July 3, 2022 Signs and Leaven Part 3 (The Health and Wealth Heresy)

Signs and Leaven

Part Three

(The Health & Wealth Heresy)

July 3, 2022


Read Matthew 16:1-12; 24-27.


In the last two installments of this series we already considered that Jesus did not think favorably of seeking signs. Seeking for a sign to discern the Lord’s will is not something that is forbidden. We do see it on some rare occasions in the Bible. However, the Lord has granted us sufficient guidance through the Scriptures and through the counsel of mature brothers or sisters to meet almost all manner of decision-making. The problem with seeking for a sign is that, like the Pharisees, people in general just look for a sign that will affirm their own desires and they will ignore signs (that may even be from the Lord!) that lead them where they do not wish to go! It is a universal problem. We are learning that the Lord’s will is what is best for us. Sometimes it takes a lifetime to learn this lesson! Yet, there is a wonderful peace of mind and contentment that comes with being sure that the Lord’s will for us is, in fact, the best thing for us and the thing that brings us the most happiness!


Then Jesus warned his disciples to beware of leaven, that is, the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Since we are his disciples, this warning is for us! Leaven is still with us! Because we need to receive this warning, we considered two forms of leaven before: the fact-only gospel (or forgiveness-only gospel) and the so-called Free-Grace Heresy. The final form of leaven that we will consider today is the Health & Wealth Gospel. It is also known as the Prosperity Gospel and, most popularly, the Word of Faith Movement.


It is a perversion of the true gospel. It claims that God rewards faith with increases in health and wealth. Put simply, it guarantees physical health and monetary prosperity (an increase in money) if a person has faith. Put still another way, health and wealth are the divine right of all Christians and they come with salvation. If a disciple of Christ does not have both then either they have not been taught properly or else they don’t have enough faith!


There is so much to say about this false gospel, for that is what it is, that one could preach about it for months! This morning I am barely going to scratch the surface. One could point out ten or more detrimental facets of this leaven. However, in the briefest way, we will consider just three serious problems with it. The Health & Wealth Gospel teaches that:


  • Christians give in order to gain material possessions, like more money, from God.
  • Faith is a self-generating spiritual force that leads to prosperity and health. And,
  • We ought to seek health & wealth.


[1.] All the prosperity preachers teach that, if you give money to God’s work, and they universally refer to their own “ministries” as God’s work, then God will bless you with more money! In other words, we are encouraged to give to them so that we will get more money for ourselves. This is so crass that unbelievers see through it rather easily and recognize it as nothing more than a give-to-get scheme and it tarnishes the Christian faith. Sadly, many would-be disciples of the Lord don’t see through it and fall for it. They give until it hurts (literally!) hoping for their “hundred-fold increase” but it never comes. Why doesn’t it come? Because a hundred-fold increase is not promised in the Bible! (The hundred-fold increase that Jesus spoke of in Mark 10:28-31 is not about money, nor possessions; it is about experiencing the love and hospitality of the local church!) Because its not promised, you don’t get it!


The detriment of giving to get is that it diverts money that could be used for the Lord’s work into a television ministry where the true gospel is rarely preached but, rather, just more prosperity teaching is promoted. Thus, money that could be used for the Lord’s true work (spreading the gospel, training others to share the gospel, teaching the truth from God’s word, helping the poor) is wasted on extravagant lifestyles of the Health & Wealth leaders (for example, Joel Osteen’s new worth is in excess of 50 million dollars!). This holds true of Faith Movement churches in general. Pastors of these so-called churches live in mansions and drive luxury cars.


Another detriment of giving to get is that the motive is simply wrong.


Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.”[1]


Giving to get makes one work for food that perishes, that is, money. Rather, our motive for giving is to spread the news of eternal life…which is free!


Just as in most false doctrines, there is a tiny kernel of truth in it. God does promise blessing to the one who gives to the Lord first. This blessing may include having our material needs met, including more money (possibly…God blesses us in better ways than money!), but the promise of blessing from the Lord is never held out as the primary motive for giving. It is revealed as a corollary matter – it is just mentioned by Paul, for example, so that the givers will not think that the Lord will leave them destitute if they should give sacrificially (2 Cor 9:6-15).


[2.] The prosperity proponents teach that faith is a force. Of course, faith is never described as a force in the Bible. Not only do they teach that faith is a force but that words, particularly your words, are containers. Just like a glass jar is a container, your words are containers that carry this force. You can even speak things into existence with your words just like God can! This is not just a kind of side teaching of the Faith Movement, as if only one or two of their leaders teach it. They all teach it. You are like God with this force of faith that you possess. You can do anything with your own words! This is nothing less than New Age teaching baptized with Christian language. It is not biblical and it exalts man to the level of God. It is wicked.


