Adding to a long list of prosperity-gospel preachers who have subjected the name of Christ to public disgrace, televangelist Jesse Duplantis recently called on his followers to send him money so he could by a $54 million private jet. For Jesus, of course.
In making his pitch, Duplantis actually opined that if Jesus was alive today, “He wouldn’t be riding a donkey.” Perhaps no one exposed the stupidity of this line of reasoning like The Daily Show’s Ronny Chieng:
“Even if Jesus wouldn’t be riding a donkey, do you have to jump straight to private jet? The gap between donkey and private jet is all of transportation.”
You really should watch all of Chieng’s takedown of Duplantis, who he calls, “Deacon Dollar Signs” at the link above. It’s not only worth it, but it’s exactly how the stupidity of the prosperity gospel message deserves to be dealt with – through biting sarcasm and mocking shame. Duplantis and fellow preacher Kenneth Copeland have exchanged the message of the Gospel for a get-rich-quick scam. Jesus dealt with such individuals fairly harshly at the temple, as you might recall.
But with as much as this false teaching deserves mockery and rebuke from nearly every conceivable angle, there’s one approach that isn’t wise. We shouldn’t confront the false teaching of prosperity gospel ministers with false teaching of our own. Yet that is precisely what some progressive Christian figures do when they once again attempt to use Jesus to prop up their socio-political agenda.
For example, here’s Red Letter Christian progressive activist Shane Claiborne’s take:
“Any preacher who needs a $54 million private jet has already betrayed the Savior who said, ‘Sell what you have and give it to the poor.’ Do not give this man your money. He already has plenty.”
I agree wholeheartedly with Shane’s assessment of Duplantis. The man has enough money and doesn’t need another private jet. At the same time, I disagree wholeheartedly with Shane’s representation of Jesus demanding that everyone sell everything they have to give to the poor. It’s poor exegesis and understanding of Scripture.
The passage Claiborne references comes from an interaction Christ has with a rich man who wanted to become a follower of the Savior. By asking him to sell everything he has and give it to the poor, Jesus effectively elucidates that the rich man only wants Jesus if he can have him on his own terms. Christ made clear that He wanted only sold-out, fully-committed disciples. Someone who loved money more than Him was not going to make the cut.
In other words, it wasn’t the man’s money that was the problem. It was his love of money – love and devotion that exceeded his love of Jesus. Remember many of Jesus’ earthly friends (Lazarus and Zacchaeus specifically) had great wealth – but since that wealth did not stand in the way of their first devotion to Christ, He never demanded that they sell everything and give it to the poor. Had this rich man’s first love been leisure, a sexual addiction, alcohol, or work, Jesus would have called him to first part with that.
Therefore, Claiborne’s apparent implication that faithful Christians are commanded to sell everything they have and give it away is unartful and misleading at best, intentionally deceptive at worst.
Duplantis is using Jesus to advance a false prosperity gospel. That’s wrong. But Claiborne appears to be using Jesus to advance a false social gospel. That too is wrong. Jesus and His Word deserve far better from us.