Kris Vallotton at Bethel Church recently held a sermon called “Poverty, Riches and Wealth” which is nothing less than pure, economic prosperity preaching. His conclusions are basically that all Christians with some few exceptions should be rich and that wealth isn’t a problem as long as it multiplies and grows exponentially. In this video I respond to his arguments and show why they don’t work:
As you may know, I’ve argued that Christians should not be rich in my God vs Wealth series and I recently did a Holy Hangout on prosperity theology with some friends where I criticized the “health and wealth gospel” for being unbiblical and hurtful.
Now, some people have told me that Vallotton’s position actually is “balanced” and even close to my own, that he’s not that off after all. I strongly disagree. I was surprised to hear how radical his prosperity thinking was and how deliberately he ignored or distorted relevant Bible passages.
Vallotton starts off in 1 Tim 6, arguing that love of money isn’t the root to all evil but a root to some evil (the text actually says a root to all evil). He does not mention verses 5-9 at all, probably because they crush all forms of economic prosperity theology. Verse 5 talk about “people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.”
There you have it, prosperity preachers have been robbed of the truth. If Vallotton honestly wanted to teach the Bible on this issue, he should have least commented this passage. Also, he shouldn’t have ended the sermon encouraging the Bethel folks who want to be wealthy, since verse 9 says that those who want to be rich plunge themselves into ruin and destruction.
Vallotton makes several mistakes in his sermon, he argues that Jesus just told one single guy to sell everything and give to the poor, which isn’t true – He told all His disciples to do so in Lk 12:33 which is why all His disciples did so in Acts 2:44-45. Vallotton also thinks that the parable of the Talents in Mt 25 is about money, which is an absurdity and impossibility. If that was the case, and the money in the parable represents money, the implications would be that Christians who are bad at business go to hell.
What’s really tragic is that Vallotton doesn’t mention the poor. Like, at all. The “poverty” part in the title refers to how Vallotton used to believe that Christians ought to be poor and now he has discovered the “truth” of the prosperity gospel. He doesn’t talk about the implications that rich Christian Americans possess expensive houses, cars and other possessions while poor Christians suffer and die due to their poverty.
The primarily white Americans and Europeans at Bethel are among the richest and most privileged people on the planet, so to them the command “Sell your possessions and give to the poor” that Jesus gives His disciples in Lk 12:33 is not an amazing call to justice and equality but an annoying and irritating stumbling block that Kris has to explain away.
God bless Bethel Church and everything they do for the Kingdom, but this prosperity teaching is alarming. “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions”, Jesus said (Lk 12:15). Bethel, sadly, turns out to be a very greedy place.