[3.] Last, the Health & Wealth gospel strongly promotes the seeking of wealth. But what did Jesus teach?


Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. [2]


Of course, “lay up” means to store up and you cannot store something up unless you are working towards it. Jesus says not to and the Health & Wealth people say to do it. (There is a proper and prudent place to save for the future; Jesus is not referring to that.)


If you listen to these Faith teachers even a little it becomes obvious that they talk about getting money a lot…I mean a lot! What do you talk about the most? What you love the most is what you talk about the most. It is  fact. I am in love with a sister in the Lord. Suzanne can testify that I talk about her quite a bit. She is probably getting tired of hearing  about her! Haha. (On the other hand, Suzanne is quite supportive!). But I talk about her a lot because I love her! When these so-called Faith teachers constantly talk about money and prosperity it reveals that they love it. What your teachers love, you will begin to love. That is the way life works. But, the Bible addresses this:


But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. [3]


It is evil to love money! Do you see that the Health & Wealth gospel is full of wrong motives?


Moving on to health, it is not wrong to seek to be healthy. Indeed, we are stewards of the bodies that God has given us. We are directed to care for our bodies, as well as our minds, our emotions, even our human will. When I meet a disciple of Christ like Brain Simko, who eats healthy food, who exercises regularly, and who studies his Bible I am encouraged greatly! He is an example to every follower of Christ! I would go further and say that those who neglect their health with overeating (gluttony), smoking (proven to be detrimental to our health), misuse of drugs, or never exercising[4] are in sin.


Thus, we ought to seek our own health and the health of those we love. But, the Faith Movement teachers say that being healthy is a divine right and that if we are not healthy there is one of two reasons for it. Either we do not have enough faith, so it is our fault if we are not healthy, or there is a secret sin in our life (so, also our fault). As I said earlier, most false doctrines have a small kernel of truth behind them. The Scriptures teach that unrepentant sin (I Cor. 11:29-32) can be a cause of sickness. But this does not mean that every sickness is a result of sin. It can also be true that a lack of trust (faith) in the Lord can delay our healing if we are ill. But the Faith teachers go far beyond this. It is always your fault if you are sick!


It is not a divine right to be healthy! Sickness and death are here because of Adam’s sin. You can a faithful follower of Christ and be sick! God may heal you or he may not. Many, many times disciples of Christ are healed through the laying on of hands, through prayer, or through the ministrations of medical technology which, itself, is a gift from God. (I am glad I live in this era rather than 100 years ago when we knew so much less about our bodies than we do now.) Knowledge is a gift from God! Solomon made this abundantly clear! But, many other faithful followers of the Lord have not been healed. God will use sickness to gain something in us. Sanctification often comes through pain.


[Conclusion] Jesus said beware of leaven. Teaching that is wrong can lead us astray spiritually, emotionally, and physically. People have died following the Faith teachers because they refused medical care. I personally knew a great man of God who died because he followed a Faith teacher. His name was Willie. He was only in his 40’s. He loved the Lord. He was always talking about Jesus. He was a street preacher. But he was also very kind hearted. He was always treating people to meals and having people over his small little house. He was diagnosed with throat cancer. It just so happened that about that same time he started following this Faith teacher that taught that healing was part of the atonement of Christ and all that we had to do was believe. He taught that going to a doctor was a sign of lack of faith. (Not all Faith teachers go that far but this one did.) If Willie had received treatment as soon as he was diagnosed there was a good opportunity he could have been cured, but he just “believed” instead. He died four months later.


Beware of leaven!


We have considered three forms of leaven these past weeks:


  • The fact-only gospel. Thinking that one is saved just by believing what Jesus did rather than choosing to follow him (and then actually following him!).
  • The Free Grace Heresy. Believing that one does not need to repent to have one’s sins forgiven and that obedience need not characterize one’s life after a profession of faith. And, today,
  • The Health & Wealth gospel which leads on into both sin and may result in physical and emotional harm.


Be on guard against all three of these false doctrines. If the church you attend promotes any one of these three doctrines, you need to leave and find a church that teaches the pure word of God. New Salem is such a place, but we are not the only one. If you are not part of such a church you need to be because you will have  a measure of protection from not ony these forms of leaven but others, too.


The local church is a refuge. Find your refuge!


Find a refuge and stay there. You will find not only good teaching, but good, life-long friends!





[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 6:26–27). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 6:19–21). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Ti 6:9–10). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Those who engage in hard labor do not need to exercise. Their labor is exercise. (The same is true for mothers who raise children and work hard at cleaning the house.) However, many vocations are sedentary (sitting at a desk all day, etc.) and without exercise our bodies will atrophy and our health will decline.