity theology teaches if you have enough faith you can escape, or even evade, suffering. Many Christians believe prosperity theology, also called the Word of Faith, until their faith is challenged by tragedy. That was the case for Elly Olare, a former Word of Faith preacher, who lost his daughter Witney, then his son Robin, followed by a series of miscarriages. Through tragedy, Pastor Olare faced the reality that prosperity theology didn’t always deliver what it promised. But that’s not my story.

I believed prosperity theology for 18 years. My faith wasn’t challenged by tragedy, but by blessings.

We came home one Saturday evening and found an envelope under the mail slot beneath the front door. On the back was written, “Christ’s timing is always perfect.” Inside the envelope was $1,000 cash. We stood there dumbfounded, staring at each other.

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Growing up under prosperity theology, anonymous envelope testimonies were actually not uncommon. They usually went something like this:

”We had an $894.45 past due medical bill. We didn’t have any extra money. But we believed God told us to trust Him and give to Him first. That Sunday we gave the last $50 we had in the offering and asked God to bless it. When we got home from work on Monday, there was a check in the mail for exactly $894.45.”

The message was simple. Trust God, give your tithe and you will be blessed.

There is great value in stories like this. We should, of course, trust God and step out in faith. But I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that my anonymous envelope story was nothing like that.

Here are three lessons I had to unlearn when an anonymous envelope was left in my mailbox.

1. God doesn’t bless faithfulness. He blesses his imperfect kids.

The lesson of the miraculous envelope testimonies I heard in church was that if I give faithfully, God will bless me. But when I received an envelope full of cash, it wasn’t because I was a faith-filled and cheerful giver. I often gave begrudgingly, fully aware that our budget would be a lot more comfortable if we didn’t feel pressure to give part of our income to the church.

Yet God blessed my family. Not because I was faithful, but because God loves to bless his imperfect kids. God’s blessings are not payment for our good works. He blesses us simply because he loves us, even when we don’t deserve it.

Being blessed for my faithfulness is formulaic. Being blessed because God simply loves me? That’s gospel.

2. We don’t give to receive. We give because we’ve been blessed.

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Growing up, Luke 6:38 was read almost every Sunday before the offering was received.

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.”

The message was clear. The trick to getting what you want is to give. It felt formulaic. But when I received an envelope full of cash in the mail, it wasn’t because of my generosity. It was quite the opposite, actually. God blessed my family in a way I knew I didn’t deserve.

Romans 2:4 says, “God’s kindness leads us to repentance.” And that’s what happened to me. An undeserved blessing led me to repent for the times that I had doubted God, and for the times that I held back from giving generously.

3. God rarely blesses us anonymously. He blesses us through community.

The anonymous envelope stories I heard growing up always seemed so mysterious. It was like someone took a step of faith, and money fell from the sky and onto their doorstep. But when it happened to me, it was no mystery.

God’s blessings rarely fall from the sky. They come from community.

I don’t know who the envelope came from. But I know it came from someone at my church. It came from someone within our community. And that’s a tangible reminder that God’s blessings rarely fall from the sky. They come from community.

The blessing prosperity theology couldn’t give me.

Prosperity theology doesn’t just fall short when tragedy strikes. Even blessings have a deeper meaning when they are seen as undeserved gifts, rather than the rewards for your faithfulness.

Being blessed for my faithfulness is formulaic. Being blessed because God simply loves me? That’s gospel.