For Christians who enjoy satire like I do, our ‘sanctified humor’ used to come from The Wittenberg Door, a rag that faithfully exposed unscrupulous ‘Christian’ leaders and movements from 1971 to 2008. The Babylon Bee has taken that place today, and routinely exposes theological fads and church cads. Not surprisingly, one of their regular targets is prosperity gospel preachers.
For example, a recent headline read, “Discovery Channel To Feature Deadly Prosperity Gospel Preachers For Shark Week.” The accompanying article called out Joel Osteen, Paula White, T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer, Joseph Prince, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, and Benny Hinn – a veritable ‘who’s who’ of pastors and television preachers who expound the ‘God wants you to be rich’ message. Sadly, the purveyors of this false teaching, and their followers, seem unfazed by such exposés.
So it was a surprise when Benny Hinn, one of the most egregious offenders, recently publicly renounced the prosperity gospel. Hinn stated, “Prosperity has gone a little crazy and I’m correcting my own theology. . . I think it’s an offense to the Lord to say ‘give a thousand dollars.’ I think it’s an offense to the Holy Spirit to place a price on the gospel. I’m done with it. . . I will never again ask you to give $1,000, or whatever amount, because I think the Holy Ghost is just fed up with it. . . Giving has become such a gimmick. It’s making me sick to my stomach – and I’ve been sick for a while too, I just couldn’t say it. And now the lid is off – I’ve had it. . . You know why? I don’t want to get to heaven and be rebuked.” Why the sudden change of heart?!
Just a couple of months ago, Hinn’s nephew Costi Hinn released a tell-all book entitled God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel: How Truth Overwhelms a Life Built on Lies (Zondervan, 2019). The younger Hinn, who is pastor of a church in Arizona, describes how his family has amassed incredible wealth and lived in luxury for decades by exploiting Christians around the world with the prosperity gospel. Perhaps this has contributed to Uncle Benny’s public repentance.
Regardless of what has led to it, Christians everywhere might well pray for Benny Hinn right now, for the lure of wealth is a compelling thing, like a drug addiction which is not easily broken.
Benny Hinn’s statement that “I don’t want to get to heaven and be rebuked” leads me to mention another item in the news – the death of Zimbabwean strong-man Robert Mugabe. Mugabe – who once proudly declared that “only God” could ever remove him from office (but political opponents deposed him in 2017), has now had his meeting with God.
We do not know where Mugabe will spend eternity. He was raised in a religious home, went to Catholic school, and certainly knew truths of Christian faith. The rigid works theology and strict discipline of his Jesuit teachers marked him for life: Sadly, it never seems to have instructed him in God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness.
During his political career he identified as a Marxist-Leninist or socialist. While he desired to bring justice, he was known for violence. He was responsible for economic mismanagement, widespread corruption, anti-white racism, human rights abuses, and crimes against humanity. He left his homeland in worse straights than he found it.
Mugabe’s passing reminds me of an old Bob Dylan song (during his Christian recording days), “You’re Gonna Have to Serve Somebody.” The chorus goes like this:
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes
Indeed you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
Dylan’s lyrics, which accurately pertain to this life, point to a future day – a day when at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2.10-11). The political leader who terrorized and killed thousands in this life, has now met the Judge who alone is holy and righteous, before whom everyone will bow. There is only one Creator and Lord, and each of us, no matter how great or small, will meet Him one day. That is a sober reminder for us all.