Poverty theology and prosperity theology are two opposing financial models which have been promoted in the religious world. These contrary theologies are supported by numerous scriptures which have been taken out of context and balance with the entire Word of God.
Poverty theology is the idea that wealth is wrong and that poverty is pleasing to God. It often includes the idea that voluntary poverty is of high moral excellence. This theology has produced monastic type living and vows of poverty. It focuses on scriptures such as: “Blessed be ye poor” (Luke 6:20, 24) and “Sell that ye have” (Luke 12:33). Possessions are viewed as a curse and it is exclusively God’s job to provide. Yet, people that follow this theology are often consumed with trying to meet their daily needs and are unable to help the poor because they are the poor.
Prosperity theology (health and wealth gospel) claims that financial blessings are the will of God. This theology emphasizes personal empowerment and is often defined as a contract between God and mankind—if Christians have faith and obey God’s Word, God in turn will give spiritual and physical prosperity. This theology focuses on scriptures such as: “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed…nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matthew 17:20) and “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matthew 21:22). This theology emphasizes faith for God’s blessings and is known as “name-it and claim-it.” One writer so aptly said that this theology is a form of “Christian Witchcraft.” It exalts the things of this world and erroneously equates wealth with God’s blessings.
Both poverty and prosperity theologies are half-truths. There is nothing inherently spiritual about wealth or poverty. Suffering is not a sign of disobedience nor is prosperity a sign of God’s approval. Christians should never worship possessions and they should be committed to radical generosity. Christians are to have faith and trust in God for all things. They are to pursue a relationship with God Himself for its own intrinsic value and not for the external blessings of life. As stewards, Christians are to practice ALL principles of the Bible, not just a select few that support a theology of man, whether it be one of poverty or prosperity.