A Review of God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel. By Costi Hinn.
A new book written by Benny Hinn’s nephew on the prosperity gospel is a must read.
Most folks have heard of Benny Hinn, the famous and flamboyant American televangelist. Fewer people have heard of his nephew Costi. He was the heir apparent of the mega-rich mega-ministry. Prophecies were given to him that he would even surpass all that had gone before, with the family name getting even greater. But that did not eventuate.
This book is both a biography of Costi as well as a critique of the prosperity gospel. It offers the story of how someone fully involved in the prosperity gospel eventually made a radical about-turn, and is now warning about the many dangers and downsides of this very American sort of teaching.
The story starts by telling how his Greek Orthodox family left the Middle-East and settled in Canada in 1968. Within a few years his uncle became attracted to faith healers such as Kathryn Kuhlman and Oral Roberts, viewing that sort of ministry as his new direction in life.
He moved to America and set up the Orlando Christian Center in 1983. Benny’s brothers soon became involved, including Costi’s father. A new church was planted in Vancouver in 1987. Quickly the Hinns were becoming a massively big name in the Pentecostal and charismatic circles in North America. Costi soon became a part of it. “It was life in the fast lane of the prosperity gospel.”
Benny taught that those who wanted a miracle needed to give money. That was the simple, magic formula. And it sure worked for him, since by “1999, Benny Hinn was the most famous and controversial prosperity preacher and faith teacher in the world.”
And as part of all this, Costi was certainly living the good life, with nothing but the best. Talk about lifestyles of the rich and famous: he had it all. For two years as a young man he travelled with his dad and his uncle in the ministry. He provides a sample listing of the sorts of things he was used to as he was involved in this work:
‘Air travel on a Gulfstream IV worth $36 million; $25,000-a-night royal suites at the Burj Al Arab in Dubai; shopping sprees in Monte-Carlo, Monaco, Beverly Hills, and Harrods in London; driven about in Rolls-Royces, Bentleys, Maseratis, etc; apparel and accessories by Versace, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci, Breitling, etc.’
The two houses his parents lived in were worth $5 million while his uncle’s California ocean-view mansion was worth over $8 million. And all “this was paid for by donations from desperate people who believed that giving a prosperity preacher their money would result in their living this lifestyle too.” It was not just Westerners giving all this money – the same pressure was applied to the poor in places like India:
Much like a non-profit company will have a donor relations specialist who works to create a network of supporters for a good cause, the prosperity gospel uses its network of money men (and women) to increase offerings… It’s no wonder the prosperity gospel is such a hustle – the salaries we made were enormous. It wasn’t uncommon for my father to make thirty-five thousand dollars on a single trip.
There are certainly mega-bucks to be had in all this. He quotes from one rich pastor list from 2017: Kenneth Copeland ($760 million), T. D. Jakes ($150 million), Benny Hinn ($42 million), Joel Osteen ($40 million), Creflo Dollar ($27 million), and Joyce Meyer ($24 million). In 2002 for example Benny Hinn had taken in $89 million in donations.
As mentioned, all this could have been his for the rest of his life – no questions asked. And of course any questions or doubts about the ministry were seen as Satanic attacks and cases of ‘touching the Lord’s anointed.’ But he was having these doubts anyway. The lavish money issue was one thing (but this was explained as being God’s blessing on God’s anointed servants).
The healings were also something he started to question. Why were only some people being healed? And often the crowds were told that everyone would be healed if they gave, while clearly they were not. His fiancé had asthma, and then his mother got a tumour. But the Hinns were not supposed to get sick.
After four years of denial and avoidance and praying and rebuking the devil, his mother finally did find healing – but by going to a hospital and having surgery! The Hinns had avoided such places as they were where the ‘spirits of infirmity and death’ resided.
Then there was the issue of various false prophecies being made by his uncle. And having a girlfriend who did not fully share the prosperity vision also made him question things more and more, as did a stint in Bible college. All these things caused a major turnaround in his thinking.
He not only learned about people who were NOT healed such as Joni Eareckson Tada, but he discovered a whole new world of past saints like Tyndale and Luther and Hudson Taylor and Spurgeon and Ryle. For the first time ever, he started reading important preachers and theologians like Lloyd-Jones and F. F. Bruce and Geisler and Sproul, and he even read biblical commentaries as well.
Over time he recognised how wrong his former beliefs had been, and he even went to an evangelical seminary for more training for his work as a pastor. When he had the story of his changed theology printed in Christianity Today in 2017, he started hearing from many people the world over who were harmed and ruined by the prosperity gospel in general and his uncle in particular.
The last quarter of the book switches from biography to a discussion of the prosperity gospel: where it comes from, what it teaches, and why it is so damaging and biblically fraudulent. Says Costi: “The prosperity gospel appeals to the deep longing of every human heart for peace, health, wealth, and happiness. There is nothing wrong with wanting a good and happy life, but the prosperity gospel uses Jesus Christ as a pawn in its get-rich-quick scam. The prosperity gospel sells salvation and false hope.”
