Think you’re immune to the lures of the ‘prosperity gospel’? Maybe you should think again

After decades of being a poster-child for the prosperity gospel, Benny Hinn now says, “God’s blessings cannot be bought.”

Last week he told his audience: “I am correcting my own theology and you need to know it. The blessings of God are not for sale. And miracles are not for sale. And prosperity is not for sale.”

This is a radically different message from Hinn’s past sermons. He’s known for promising God’s blessings to viewers who send him a “gift” of $1,000. It’s not clear if his donors have ever been blessed, but Hinn’s blissful net worth stands at an estimated $42 million.

He says his days of selling God’s blessings are over, though. “I think giving has become such a gimmick. It’s making me sick to my stomach. . . . I don’t want to get to heaven and be rebuked.”

Considering how much he’s already been rebuked on earth, I appreciate his concern.

Many moderate and progressive Christians already reject Hinn’s prosperity gospel promises, and we tend to hold Hinn’s fans in contempt. Most of us consider them simple fools seduced by transparently false promises of easy blessings. We would never be taken in by such nonsense, we tell ourselves. We’re too discerning and shrewd to be swindled.

So when Hinn announced last week that “The gospel is not for sale,” most of us could have said, “We already know that. We aren’t rubes.”

“We would never be taken in by such nonsense, we tell ourselves.”

I don’t blame his fans for trying to buy a blessing, though. Many Christians, even the discerning and shrewd, spend hundreds of dollars a year to draw closer to God. We don’t spend it on “gifts” to multi-millionaire, prosperity gospel ministers, though. We spend it on Christian media.

The Christian media industry relies on the idea that consumers will purchase books, music and movies if they are marketed as blessings. “Buy this book,” the industry says, “and you’ll grow in your relationship with Christ.”

The top-selling Christian book on Amazon this week is The Oracle by Jonathan Cahn. “The Oracle will reveal the mystery behind everything,” boasts the publisher. “[T]he past, the present, current events, even what is yet to come! Open the seven doors of revelation – and prepare to be blown away!”

Other books on the top-ten list follow The Oracle’s lead. Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis has the answer for anyone who feels “overwhelmed and unworthy”:

“[I]n this challenging and inspiring new book, Rachel exposes the twenty lies and misconceptions that too often hold us back from living joyfully and productively, lies we’ve told ourselves so often we don’t even hear them anymore. . . . In the process, she encourages, entertains, and even kicks a little butt, all to convince you to do whatever it takes to get real and become the joyous, confident woman you were meant to be.”

“The Christian media industry relies on the idea that consumers will purchase books, music and movies if they are marketed as blessings.”

Lysa Terkeurst’s It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way promises to help readers who “quietly start to wonder about the reality of God’s goodness.” The book shows how “our disappointments can be the divine appointments our souls need to radically encounter God.”

Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts will help readers keep their relationships strong, so says the publisher. “How can you keep your relationship fresh and growing amid the demands, conflicts, and just plain boredom of everyday life? In the #1 New York Times bestseller The 5 Love Languages, you’ll discover the secret that has transformed millions of relationships worldwide.”

It’s a pitch that works: The 5 Love Languages has sold more than 11 million copies.

It’s also a pitch that Benny Hinn uses. His website gushes that his book The Names of God helps readers “learn to approach the Father with a growing, deepening love and reverence.” Buy the book, and you too can “Strengthen your relationship with God Almighty.”

When we buy a Christian book we expect a blessing. We believe it will show us the love of Christ in a new way. We trust it to reveal a revelation from God. We hope it will change our lives for the better. And why wouldn’t we expect these blessings when the book’s back cover promises as much?

Hinn is right: The blessings of God are not for sale. Most critics of the prosperity gospel knew that already.

But if you want to “discover the secret that has transformed millions of relationships worldwide,” it’ll cost you $9.59 on Amazon.com.


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