What is the poverty gospel?
Please note — the poverty gospel is not biblical. I do not believe it, nor do I think anyone else should believe it. I am writing this post on the "poverty gospel" as a satire. My purpose is to show how easy it is to invent a doctrine by taking Bible verses out of context and not studying the whole counsel of Scripture.
The Poverty Gospel
God wants you to be sick and poor. If you are healthy or wealthy, it is because you do not have enough faith and/or are in disobedience to God.
God wants you to be sick so that you will learn to obey His Word.
"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word...It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees...I know, LORD, that your laws are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me" (Psalm 119:67-75).
God wants you to be sick because it demonstrates His power.
"Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh...Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me" (2 Corinthians 12:7-9).
God wants you to give away everything you have, so clearly that means He wants you to be poor.
"If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me" (Matthew 19:21).
God wants you to be poor so that you will take your eyes off the things of this world.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:19-21).
God wants you to be poor. He demonstrates this by how often the Bible speaks against the evils of money and wealth.
"For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs" (1 Timothy 6:10).
"No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24).
"But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?" (James 2:6-7).
God wants you to be sick so that you can rely on His strength and learn to obey His Word. God wants you to be poor so that you can learn to trust Him and take your eyes off the things of this world. If you are not sick and poor, it is because you lack the faith to trust God, are not obeying Jesus' command to give everything away, and are holding on to the things of this world instead of longing for your eternal home in Heaven.
It shouldn't be difficult to discern what popular message the poverty gospel is a satire of...but that is not the main point. Most false doctrines start with a nugget of biblical truth, but then that nugget is taken to unbiblical extremes. Entire false belief systems have been built on single verses of Scripture taken out of context.
Does God sometimes use sickness and/or poverty to teach us? Yes. Is it sometimes God's will for us to go through difficult life circumstances? Yes. But, is it always God's desire that we be sick and poor? Absolutely not. Rather, God's desire is that we trust Him, obey Him, and rely on Him no matter the circumstances in our lives.
"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:12-13).
S. Michael Houdmann
What is the poverty gospel?