First a metaphor:
True salvation is like a certificate for an endless buffet. Acknowledge you have fallen short of the glory of God; worse, your lying is an abomination, your angry/hateful thoughts are like murder in God's eyes, your sexual thoughts about people not your spouse are adultery to Him. Agree with God on these matters, and turn from these behaviors. Trust in Jesus to have paid the price, and to keep you from now on. And receive your certificate.
The prosperity gospel says, "Yea, we've got a similar certificate. It looks a little different, but it's good. Plus a bonus! You can have health and wealth here on Earth!" I like to call it the "Believe in Jesus and get a new car" gospel.
But everything they promise is like a little crumb broken off the edge of a cracker compared to the endless feast of true salvation.
And what happens to people when Peter is at the pearly gates inspecting certificates? And the seal is no good? Those people are going into the lake of fire. Is that crumb worth it? Not at all.
Ok, so is this worse than Islam and other religions with their billions of adherents? I admit I have personal experience with this one. Some people in my family have way too much exposure to this garbage. And this bad theology makes my life a nightmare. Because it has many side effects:
- It inoculates people against the true Gospel. They think, "Yea, I'm a Christian. I'm believing in a better life for myself. I don't need to go to a Church where they read the Bible, I'd rather listen to rock music and hear a sermon on how to get rich and have a good sex life."
- (The preachers never say this, but people will naturally think it) - If faith makes you prosperous and healthy, then if you are poor or sick - it's your fault. "You don't have enough faith!" "All your talk about the family being off budget is blocking God from making us rich!" "I'm trusting in God to bless me [with wealth], what does it matter to me if we have no savings!"
- These preachers invariably leave sin out of their messages. Obviously, because they don't want to make anyone uncomfortable. The side effect from this, is that people are content in their pride and self-righteousness. "It's your sin that is the problem. Your sin is cursing the family." And what of your sin? "I don't have any sin in my life."
- The saddest thing is when they use this to manipulate people's hope for their own benefit. A large church near me preaches a lot of this message. It has a huge campus in a urban area. The congregation consists of many poor people. These people are encouraged to give until it hurts. "Tithe against the salary you want to have!" Sow a seed [of money] that God will return ten-, thirty-, seventy-, a hundred-fold. The irony is the leadership of the church has been afflicted with numerous health problems (including death).