He calls the prosperity gospel a “disease” but also warns against the “poverty gospel” which equates godliness with how poor and miserable you are. He argues for a biblical balance here. He also still believes that God can heal, but on his terms, not ours.
One need not agree with everything Costi now believes, just as one need not agree with everything he used to believe. But there is no question that a tremendous amount of harm has been done by the prosperity gospel, and the story Costi tells here needs to be heard.
Australians can buy the book at Koorong: https://www.koorong.com/search/product/god-greed-and-the-gospel-how-truth-overwhelmed/9780310355274.jhtml
22 Replies to “A Review of God, Greed, and the (Prosperity) Gospel. By Costi Hinn.”
I one summer read through the New Testament 5 times. By the 3rd time I truly could see that the prosperity gospel was very very wrong and didn’t match with any of the scriptures in their context. It was like I truly had the mind of Christ and just saw other things that were also wrong. I would encourage you to read the New Testament at least 3 times straight through everyday. You will be amazed.
Excellent article Bill, thank you for sharing about Benny Hinn’s nephew Costi. You hear a lot in America about Trump draining the swamp and it has started and we are seeing progress with Epstein & El Choppo’s arrests [I don’t believe Epstein is dead]. I also believe the Lord is going to drain the swamp in the church in America. The mega churches are going to fall and we will go back to home group churches and small congregations. It’s already started happening in ‘Strike Force of Prayer Groups’. I have heard some terrible things going on in some of these mega churches, child sex trafficking, etc. Pastors giving their souls to the Illuminati. “Lord, forgive Your people and our wicked ways.” We need to get back to the New Testament way of doing church.
Louise : )
Thanks Bill. Fascinating to hear some perspectives from ‘inside’ the faith ‘world’. I remember hearing that people gave money to Benny Hinn’s ministry in order to show God they were serious about looking to God for healing. Money seem to become the currency of their ‘faith’ (or was it desperation?). However, I have heard Kenneth Copeland gives 10% of EVERY dollar he receives to the poor and has done so for many years. Still, the ‘prosperity message’ seems a prime example of American culture informing the expectations of believers sitting under its teaching. For me, I often felt impatience for ‘blessing’ and ‘increase’ could erode the attitude of sacrificial service. We still need the teaching of the Cross.
Just this! Amen
Yes. It is the twentieth’s century version of the medieval indulgences.
Luk_6:24 But woe to you who are rich! For you have received your consolation.
As a retired nurse practitioner I had a patient with severe Rheumatoid arthritis. She verbalized over and over that she feared she would “lose her healing” if she took medication that would put her arthritis in remission. She had been “healed” by Benny Hinn. What a deception he dealt out. She wasn’t healed; she just became more and more crippled. She finally agreed to be treated with modern medication and at least had some relief from the inflammation caused by her disease. Hinn is a religious and a medical fraud and a dangerous person. He deals in fear and greed. God have mercy on him. I am so glad that at least one person in his family has come to the truth.
Thanks guys. No wonder Hollywood has so many excuses to mock the faith and deride Christian leaders:
A good read as to what has happened to prosperity ‘preachers’ in the US. Be warned, they are in Australia too! “Give us your money for my benefit”, they are a wolf in sheep’s clothing, as they proclaim a false message. They are not men of God, they are leading millions to hell.
They are men of the people, not a man of God.
Bill…I have an estranged sister who for decades had given to Hinn and others…not sure if she’s been enlightened to their fraudulence, but praying that she has. I do know that she had an irrational hate regarding Calvinism, as it was in total contradiction to the Prosperity (in this life) gospel, so who knows? She led me to Christ…and I do believe that she knows Him. So there is hope.
Rob Barrett – I had exactly the same experience the first time I listened to all the gospels on cassette tape (it only takes about a day). By the end of it I thought “Hmmm, it’s all about giving your life away”.
Nothing to do with giving money to get healed. Well, there is actually. There was the death of Ananias and Saphira for their money scam, and the rebuke of Simon who tried to pay money to get the Holy Spirit. No wonder John the baptist talked about only two things – repentence and not cheating with money.
You can’t serve God and mamon.
Funny thing is – while Benny Hin etc might say a good sentence here or there, I have never had the slightest desire to give money to a person who is obviously excessively well off. Seriously. Why would I?
