To Prosperity Preachers: Separate from the Peddlers

This is the eleventh post in a series of twelve. The content comes from “Twelve Appeals to Prosperity Preachers” found in the new edition of Let the Nations Be Glad.

The apostle Paul set us an example by how vigilant he was not to give the impression that he was in the ministry for money. He said that ministers of the word have a right to make a living from the ministry. But then, to show us the danger in that, he refuses to fully use that right.

It is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” . . . It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 9:9-12)

In other words, he renounced a legitimate right in order not to give anyone the impression that money was the motivation of his ministry. He did not want the money of his converts: “We never came with words of flattery, as you know, nor with a pretext for greed—God is witness” (1 Thessalonians 2:5).

He preferred to work with his hands rather than give the impression that he was peddling the gospel: “I coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:33-35).

He knew that there were peddlers of God’s word who thought “godliness is a means of gain” (1 Timothy 6:5-6). But he refused to do anything that would put him in that category: “We are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ” (2 Corinthians 2:17).

Too many prosperity preachers not only give the impression that they “peddle God’s word” and make “godliness a means of gain” but actually develop a bogus theology to justify their extravagant displays of wealth. Paul did just the opposite.


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John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.