Of Christian Rap & Reality Shows (Part 2 of 2) Wealth, Prosperity Gospel & Preachers of LA

*Does Jesus want everyone to be stinking rich?  What’s scripture have to say about wealth?*

pastors LA - pointing

(This continues my response to the TV reality show “Preachers of LA” and a look at the “prosperity gospel.”  Read Part 1 here.)

So, how does Reverend Clarence McClendon of the Preachers of LA justify his lavish lifestyle?  He says, “The Bible says that ‘I wish above all things that you prosper and be in health.  Even as your soul prospers.’  I believe that.”

Like all false teachers and cult leaders, Rev. McClendon quotes a little-known verse to support his view.  Now, little-known verses are still scripture, but if someone quotes a verse you’re not familiar with and it doesn’t jive with what you know other scripture clearly teaches, what do you do?  All you have to do is find the verse and read it in context.

This is an essential rule of thumb for everyone: when someone quotes scripture — no matter who it is doing the quoting — go read it in context.  People try to get scripture to say all sorts of things it doesn’t by taking it out of context.

When I first heard Rev. McClendon say this, I thought he was referring to John 10:10 when Jesus says, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly,” but when I looked the verse up I found it was in the very short letter by John towards the end of the New Testament called 3 John.

The verse Rev. McClendon quotes is in the opening greeting of the letter in 3 John:

“The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth.  Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.  For I was very glad when brethren came and testified to your truth, that is, how you are walking in truth.”

So, John writes this line quoted by Rev. McClendon not in a long theological argument, but as a greeting.  Nowhere does John explain that growing in the faith will guarantee growth in material wealth or health, not in the rest of this letter or elsewhere in the New Testament.  John is praying for Gaius’s well-being and hoping the best for him, like any friend would do.  A greeting said between friends, even if it appears in scripture, is not the basis for a theology apart from the rest of the Gospel.


Further, let’s look at the verse I originally thought Rev. McClendon was referring to in John 10:10.  Will this support his view?  Yet again, we have an issue when we look at the verse in context.  Nowhere does Jesus equate abundant life to material wealth.  If fact, there may be good reason for Rev. McClendon not to refer to John 10 because it appears right in the midst of Jesus’ parable about the good shepherd:

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.  I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.  He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.  He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep.  I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep” (John 10:10-15).

Would the prosperity preachers lay down their life for their flock?  Or are they just thieves and hired hands?

Since we’re looking at scripture, let’s look at some verses that do have clear implications concerning wealth — verses that would be difficult to misinterpret even if they were taken out of context.

1 Timothy 6:6-10: “But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.  For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.  If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.  But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

So, godliness is gain; we should find contentment in having our basic needs for food and shelter met; and chasing after material gain leads to destruction.


Luke 9:57-58: “As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.”  And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man [Jesus] has nowhere to lay His head.””

It certainly sounds like Jesus is saying he doesn’t have wealth, maybe not even a home, and that those who follow him shouldn’t expect more than this either.

And if those weren’t clear enough, look at this one:

Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Hard to misinterpret that one, isn’t it?

When thinking of the prosperity preachers, I can’t help but think of the interaction between Jesus and the rich young man in Matthew 19.  The rich young man claims to have followed all the commandments flawlessly and he wants to know what more he needs to do, so Jesus tells him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”  The young rich man “went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.”  This didn’t surprise Jesus.  He knew where this young man’s heart truly lied.

How would the prosperity preachers react if Jesus asked them to do the same thing?  Would they choose their wealth or Jesus?

After the young rich man walks away, Jesus says his famous line, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Jesus’ message here is so important that he emphasizes it not only by starting it with his “Truly I say to you” introductory phrase, but he repeats it twice!  Fortunately for the rich, Jesus concludes this teaching: “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  So, as I said earlier in the first post, money isn’t inherently evil, but Jesus and the New Testament writers undoubtedly spend a lot of time explaining how easily money can lead us astray.

This is particularly important to all of us living in the United States or other wealthy countries.  We are the rich!  Having clean, running water in our homes alone makes us richer than most of the world.  Being surrounded by stores providing an endless supply of food and entertainment makes us wealthier than most of the world.  Owning a car or TV or computer or a closet full of clothes, no matter how “outdated,” makes us richer than the majority of the world’s population.

