An Insider's Look at the Prosperity Gospel
A review of God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel, by Costi W. Hinn
Costi Hinn (nephew of well-known prosperity preacher Benny Hinn) first caught my attention when Christianity Today published his testimony in September 2017. He turned up again in the 2018 documentary, American Gospel: Christ Alone, to shed light on how the gospel contrasts with his previous way of life in his uncle’s crusades.
This year, Costi published a book, God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel (Zondervan 2019), which clarifies the distortion of Christian teachings on health and wealth and calls the church to witness clearly to millions captivated by false teachings and promises.
Costi opens his life to us in a Confessions-style testimony for most of the book (eight of 11 chapters). He demonstrates how opulence became his family’s new normal. He wrestles vividly with contradictions and rationalizations between their ministry’s words and deeds. He describes the bullying he experienced for being a Hinn—and the surprising grace that non-prosperity Christians poured out on him throughout his life.
Costi draws us into his story to feel with him first, something’s not right. Only after we’ve walked these chapters in his shoes does he lay out for us what has gone wrong in prosperity/“Word of Faith” teaching (chapter 9), what is right about health and wealth from God’s Word (chapter 10), and how we can help others (chapter 11).
It stung when Costi pointed out how I’m accountable for the spread of the prosperity gospel. After he shows how technology, the seeker movement and compromising consumerism work together as a greenhouse for this strain of belief, Costi writes:
“…we need to rip the Band-Aid off here: we did this! By we, I mean all of us who profess to be Christians. We’ve collectively played some role in the rise of prosperity theology at some point. Whether by passive silence or active participation, we allow false gospels to get a footing. We need to take responsibility together, whether we believe we should or not, to eradicate evils like the prosperity gospel. That begins with committing ourselves to defending the true gospel at all costs.” (p. 159)
I’ve heard this convicting message of complicity as it relates to social ills like racism or abortion. Now it’s time we hear it about the prosperity gospel and commit to fighting it together.
Following a well-written “Balanced View on Health and Wealth” in chapter 10, Costi’s final chapter guides the reader on “How to Reach Those Caught in Deception.” He gives categories from Jude 17-23 to assess where our loved ones are, then shares 10 steps to reach people who are caught up in dangerous beliefs.
This was immediately practical for me. As I shared my thoughts about this book at a campfire gathering of church family, concern arose for a family’s friends who are all-in on the teachings of Kenneth Copeland, a widely-televised prosperity teacher (in)famous for his Word of Faith teachings, luxurious lifestyle and exorbitant wealth. Costi’s patient, loving, measured counsel spoke to this family’s situation and offered a path forward that’s grounded in prayer and anchored in God’s sovereign power to save.
Costi’s book is well-suited for sharing with brothers and sisters in Christ. Readers will understand the allure and confusion of prosperity theology, empathize with those caught up in it, and be able to offer a new hope to their captive loved ones, with truth and love in full measure. May we rejoice with the angels in heaven over God’s work to bring this prodigal brother home!