Does God really want Christians to be rich? According to a Vatican-approved Jesuit journal, yes but there is a big problem with this theology.
In the latest edition of La Civilta Cattolica, two of Pope Francis' top communications advisers are criticising the very popular "prosperity gospel" which views 'wealth and success as synonymous with true religious conviction, and consequently, sees "poverty, sickness and unhappiness" as a lack of faith.'
The article, "The Prosperity Gospel: Dangerous and Different" by the authors - Antonio Spadaro, a Jesuit priest, and Marcelo Figueroa, a Protestant pastor from Argentina - specifically calls out popular preachers like Joel Osteen for using this "pseudo-gospel."
The problem with the prosperity gospel
According to the authors, the prosperity gospel "puts the accent on the faith as a 'merit' to climb the social ladder," which they condemn as "unjust and radically anti-evangelical."
"Generally, the fact that there are riches and material benefits falls once again on the exclusive responsibility of the believer, and consequently so too their poverty or lack of goods," they write.
The authors also note: "Material victory places the believer in a position of pride due to the power of their 'faith.' On the contrary, poverty hits them with a blow that is unbearable for two reasons: first, the person thinks their faith is unable to move the providential hands of God; second, their miserable situation is a divine imposition, a relentless punishment to be accepted in submission."
For the authors, the major problem with the prosperity gospel is how it affects the less fortunate.
"In truth, one of the serious problems that the prosperity gospel brings is its perverse effects on the poor. … In fact, it not only exasperates individualism and knocks down the sense of solidarity, but it pushes people to adopt a miracle-centered outlook because faith alone - not social or political commitment - can procure prosperity," the article reads.
The authors add: "This is why there can be a lack of empathy and solidarity in these cases from [prosperity gospel] followers. There can be no compassion for those who are not prosperous, for clearly they have not followed the rules and thus live in failure and are not loved by God.
"The vision of faith offered by the prosperity gospel is a clear contradiction to the concept of a humanity marked by sin with a need for eschatological salvation, tied to Jesus Christ as Savior and not to the success of its own works," they also write.
The article was published on July 18, 2018.