How the Prosperity Gospel Is a Barrier to Racial Reconciliation

Russell Moore interviewing John M. Perkins at ERLC Leadership Summit
Russell Moore interviewing John M. Perkins at ERLC Leadership Summit

When a prophet calls down fire from heaven, it’s wise to stand to the side.

That’s how I felt a few weeks ago when John Perkins, the revered preacher and civil rights activist, brought up prosperity gospel pastor Creflo Dollar during a live interview I was conducting with Perkins at a summit on racial reconciliation. Perkins lamented that there are so few accredited African-American evangelical schools in the United States while at the same time Dollar is asking for money for a $65 million dollar private jet. “That’s almost witchcraft,” he said.

The more I’ve thought of that over the past few weeks, the more I’m convinced that Perkins is right. The prosperity gospel is a barrier to racial reconciliation.

Our True Blessing

First of all, the prosperity gospel targets the most vulnerable in any society, whether urban or rural, black or white. As it does so, it offers a simplistic path to upper mobility through “claiming” God’s promises for health and wealth or through planting “seed” money, usually in the ministry of one of the prosperity preachers. The end result is what the apostles warned us about as early as the first century: predatory teachers who use a veneer of the Scriptures to prey on desperate people for their money or for sex, or for both (2 Timothy 3:1–9). The prosperity gospel exploits the poor (in our culture, disproportionately in minority communities) and diverts resources away from those communities into the coffers of the charlatans.

The primary harm the prosperity gospel does to racial reconciliation, though, is that it is not the gospel. The prosperity gospel teachers use passages from Deuteronomy and elsewhere, with the list of God’s blessings for the law-keepers and curses for law-breakers — and then do an end-run around the fulfillment of those blessings and curses in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ Jesus. They ignore the truth that the New Testament teaches that none of us are law-keepers and thus, left to ourselves, cut off from the blessings of God (Romans 2:12–3:20).

They ignore that we are only blessed if we are hidden in the curse-bearing Jesus (Galatians 3:10–13). They obscure that we know if God is pleased with us, in the present age, not by our bank accounts or our pathology reports but by the truth that we are, in Christ, raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Father (Colossians 3:1–4).

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SOURCE: Desiring God
Russell Moore