Costi Hinn, the nephew of popular televangelist and faith-healer Benny Hinn, has discussed the "damning and abusive" nature of the prosperity gospel and identified how Christians can combat the “health and wealth” theology presented by teachers like his uncle.
During a recent episode of the The Gospel Coalition podcast, Costi Hinn, who rejected the teaching of his "Uncle Benny" after working alongside him for years, said that two natural outcomes of the prosperity gospel — which teaches that God rewards increases in faith with increases in health and/or wealth — are false hope and fear.
“False hope and fear are probably the two biggest products,” he said. “You got the false hope part, we all understand that when it comes to the prosperity gospel, but the other one, the fear of God or fear is, you know, even if I’m waiting on getting my miracle, I’m staying under the anointed umbrella and the protection of this anointed man or woman of God, by submitting to them and giving my money.”
Costi Hinn, who now runs his own ministry called For The Gospel, tells his story of growing up in the Hinn family and writes against his former views in the book, God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel: How Truth Overwhelms a Life Built on Lies.
The pastor likened the prosperity gospel to a Ponzi scheme, adding: “Either way, whether you’re just wanting a miracle, or you’re just wanting to stay protected while you wait for your miracle, you got to pay to play.”
While millions of “ignorant” people are “deceived” by the “health and wealth” theology presented by men like his uncle, others eagerly latch onto the message of comfort because it’s “comfortable,” Costi Hinn said.
“A message that says, ‘I’m going to be blessed, and my kids aren’t going to have cancer, and nobody’s going to be sick.’ I mean, that is something that every person wants, we naturally seek comfort. We don’t want pain,” he said.
He went on to highlight several ways Christians can convince people to trust in the true gospel instead, beginning with building “relationships with people who are caught up in this stuff. “
“Don’t stay in the holy huddle,” Costi Hinn advised. “I’m not trampling on biblical separation where we’re in the world, but not of it. I’m not saying go and attend a prosperity gospel church, because you’ll infiltrate that, that’s not wise. Stay on the shoreline, stay on safe ground and throw the rope to those that are in the whitewater going over the waterfall. Get yourself secure, understand the gospel, arm yourself with truth and then throw the rope of rescue to others.”
“I would say that that’s one of the best ways,” he added. “So if you aren’t even sure how to articulate the gospel, if you’re not apprised of these issues, I would say, first arm yourself with the truth so that as you build relationships with people and walk with people, you can be a useful tool in the hand of our God.”
While false gospels can seem intimidating, Costi Hinn emphasized, “don’t ever underestimate Romans 1:16-17” and the “power of the gospel and the power of the gospel being proclaimed in a way that is unashamed. “
“Trust its power, and be unashamed, God will work in remarkable ways,” he advised.
One of the most well-known purveyors of the prosperity gospel around the world, Benny Hinn is frequently accused of being a fraud and criticized for living extravagantly — all while leading a ministry that rakes in more than $100 million annually.
Last year, he made headlines after confessing he may have taken his “health and wealth” message too far at times.
"We get attacked for preaching prosperity, well it's in the Bible. But I think some have gone to the extreme with it sadly, and it's not God's Word what is taught, and I think I'm as guilty as others. Sometimes you go a little farther than you really need to go and then God brings you back to normality and reality," Benny Hinn said.
"We all want to finish right," Benny Hinn said of pastors. "We all start right. Sometimes we, you know, stumble here and stumble there. But when you come right down to it, we all want to finish right. I'm 65 years old, I surely don't want to blow it at this point in my life and I thank you for praying for me. I really mean that."
While the prosperity gospel continues to see success in certain parts of the world, Costi Hinn told The Gospel Coalition he’s “optimistic” churches that tout such views will soon collapse.
“I’m thankful, and I’m just a part of it,” he said.
Still, he warned those attempting to preach the whole gospel to expect resistance from those who have made millions presenting a "health and wealth" version of Christianity to the masses.
“Let’s be aware of not remorse only, but repentance,” he said. ”Yes, look for, you know, the tides to turn by God’s grace. But also, let’s not be quick to throw the parade when a few people say, “Hey, we may have gone too far,’” he said.
“Let’s wait and let’s throw the parade when there is major revival and people are … their whole lives are being turned upside down," he added. And let’s be careful that we don’t label remorse as repentance and then trust God to do his work.”