When you stop and think about it the Prosperity Gospel is really rather clever.
For those not in the know the Prosperity Gospel is a peculiarly American bastardization of Christianity developed by certain televangelists (including one named – I kid you not – Creflo Dollar) to convince their viewers, on the highest Biblical authority, to fork over all their money, and it goes a little like this…
1: God loves you and wants you to be happy.
2: So if you follow God’s laws you will be good and Holy and God will reward you.
3: If on the other hand you don’t follow God’s laws you will be bad and Unholy, and God will punish you.
4: It therefore follows that if you’re rich and successful, God is rewarding you, and therefore you are Holy.
5: Whereas if you are poor and struggling, God is punishing you for your sins and you are Unholy.
6: So if you are poor – and therefore Unholy – how can you get right with the Lord, and become Holy? (and also rich, but that’s secondary to being Holy of course)
7: By taking what little wealth you have and giving it all to someone Holy! Like the filthy rich televangelist telling you all this! Plant a seed of faith by handing over every dollar you own and before you know it you’ll be rich and successful and be able to fly around in a private jet avoiding all the demon possessed rabble that travel coach!
8: (Oh, and if you don’t immediately become rich then you’re not trying hard enough, send more money and it’ll all come true!)
The great Terry Pratchett foresaw some of this with the Yen Buddhists of the Discworld, a sect who believe that money is the root of all evil and it is therefore their sacred duty to spare the souls of the innocent by personally accumulating as much of it as possible, but the audacity it takes to implement such a system in the real world is really quite something! And of course the Prosperity Gospel discards that pesky issue of wealth being sinful, thus allowing its proponents to get as rich as they like with no theological problems at all!
Naturally all of this can be justified by picking and choosing Bible verses, a fine example of the observation (I believe from the Vedic scriptures of India although I can’t seem to track down the actual source) that “Just as an animal may drink from any side of a trough, a smart man may derive whatever meaning he desires from scripture”.
If you feel that Christianity works for you, great! If the version of Christianity you select says you get into heaven by doing good works, do good works! If it says you get into heaven by accepting Christ into your heart as your Personal Saviour, accept him! But if your obscenely rich preacher is telling you you need to pay your way into salvation by making him even richer, then maybe take a step back and have a think about a few things.