I don’t have experience with these two church types outside of Pentecostalism, so I don’t know how it is in other denominations, but I’ve noticed that in the United Pentecostal Church and in Apostolic churches there seems to be several that have a definite bias towards either ‘prosperity salvation’ or ‘poverty salvation’. I don’t know if I’m using those terms correctly, that’s just what I called it in my head when I first started noticing it. I’m sure I heard it somewhere.

So from my experience, Prosperity churches tend to insert implications (or come right out and say) that if you were in the will of God, doing what you were supposed to, (which means following all their rules) etc., that God would bless you financially. It was said or implied that if you were having difficulties financially, you were doing something wrong. Sin, lack of faith, lack of works, SOMETHING was wrong with your Christian performance and walk with God or else your needs would be met.

In the Poverty Churches, people developed serious dysfunctions in regards to owning things.

In the Poverty Churches, people developed serious dysfunctions in regards to owning things.

The Poverty churches liked focusing on Jesus’ statement that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. This passage was elevated the same way Acts 2:38 was. Any possession that wasn’t the bare minimum requirement for living was considered an “idol” and the person who owned it would be ‘preached at’ regularly and it would be implied over the pulpit that unless the item was sold, the bare necessity purchased, and the rest given to the poor (which usually translated to ‘donated to the church’) that the owner was lost and hell bound. They were the camel trying to fit through the eye of a needle.

In the Poverty Churches, people developed serious dysfunctions in regards to owning things. Something like a nice car bought for a good price could be labeled as an idol and the person who owned it would be made to feel like a heathen in the midst of saints. A nice dress (even if it was a hand me down) usually was viewed as evidence of a Jezebel spirit, because clothing that was nicer than necessary for decency and comfort couldn’t have any other purpose than self-glorification.

Members of a Poverty Church would be told constantly that if they put ANYTHING before their relationship with God, that either God would take it away by any means necessary, or they would be lost if they should happen to die before repenting and getting rid of whatever unnecessary person, place, or thing they were allowing to come between them and God.

I’ve seen pastors of Poverty Churches that used this slant on the doctrine in order to squeeze every last penny out of their congregation so that they could live like kings – in complete contradiction to the things they taught. I’ve also seen pastors of Poverty Churches that really believed their slant on the doctrine, and lived it. These that truly believed it were (in my experience) usually the ones most likely to call people out by name from the pulpit or give so many details about who they were preaching against at the moment that no names were necessary. They were the most hurtful with their words when explaining to someone why that person’s particular idol was going to send them straight to the lake of fire. I’ve also seen the children of these preachers leave home and become extremely materialistic due to being deprived of so many commonplace things growing up.

The Poverty Church doctrine sometimes affects marriages too. A married person might feel that if they love their spouse too much they’re putting them before God. This fear often takes one (or both) of these forms: fear that God will take their spouse away through death, or that they’ll go to hell if they don’t distance themselves from their spouse (while staying married of course). I’ve also seen Mothers apply that line of thinking to their relationship with their children and proceed to intentionally distance themselves emotionally from their children. Especially small children.

I’m of the opinion that neither of these biases are correct. Yes, people can make possessions, hobbies, or relationships more important than God and that’s usually not good. But considering everything you enjoy an ‘idol’ deprives you of so many of the joys in life that were created by God (such as the husband/wife relationship, or the Mother/child relationship). It also replaces that joy with fear and anxiety over the possibility that because you enjoy something, you’re not saved.

As far as the Prosperity Churches, anyone who has financial trouble immediately feels that they’re no longer pleasing God. They may also believe that they’ve lost their salvation, and will not believe that they’re saved again until their trouble is alleviated. Job comes to mind as a direct refute to this way of thinking. He lost all his assets and his family specifically because he was SO pleasing to God, that God bragged on him. There are other instances in the Bible that (IMO) easily refute both the Prosperity and the Poverty slant on salvation, but the example of Job is so clear to me that it seems unnecessary to reference more.

As you can probably tell by the fact that I had much more detail to give on the Poverty Churches, I was mostly raised in Poverty Churches growing up. Even with such clear examples in the Bible, this way of thinking was so ingrained in me that it was hard for me to get past. When I still believed what I had been told about missing my last chance for repentance, I became very materialistic. When I tried to become a believer again, I found myself going back to that sacrificial Poverty Salvation mindset. I’ve lived with an almost primal fear that having something nice, enjoying an activity, or loving someone would send me to hell.