Belief in the ‘prosperity gospel’ does not turn people into successful entrepreneurs

Joel Osteen
Joel Osteen shares prosperity gospel with followers

Belief in the “Prosperity Gospel” — that God financially blesses faithful followers — does not turn individuals into successful entrepreneurs. But prosperity beliefs can fuel values linked to entrepreneurial thinking, such as power and achievement, according to a Baylor University study.

However, researchers found no direct relationship between prosperity beliefs and willingness to take risks, and little connection to recognizing opportunities. Risk-taking and identifying opportunities are typical traits of entrepreneurs, according to the national study.

“As revealed in our findings, a belief that God will provide financial benefit to the faithful is not enough to push someone to launch a business,” said lead author Kevin D. Dougherty, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences. “The relationship between prosperity beliefs and starting a business is indirect and inconsistent.”

The study — “Prosperity Beliefs and Value Orientations: Fueling or Suppressing Entrepreneurial Activity” — is published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.


For the study, researchers analyzed data from a nationally representative survey of 1,066 working adults. Their goal was to connect prosperity beliefs, human values, entrepreneurial attitudes and entrepreneurial action. They found that values — both by themselves and in conjunction with religious beliefs — are important predictors of how and whether individuals might launch a business.

Participants responded to a three-item scale to measure beliefs that faith and faithful behavior lead to success at work and in business. The items included: “God promises that those who live out their faith will receive financial success;” “Believers who succeed in business are evidence of God’s promised blessing;” and “I believe faithful believers in God receive real financial benefits in this life.”

Participants also responded to questions relating to The Theory of Basic Human Values, which recognizes such universal values as openness to change, achievement, security, power and benevolence.

In general, “entrepreneurs tend to think differently than non-entrepreneurs, prizing achievement and self-direction while downplaying tradition and conformity,” said co-author Mitchell J. Neubert, Ph.D., professor of management in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business.

Value orientations of self-enhancement and openness to change are associated with recognizing opportunities and taking risks — entrepreneurial behaviors that correlate with creating new businesses. While prosperity beliefs by themselves show little direct impact on entrepreneurship, they do influence the impact of values and attitudes related to creating a business. Prosperity beliefs can strengthen the relationship between self-enhancement values and opportunity recognition, but they seem to reduce the relationship between openness to change and willingness to take risks.

Another significant finding pertains to gender. Men and women who accept prosperity beliefs are no different in their willingness to take risks or start businesses, said co-author Jerry Z. Park, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences. In general, risk-taking and business startups are more common among men.

The study also shows that education and experience are key predictors of entrepreneurship, but those resources may be difficult to acquire for some prosperity believers because of social and economic circumstances.

While individuals in that group have hope, it seems contingent on divine action rather than human action, Neubert said.

“Can prosperity preachers Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes save the U.S. economy? Probably not. But nor are they damning it,” Dougherty said. “The type of positive, self-help gospel they preach can enhance specific value orientations that are related to entrepreneurial thinking and entrepreneurial behavior.”


  1. I believe in Dave Ramsey, now he makes sense, and no studies are needed to prove anything.
    Its just how you go about it
    Is important
    This guy here makes it sound
    Like its a science. Its not,
    Make every dollar count
    Stop going on spending sprees you cant afford. Cut up all credit cards pay off debts
    Have and pay in Cash

    Save up your money. Pay Cash
    And Until you have the money in cash and have followed all the steps No New Cars.
    Dave Ramsey has forgotton more then this Joel guy will ever know

  2. Seek first the Kingdom of God. Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, and Soul. The love of money is the root of all evil.
    If money is your first priority then you are not hearing the Good News!

    • Seek first the Kingdom of God. Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, and Soul – Love your brother – is that other part of the two greatest commandments

  3. Osteen should teach business somewhere. As far as preachers go, he is a charlatan, as are all prosperity ministries. They are spreading a totally false doctrine that is absolutely not Christian.

  4. if you listen to what Joel is preaching – its what is written as promises in the bible of what is possible with faith. His first line of each time he preaches in description of what he is going to say and teach says it all… I’ll let you listen to it yourself.

  5. author Kevin D. Dougherty, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences. What has Baylor done with regard to teaching its students about Jesus Christ? They comment on acts of faith but in visiting their site to learn of their Christian teachings I see nothing of mention of that part of their existence. Perhaps if they exercised their faith they would have a very different perspective of what they says is one of their core tenants.

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