False teachers and deceivers, hungry for money, wealth, power and influence. Although not all TV evangelists are charlatans and frauds, too many are. The gimmicks these hucksters use to separate the greedy, the hurting, the innocent and the gullible from their money are many. But with “ears to hear” and the use of a little common sense, those who wish not to fall prey can easily recognize the “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
The tools or tricks of their trade include buzz words, psychology, products and potions. They become wealthy; their prey become disillusioned, discouraged, confused and lighter in the wallet. Tune in to any Christian station or network, and you’ll hear the charlatans’ common theme: God wants you to be happy, healthy, and rich – and He wants it for you NOW! You’ll see men and women preachers who appear to be happy and healthy and who are most definitely rich – some very, very rich.
These modern-day wolves in sheep’s clothing generally show up among the Pentecostal or charismatic preachers, where it’s easiest to pass their wares and dupe the needy, greedy, and gullible. Their gospel is often called the Health and Wealth Gospel or the Gospel of Health and Prosperity.
Their common buzz words, used in combination with a request at some point for money, are: prosperity, abundance, finances, partnership, donation, gift, seed sowing, tithes and offerings, blessings, and healing. They often speak of being anointed or having the anointing, and they always have something to sell. Some even offer to send you a “gift,” when you first give them a “gift” or make a donation (of money, of course).
They prey on the guilt and fear of those who are already feeling guilty and afraid. They encourage the greed of those who are already greedy and looking for more. They give false hope to the physically and emotionally sick who want nothing more than to be healthy and whole in this life.
Studies have shown that it’s the poor and needy who give most often to these gospel frauds. Why? Because they often feel that only a financial “miracle” will save them or improve their lot in life. Sometimes they’re simply desperate to avoid the consequences of their poor spending habits or lack of money mangement skills. The elderly, sick, and lonely often fall victim and give sacrificially in hopes of finding some kind of improvement in their circumstances.
Fleecing a flock requires an understanding of psychology and how to appeal to people’s pride, greed, and desire for self-esteem, as well as to their desperation and hopelessness.
Using a little bit of Scripture, the prosperity gospel preacher teaches that it’s God’s will that every Christian – every person who believes in Him – be financially prosperous, go first class, have the biggest and the best this world has to offer. And to the already greedy at heart or the person in poor financial straits, this has appeal. The charlatans repeatedly talk about prosperity and abundance being the mark of God’s blessings. Legitimate preachers use these terms on occasion too, but they do not build their empires around them and promise riches to their listeners “just for the asking” or just because they are Christians.
These men and women also effectively use Scripture to lure the sick and lonely to sometimes overlook a lifetime of bad habits and unhealthy practices in their search for health and a pain-free life. All that’s needed, they’ll preach, is a prayer cloth or special oil or any number of other healing paraphernalia – for a price, of course.
All people have legitamate wants and needs they seek to fulfill. Many find healthy and legitimate ways to meet those needs, both in and outside of churches and religious systems. Others – too many – fall prey to the hucksters.
Christianity teaches that God does answer prayer; God does on occasion heal; God does provide for man’s needs; God does have mercy. Christianity also teaches that healing and meeting needs are free for the asking, as God wills, and not dependent upon an intermediary or any amount of money. When these free gifts become dependent upon a donation, gift, partnership with a ministry, or sown seeds, someone is about to be fleeced.