Although the gospel means good news, it is only good news to the poor.
Ask most Christians what is the gospel and you would be surprised they do not know. The word ‘gospel’ means good news. But what exactly is the good news? Is the good news about Jesus or is it a message Jesus brought?
In truth, the gospel is not about Jesus; it is about the kingdom of God. Jesus is simply a messenger of the gospel. Matthew says: “Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom” (Matthew 9:35).
The Prosperity Gospel
What is the gospel of the kingdom? This is where many also miss it. The “prosperity gospel” is now the mainstay of preaching in many churches. The kernel of this “gospel” is that Christ came to make Christians rich in this world. But once you hear a man preaching this, know for sure he has limited understanding of the kingdom of God.
In the first place, the kingdom of God has nothing whatsoever to do with this world. Jesus says to Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Therefore, the gospel of the kingdom cannot be about making people rich in this world. You don’t need Christ in order to be rich. Many unbelievers are filthy rich. Indeed the Psalmist says: “these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches” (Psalms 73:12).
Good News for the Poor
In the second place, the gospel is neither addressed to the rich nor to those who want to be rich in this world. When Jesus inaugurated his ministry, he declared: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor” (Luke 4:18).
Hear and understand: the gospel of the kingdom is addressed specifically to the poor. The rich already have the kingdoms of this world: they don’t want or need another kingdom. The poor, however, are excited to learn that God has not forgotten them, but has prepared a special kingdom for them.
Bad News for the Rich
Therefore, although the gospel means good news, it is only good news to the poor. As a matter of fact, the gospel is bad news to the rich. When Jesus preached the gospel to a rich man, he rejected it and went away sorrowful (Luke 18:23). Even as the Spirit of the Lord anointed Jesus to preach good news to the poor, so did it anoint him to preach bad news to the rich.
Let us juxtapose both messages for the sake of clarity. Jesus says: “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be filled. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh… But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are full, for you shall hunger. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep” (Luke 6:20-21; 24-25).
The implication here is inescapable: If the kingdom of God is meant for the poor, then we must either be poor or become poor in order to inherit it. Any pastor who claims to be anointed to make men rich must knowingly or unknowingly be working to prevent men from inheriting the kingdom of God. Jesus says we should make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). He does not say we should make rich men of all nations.
Heaven is not for the Rich
Jesus himself warns that it is impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:23-24). Why then should Christians accept another gospel from pastors that promises to make them rich? Why would God desire to make believers rich in this world if it would guarantee our prevention from inheriting his kingdom?
The answer is simple and straightforward. James says: “Listen, my beloved brethren: has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which he promised to those who love him?” (James 2:5). That is the good news. But Jesus says to the rich man: “Go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21). That is the bad news.
God makes poor before he makes rich (1 Samuel 2:7). Therefore, in order to enter the kingdom of God, a rich man has to become poor. The first in this world must become last before they can qualify to become first in Christ (Matthew 19:30).