Is your life empty? Do you not have the riches that you expected when you signed up for this Christianity thing? Well, you are in luck because in his newest book (published posthumously) Derek Prince offers 5 steps and 3 principles that are sure to get God to pay up for what he owes you. Of course, that is not the way he puts it. In fact throughout the book he denies that he is teaching the prosperity gospel and that the term “prosperity” means more than finances, yet most of his examples of God’s promises fulfilled mean amassing large amounts of material wealth.
Though he expressly denies it, Prince, like the other “prosperity gospel” preachers including Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer, teaches a strong perspective on the law. Essentially he says that if we were to take God’s promises seriously and do what God commands, then we would have the wealth and prosperity that is promised in the Bible. That is, as a matter of fact, entirely true. The only trouble is that God expects perfect compliance with the Law, and none have been successful but Christ.
Poverty, says Prince, should not be considered a blessing. In fact if it were so many of us would not be going to work to avoid it, he challenges. While this it true that poverty is not a blessing, it does not mean that the sign of a person’s favor with God is only in their available wealth. We can point to many people in Scripture that were faithful, that God called his own, and were poor, both spiritually and materially. One stark example is the story of Lazarus, a very poor man, and a rich man had both died. Lazarus was in heaven while the rich man (never named) found himself in hell.
A common error made in reading the Bible for prosperity is reading number. That is often in Scripture, and let’s also include common everyday language, the word “you” or “your” could be either singular or plural. Prince takes passages that are addressed to the entire nation of Israel and claims that they are written to the individual Christian who, if only will make good on God’s promise, will reap the abundant benefit.
In my post yesterday I described perhaps one of the only (somewhat) cogent points in the book. Prince argued that the tradition of the tithe may have roots in Abraham giving a tenth of his spoils to a man who was called priest of the Most High God, Melchizedek. In Hebrews, the author of the book argues that Christ is a priest in the tradition of Melchizedek. Prince then concludes that we owe a tithe to Christ because of this connection. However, neither the author of Hebrews nor any biblical author suggest that paying tithes comes from this event. Creative, but you would think that someone, somewhere in the New Testament would mention it.
Prince makes another common error that many in the prosperity camp make. He expressly states that the word “salvation” actually means “prosperity.” I am sure you can quickly see how thinking that “salvation” means “material wealth” can completely change the way we read Scripture. Prince is very referent about Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. He does argue (briefly) for atonement, but then launches a spurious argument that suggests that Christ took on abject poverty when he went to the cross and because he took our poverty we are entitled to material wealth!
This is the most dangerous aspect of the whole book. It is very apparent that Derek Prince, in line with other prosperity preachers and, oddly enough, most liberal Christians, puts a strong emphasis on God fulfilling promises here and now. If God’s promise for prosperity is meant for this time and place, then what of the life to come? If “salvation” means “prosperity” and “prosperity” means “material wealth,” is it not still true that you “can’t take it with you?”
Perhaps the cliche fits well here: Derek Prince, your god is too small. The provision of the God of the Bible is not interested in material wealth, riches, and physical prosperity in all its forms. Not that wealth is evil in its nature, but it is not the end that God had in mind when sending Christ to die. “Man looks at the outside, but God looks at the heart.” And that heart is vile and evil. Christ came to take our place, to bear the burden of sin that would crush us to death, and then free us to receive the abundance that is himself. Christ was able to stay the wrath of God and then offer us not only forgiveness, a clean slate, but a righteous record that he added to our account, free of charge.
If Prince is right, that we must meet the demands of God’s law to receive his blessings, then we are all good as damned. Thanks be to Jesus Christ for completing the work that we could never hope to do on our own! Holy, holy, holy is his name!
[Legal: a free copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review. However, this does not incline me to write a positive review, but simply to give you my honest impressions of this work.]