This is my third post in a series on frequently twisted passages. Today’s passage is going to blow your mind. This will likely be a very short post in fact, I don’t think I can ramble on too much about it. It almost doesn’t even need to be put into context.
What we are looking at is the second verse of John’s third epistle. Take a look and see for yourself.
This verse above is used by prosperity preachers all the time. The idea that the frame it in is that God wants you and me to prosper in all things and be healthy. See right there? The verse above is promising this to everyone, if you only have enough faith that means you can claim it and receive it.
Of course, that also means that if you or a loved one is poor or has cancer then you don’t have enough faith do you? In fact, since salvation is by faith then according to this theology anyone with poverty or cancer is totally going to hell. Are you really going to tell that to a cancer patient? Of course not, as soon as these TV preachers get their check they don’t care how this theology impacts you or your loved ones.
To very quickly dispel this myth I am going to put the verse back in it’s context.
Well right off the bat it’s pretty obvious that St. John is talking to Gaius. No joke, isn’t that embarrassing? In this case the greeting to an epistle is being eisegeted by the prosperity preachers. This is so laughable it is a parody of itself! Even if you are going to insist there is a prosperity and health promise in this verse that can be claimed, the only one it applies to is Gaius.
That doesn’t even work either though, if you understand the old english words properly they don’t even carry a financial blessing. The word “prosper” in the King James simply means a general wish of good fortune, see for yourself:
The greeting we see here is not unlike those we wish for the health and good fortunes of our family members during the holiday season. It’s like saying “hey! I hope you’re doing alright”. That’s it…
Notice in one of Paul’s epistles he acknowledges the medical condition plaguing Timothy. Let’s see what he directs Timothy to do:
Was Timothy told to “name it and claim it”? Should we call Timothy’s faith into question, or the ability of God to give him faith (Eph 2:8) based on the fact that he is sick? Of course not, Timothy is simply sick. We can pray and ask for a miracle with humility and fear. We can seek medical attention. But we do not have the power to command God to heal us or make us rich.
This is what Luther called a theology of glory, it is man reaching to religion to better himself. Seek instead what Luther called the theology of the cross, this means studying the Bible looking for Jesus and what he did. He died for you to save you. That is all you need, it doesn’t matter if you are rich, poor, healthy, or sick. On the last day of your life you leave your flesh and possessions behind.