Thorny issue. You can find prosperous (in this world’s eyes) righteous people in the Bible (Abraham) and those who gave it all away (Paul). I personally don’t like to live a flash lifestyle. I go to Lowes for clothes, and when my wife and I do a holiday, we do it on a shoestring. I keep thinking of the 1.3 billion people on earth who can’t even feed themselves. I also know that as a man who lives in Australia (no.19 out of 200 countries on the rich nations list), that I will someday give an account of every dollar that passed through my hands. But I think to lump Joyce Meyer and Joel Osteen in with the prosperity teachers is a stretch. We listen to Joyce daily, and so thank God for her wonderful practical insights into godly living. As she points out, she doesn’t sing, she doesn’t play a musical instrument, she doesn’t write poetry, all she does is talk. And for 42 years she has been filling stadiums, and now regularly speaks to 6,000, 7,000 plus as well as 2.3 rds of the world by TV. 123 books I think. Now you might say, “the big following is no proof of anything”, but I thank god for both Joyce and Joel. I think that in the body of Christ there will always be people whose mindset and modus operandi is different to ours – that doesn’t mean they are wrong. I have been a Christian for 45 years and I have seen some horrible things done in small churches, and in big churches, likewise good things. I think the “Big Oil, Big Tobacco, Big tech Company” syndrome is showing here. Just human sinfulness I would say. This doesn’t detract from the fact that I thank God for you Bill, and your wonderful knowledge and insights. I just think that sometimes you can be wrong, just like me. I jokingly say to my wife “it’s not so much that I was wrong, but that I momentarily wasn’t right”. Gotta lighten it up a bit I feel.
Thanks Ian. As I keep saying, there is nothing wrong with prosperity, if we use it for Christ and the Kingdom. If we use it selfishly then it is wrong, sinful, and always condemned in Scripture. I prefer the biblical balance as found in Proverbs 30:8-9: “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.” But see more on this here:
As for Joel, he does not preach the gospel. He only preaches living your best life now. He never preaches sin, repentance and denying self, as Jesus and the disciples did. Millions of his followers are heading for a lost eternity as a result sadly. So I am not sure why any Christian would thank God for him. But see more on this here:
So we may differ here somewhat! Bless you.
Yet another book to add to my reading list Bill, thanks.
I have known about this book for a few months now and was pretty sure it’d be a knockout.
Now I think I’ll have to make it a priority.
It seems clear the point Costi is making with the ‘poverty’ gospel, is that in either case we’re trying to use some unbiblical measure to elevate ourselves. We wear our poverty, or whatever it is a badge of holiness.
We should be pointing people to Christ.
“Mover of Men and Mountains” is one of my favourite books. By Richard Le Tourneau. Great biography of a wonderful Christian businessman who saw bankruptcy a few times and still managed to make difference for the Kingdom Of God in the Americas as God blessed him with finances. Recommended reading.
Thanks Gregory. Yes as I often say, God certainly can and does bless some of his people with great wealth, but the question is, what do they do with it? Do they heavily finance the work of the Kingdom or do they just selfishly and greedily spend it primarily on themselves? I know of some rich Christian businessmen who give 90% of their wealth away to Christian work and/or the needy. Those are the sorts of folks God is happy to bless financially.
I went to a Benny Hinn Crusade in Auckland when I was new in faith. The music, the atmosphere, the songs, they seemed well rehearsed but still, as a new convert back then, I just focused on God and worshiped with fellow believers. Fast forward, about 5 years ago, Benny Hinn had a crusade at Sydney Olympic Park. I went to sit on the day session. It was free entry. I witnessed how he easily make money and preying on very vulnerable people. He said one of you got $10K.. $5K… $1K… etc… bring forward quickly and get your miracles….. I walked out and told myself that I will never ever go to any of his crusades again.
Many thanks Thor. Yes the idea of charging for ‘miracles’ is so utterly contrary to Scripture and all that we know about God.
We know the prosperity gospel, and name it and claim it teachings are wrong, but many are fed up with them and so have thrown the baby out with the bathwater, and forget Jesus encouraged us to use the faith that he has given us. Without faith it is impossible to please God.
There seems to be 2 types off Christianity preaching today both opposing the other. The hyper Faith Message and the Discernment so called Truth Ministries that scare you out of reading and acting on the Word of God. Give us balanced preaching please, giving us back Faith in God’s Word once again.
Yes exactly right Vicki. Two days after I penned this review I wrote a piece on the need for biblical balance, and not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. See here:
The way to make ‘prosperity’ teaching a joy to the church is for believers to live lives that have yielded to God, consecrated themselves to help meet the needs of others, and receive God’s ‘provision’ for the express purpose of meeting the needs of the Kingdom. I suspect that would bring a new focus to the word. Receiving God’s provision for the sake of His people and His kingdom. Churches who berate the ‘prosperity’ message would have a different view if believers would use such resources to help pay off the church’s debt, provide salaries, resources,and so forth. Of course, the one thing that stands in the way of all this is the ‘flesh’. Hence, the call to crucify the flesh. As C S Lewis said to the effect that God delights to bless His people materially, it is just that He often can’t trust them with it. In the end, we can simply rob ourselves of the joyous discovery of the blessings God is willing to bestow on us.
Bill, because of your recommendation, I read, or more accurately listened to the Audible version of Costi Hinn’s book. It is excellent.
I watched Fifth Estate and my question is why is Costi blaming Benny but nothing said about his dad Henry.
I’ve been to both crusades and it one and the same.
Very sad so many people lead in a wrong direction. People who felt they couldn’t measure up.