The Bible doesn't say that being a faithful Christian will lead to material wealth, says the Rev. Billy Graham who responded to a question about the teachings of prosperity gospel preachers by noting that Jesus and His disciples were never rich.
In a question-and-answer column published on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association website on Wednesday, Graham was asked whether God wants people to be wealthy.
"Does God want everyone to be rich? I heard someone on TV claim that this is what the Bible teaches, but I wonder if it's true," the reader asked Graham. "We struggle every month just to pay our bills, and yet my husband and I have always tried to put God first."
Graham responded by saying, "the Bible doesn't promise that everyone who follows Jesus will become wealthy," as Jesus Himself was not a rich man.
"After all, Jesus wasn't rich, nor were His first disciples — not at all. In fact, the only disciple who really cared about money was Judas, whose greed and unbelief caused him to betray Jesus for 30 pieces of silver," wrote Graham.
"Repeatedly the Bible warns us against being consumed by money, or placing it first in our lives instead of Christ. Jesus said, 'No one can serve two masters. … You cannot serve both God and money' (Matthew 6:24)."
Graham went on to stress that the better wealth was a spiritual nature, noting that "when we know Christ we are rich — not necessarily with this world's goods, but with spiritual riches!
"Think of it a moment. Can anything this world offers be greater than God's forgiveness? Can anything be greater than Christ's presence with us every day?" Graham asked.
"Can anything be greater than the privilege of prayer, or being part of Christ's family, or being used to bless others?"
The prosperity gospel theology states that God wants believers to be rich and if they have enough faith, they can become materially wealthy.
While widely denounced in most Christian circles, prosperity gospel has been known to be preached among some megachurch pastors and televangelists.
Graham is not the only prominent Christian figure to offer recent comments denouncing the prosperity gospel. Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren also critiqued the notion in a devotional published last month.
Referring to Earth as "a temporary assignment," Warren wrote back in August that it is "a fatal mistake to assume that God's goal for your life is material prosperity or popular success as the world defines it."
"Paul was faithful, yet he ended up in prison. John the Baptist was faithful, but he was beheaded. Millions of faithful people have been martyred, have lost everything, or have come to the end of life with nothing to show for it," Warren said.
"The abundant life has nothing to do with material abundance. Faithfulness to God does not guarantee success in a career or even in ministry. Never focus on temporary crowns."