True spiritual growth requires the ability to "rightly divide the Word of truth." (II Tim. 2:15-16 - KJV) One-sided teachings that hinge on creatively interpreted Scripture is just about as much use to the seeking Christian as a steady diet of cupcakes is to a growing toddler. They may love it now, but it's not going to serve them well when they ask their bodies to run the distance later.
Not all of those who believe in prosperity teachings are out to fleece the sheep. As someone who has sat under these teachings myself, I would like to point out that there are many who follow these teachings because they truly want to please God. And really, how many of us are going to sit down and research New Age teachings as a comparative part of our Bible studies?
Jesus warned us of the coming of many false prophets and false teachers in the last days. (Matt. 24:11) He also pointed out that they would deceive many within the church. Such pseudo-Christians have always been around, so they are not new to the church. But we were instructed particularly to expect for them in these days.
Unfortunately, the Church is unwilling to call these false prophets out. While I do understand we do not want to start a church fight and split the body of Christ, especially in the eyes of the world, neither does it serve us to fall back on political correctness. (Spiritual correctness?)
Jesus told Peter to feed his flock (John 21:15-17), and Peter reminded the elders of the church of this mandate in I Peter 5:1-4. They were instructed not to act as lords over what is truly God's heritage, but to rather serve as examples to the flock. When Jesus, the chief Shepherd appeared, they would be rewarded.
Some shepherds want their reward now.
Jesus, when speaking to his disciples about the end of the age, talked of both the faithful and wise servant who took care of his lord's household, and the evil servant who took advantage of his fellow servants, playing the lord himself.
Jesus said, "But and if that evil servant shall say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to smite his fellowservants and to eat and drink with the drunken:..." (Matt. 24:42-51) Believe me, no true servant of God wants this to be his lifestyle when he is surprised by the return of the Lord. Jesus will "cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (vs. 51)
For a clear picture of what God thinks of opportunistic shepherds, read the 34th chapter of Ezekiel. While this was prophesied against the shepherds of Israel (I told you there was nothing new under the sun), there's no reason to believe shepherds within the church will be exempt from a similar judgment.
"Thus saith the Lord God unto the shepherds;
Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?
Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe ye with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock."
Verse 4 is sort of a reverse job description of God's assigned spiritual leaders. These are things they should have been doing, like binding up the wounded, but haven't. Because the shepherds were both derelict in their duties and focused on their own gain, the flock became scattered and vulnerable to those who would prey on them.
These shepherds are told that God himself would gather together his sheep which were scattered and set them up under one shepherd, Jesus. (vs. 14, 23).
What we as members of the flock should also note is that, having dealt with the shepherds, God also said he would judge between the members of the flock. (vs.17 - 22) He will certainly take note of those who took advantage of their brethren in pursuit of the best the sheepfold had to offer. Whether it be power and position or wealth and material goods that set them off, the sheep that are fat and healthy in the world's eyes will stand out from their lean brethren.
In the stampede to come out on top, know that there will always be those that lie crumpled and bleeding on the bottom. These are those who were made poor so that the shepherds and the more powerful sheep could prosper. The shepherds live off their fat, and their brethren eat the best and befoul what is left, leaving them wounded, desperately hungry and, perhaps, bitter.
Christianity is not a competition. Aren't we to lift each other up? to help those who are wounded? to share when we have abundance? to comfort?
Prosperity teachings are, at their heart, a selfish and self-centered doctrine. And those caught up in it are often ill-equipped to deal with trials and temptations when they come. This is an injustice to our brothers and sisters.
hese are sheep on a steady diet of junk food, who one day will discover they don't have the strength to stand.
Help them. Teach them. Pray for them.