Finally, the prosperity gospel preachers (and all of us) should consider with serious foreboding what Jesus says in Matthew 7 concerning false prophets “who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”  On the day of final judgment, Jesus says:

“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’”


Of Christian Rap & Reality Shows (Part 1 of 2) False Teachers & False Gospels


It doesn’t seem like it was all that long ago when I first heard the phrase the “prosperity gospel” or the “health and wealth gospel.”  From what I could gather, it sounded like there were some preachers, grown from the Pentecostal tradition, out there proclaiming that if you’re a good Christian, God will bless you with good health and plenty of money.  I didn’t find this surprising.  I remember the rise and fall of several TV evangelists in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s, and these “prosperity gospel” preachers were just the new school of that same tradition of celebrity pastor con men.

Earlier this year, Christian hip hop artist Shai Linne released his album “Lyrical Theology, Pt. 1: Theology” (which I highly recommend) and caught a lot of people’s attention with his song “Fal$e Teacher$,” which criticizes the prosperity gospel.  Not only does Shai Linne show how a catchy song with blunt lyrics backed by tight biblical theology can be powerful, but he also names twelve celebrity preachers, proclaiming them all to be false teachers, including Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, and Joyce Meyer.  Even respected evangelical preacher and author John Piper praised Shai Linne in a tweet for his stance.

(Listen to “Fal$e Teacher$” here and read the lyrics* and watch Shai Linne’s explanation of the song here.) ShaiLinne_album

(*Or see the lyrics at the bottom of this post)

Then, came the trailer for an upcoming TV reality show on Oxygen, The Preachers of LA.  As soon as I saw the trailer, Shai Linne’s “Fal$e Teacher$” burst into my head.  But when I sat down to watch the premier episode this past week, I tried to keep an open mind.  Not knowing anything about them, it’s hard to criticize all of the pastors on the Preachers of LA based a single hour-long show.  One or two of them might actually be legit and not as filthy rich as the rap-like slow-motion and shiny cars make them appear.

(Watch The Preachers of LA trailer here.)


I didn’t want to immediately dismiss these pastors as false teachers of the prosperity gospel.  Running a “mega-church” or driving a nice car doesn’t automatically make a pastor corrupt.  Many pastors write books, travel to speaking arrangements, and are involved in ethical businesses that may or may not have anything to do with their ministry, and if they work hard for their money and earn it honestly, what’s the issue?

Of course, this could move us into a discussion on Christian giving and sacrificial living, but I’ll say one more thing and leave this issue here for now: There’s nothing wrong with a pastor having money gained through honest means, but whenever we see a pastor with a lot of money – especially if he flaunts it – it should be a billboard-sized warning sign something could be amiss.

Another issue with watching Preachers of LA is an issue I have with all “reality” TV in general.  I know people who have worked on “reality” TV shows, so I know just how staged many of these shows are.  It’s really hard for me to watch a “reality” show and not feel like I’m being manipulated.  Further, it’s not hard to edit scenes and dialogue out of context to make characters appear to be saying or doing something that’s not reality at all.  I even read about editors bleeping words that weren’t even curse words in episodes of Duck Dynasty to make it appear as if the characters, who are Christians, were using foul language.  In the industry, these sort of shows are sometimes called “docu-dramas” because they have the feeling of “reality,” and there may be a lot of truth behind the characters, but the situations and conflicts are completely fabricated.


So perhaps this idea of a “docu-drama” about some prosperity gospel preachers is fitting because their preaching, like the show, is reality with just enough fiction mixed in to consider it phony.  Like docu-drama, the prosperity gospel preachers are giving a lot of truth about God, Jesus, and the Bible, but they are mixing in enough of a lie to make it heresy.  This is how false teachers operate, and in fact, how cults operate.  It’s rare to find a cult that doesn’t have a lot of truth molded into their lies.  Shai Linne addresses this in his song when he raps, “And you’re thinking they’re not the dangerous type because some of their statements are right – that only proves that Satan comes as an angel of light.”

Kate Bowler, an assistant professor at Duke Divinity School and author of “Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel” has a different take on the prosperity gospel in her editorial “Believers in Bling: Behold the Prosperity ‘Preachers of LA’” on CNN.com and portrays it quite positively.  She writes, “As my own research shows, millions of American Christians have turned to the prosperity gospel to help them understand God as deeply invested in their everyday lives.  They want a God who cares about their health, their mortgage payments and their ability to afford a better life.”

I don’t think you’ll find any Christian pastor who would disagree that God wants to be (and should be) involved in all aspects of our lives and wants what’s best for us, but this is not the only message the prosperity gospel preachers are spreading.  Even Bowler writes, “These pastors’ Midas touch provides endless sermon illustrations designed to tantalize audiences: If only you believe what I believe, you can have what I have, too.”

Bowler appears to think this message is legitimate Christianity, but this is exactly the whole issue with the prosperity gospel!  Nowhere in the Bible does God promise to bless us with material wealth, great health, or a life free of hardships if we follow him.  In fact, Jesus says quite the opposite.  In Matthew 16:24-26, he tells his disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me… For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?”

