Prosperity gospel preachers all over the world claim that Christianity, when well understood and applied, is meant to give you a long life of health and a lot of wealth. I often tell friends in the West that the prosperity gospel in Africa has a slightly different texture and emphasis from what was initially imported from there. Prosperity teachers in the West often teach carefully selected passages of the Bible in ways that are not in line with the original author’s intent. In Africa, prosperity teachers emphasize the “anointed man of God” who has power to deliver you from your poverty through his prayers.
This is a very serious problem in Africa. It has spread like a wild forest fire. I am not sure about the Islamic states in north Africa, but south of the Sahara Desert it has become the most conspicuous form of Christianity. This is because prosperity gospel preachers tend to buy up time on television and radio. They also put up the most magnificent and spacious church buildings, and they live expensive lifestyles. The message coming from them is that if you believe what they believe, you too will soon live like that. This attracts a lot of followers.
The African version of the prosperity gospel tends to promise a solution to every conceivable “lack” in human experience. It not only promises to catapult you out of poverty and into a state of wealth, it also promises to solve your problems with a lack of a marriage partner or a lack of children in marriage.
Of course, there’s also the business of so-called miraculous healing. They claim to have special powers given to them by God to instantaneously heal any form of disease. The phrase “health and wealth gospel” captures the two sides of this phenomenon. It’s this latter promise that has been exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 is a disease. It is a very dangerous disease. It has caused the death of no less than 200,000 people all over the world. Surely, it’s common sense that what our prosperity gospel preachers should be doing is going to the epicenters of this disease and miraculously healing those who are critically ill and on ventilators. What has instead happened is that they have cancelled their previously scheduled healing meetings and become deathly quiet. A few are shouting at COVID-19 to go away from the comfort of their church buildings—but none, as far as I can see, are going to the places where the doctors and nurses battle against all odds to heal the sick.
To say that they are praying for the sick wherever they are is not what they have said all along. Previously, their billboards invited us to their meetings because they claimed to have the power to heal all illnesses. But every Christian prays for those who are sick. The shifting of the goal posts is evident to all. It exposes them and ought to embarrass them.
What prosperity gospel preachers should do in the light of COVID-19 is to honestly face facts. Unlike malaria and cancer, here is a disease that is so contagious that it has forced them to go into hiding for dear life’s sake—like the rest of us.
COVID-19 shows us our need of the glorious biblical gospel, which satisfies us whatever circumstances we may be in. This gospel enables us to trust in a sovereign God who has the right to do with our lives as he pleases. It also gives us a peace that defies all odds because we know we are justified by the finished work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Thus, in the midst of COVID-19, we ought to be preoccupied with how we can share God’s love with a suffering world. And finally, if COVID-19 is the pre-ordained vehicle that will take us to the grave, we know that we have a glorious eternity that awaits us in heaven.