Elsewhere, Jesus tells his followers that they will be persecuted.  Paul, Peter, and most of the other apostles met early deaths by following Jesus.  What would Paul and Peter think of the prosperity gospel?  Where’s their wealth and good health?

Even if 95% of what the prosperity gospel preachers are saying is true, that still leaves 5% as false.  And anything added to or taken away from the true Gospel of Jesus Christ is not the true Gospel of Jesus Christ at all.

Perhaps someone should remind these prosperity preachers of what Paul said in Galatians 1:6-9:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel — which is really no gospel at all.  Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!”

You don’t get much clearer than that.  Paul, the church’s greatest missionary and writer of much of the New Testament, tells his audience if he, the other apostles, or even an angel from heaven tells them something different than the Gospel of Christ, he, the apostles, and the angel are cursed by God!

NEXT: Part 2:  What does Scripture have to say about the prosperity gospel?


(Take a moment to listen to some insightful thoughts from John Piper about the prosperity gospel here and here.) 







**LYRICS**  Shai Linne  “FAL$E TEACHER$”

One two one two, Yo!
Special dedication to my brothers and sisters on the great continent of Africa
To Saints in Malawi, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe.
Don’t be deceived by what America is sending y’all man, yeh?

Let me begin, while there is still ink left in my pen,
I am set to contend for Truth you can bet will offend,
Deception within the church man, who’s letting them in?
We talked about this years ago, let’s address it again. (Yeh)
And I ain’t really trying to start beef, but some who claim to be part of his sheep got some sharp teeth.(they’re wolves)

You cast at me when you criticize them when you criticize them, but Jesus told us: Matthew 7:16, we can recognize them!
And God forbid that for the love of some fans, I keep quiet and watch them die with their blood on my hands!
(so…)There’s nothing left for me to do except to speak to you in the spirit of Jude 3 and 2 Peter 2
And I know that some would label me a Pharisee, because today the only heresy is saying that there’s heresy:
“How dare they be specific and drop some clarity on the popularity of the gospel of Prosperity”

Turn off TBN that channel is overrated. The Pastor’s speak bogus statements, financially motivated. It’s kind of like a pyramid scheme. Visualize Heretics christianizing the American dream.
It’s foul and deceitful, they’re lying to people, teaching that camels squeeze through the eye of a needle!
Ungodly and wicked, ask yourself how can they not be convicted treating Jesus like a lottery ticket.
And you’re thinking they’re not the dangerous type because some of their statements are right,
they’re only proof that Satan comes as an angel of light.
This teaching can’t be believed without a cost, the lie is you can achieve a crown without a cross
And I hear it all the time when they speak on the block
Even unbelievers are shocked how they’re fleecing the flock
It should be obvious then, yet I’ll explain why it’s Sin, peep the Bible it’s in 1 Timothy 6:9-10
It talks about how the desire for riches has left many souls on fire and stitches mired in ditches
Tell me, who would teach you to pursue as a goal the very thing that the Bible said will ruin your soul! (huh?)

Yet they’re encouraging the love of money,
to make it worse, they’ve exported this garbage into other countries!
My heart breaks even now as I am rhyming. Do you wanna know what all false teachers have in common?(what?)
It’s called self(ism) the fastest growing religion; they just dress it up and call it “Christian”.
Don’t be deceived by this funny biz, if you come to Jesus for money, then he’s not your God, money is!

Jesus is not a means to an end, the Gospel is He came to redeem us from sin, and that is the message forever I’ll yell!
If you’re living your best life now you’re heading for hell!

(Talk to them)
Joel Osteen – false teacher!
(Let them know)
Creflo Dollar is a false teacher!
(Who else? Who else?)
Benny Hinn is a false teacher!
I know they’re popular but don’t let them deceive ya!
(Talk to them)
TD Jakes is a false teacher!
(Tell the Truth)
Joyce Meyer is a false teacher!
(Let them know)
Paula White is a false teacher!
Use your discernment, let the Bible lead ya!
(Keep going)
Fred Price is a false teacher!
(Tell the Truth)
Kenneth Copland is a false teacher!
(Who else? Who else?)
Robert Tilton is a false teacher!
I know they’re popular but don’t let them deceive ya!
(Talk to them)
Eddie Long is a false teacher!
(Let them know)
Juanita Bynum is a false teacher!
(Who else? Who else?)
Paul Crouch is a false teacher!
Use your discernment, let the Bible lead ya!

“But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” 2 Peter 2:1-3