In Part One of this study, we looked at what is commonly referred to as the “Prosperity Gospel” (although I personally dislike that term) and examined the pros and cons in light of the Scriptures. This article will continue that theme but focus on some of the practices more controversial practices involved.
Greedy preachers getting rich on the backs of gullible people has been a problem in the Church for a long time. Again, it is perfectly legitimate for churches and ministries to raise money. While the Gospel is free there are still bills to pay. Unfortunately, some do abuse this privilege. So how can we cut past the stereotypes and find the truth?
Unlike the previous post, I will be referencing a couple of teachers by name. This should be seen as neither an endorsement nor an indictment. If you would like to explore those issues further, I refer you to two of my favorite Christian Youtubers: Rod Saunders from Jew and Greek, and the Objective Believer, SJ Newell.
One of the key elements of prosperity teaching is the concept of “Seed Faith,” an expression popularized by Oral Roberts. The essence of the idea is that when we give our resources, most notably money, to the work of God it takes the form of a seed that is sown. Just like any other seed, you receive back more than you sow. Is this biblical? A number of passages do seem to say yes:
… give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. Luke 6:38 KJV
But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 2 Corinthians 9:6 KJV
Here are a couple of examples:
1 Kings 17 tells us about a widow woman who, along with her young son, were on the verge of starving to death. No doubt she prayed and sought God with all her heart, but this was not what moved God to help her. Rather, her answer was conditional on her willingness to put God first by feeding His servant, the prophet Elijah. When she did this, God miraculously provided all the food she needed (v. 15-16).
Similarly, when Cornelius (the first Gentile convert) was seeking God, he learned that his giving was the very thing that got God’s attention (Acts 10:1-4,30-31).
The problem is that although these principles are taught in the Bible, they are easily abused by preachers whose motives are less than pure. I’ve seen it happen too many times, preachers who pressure people in serious financial trouble to “sow a seed” to them instead of paying their bills. James 2:15-16 speaks very strongly about this:
If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?
In other words If we have the world’s good and we see a brother or sister in need, we are to give to them, not demand that they give to us.
As we previously discussed, it is not wrong for a minister to be paid well for his work. Nonetheless, the temptation must be resisted to go to extremes. I will say again: In a time when trust in the church and religious institutions is at an all time low, ministries must constantly demonstrate that their work is above reproach ethically, sexually and financially. This is seriously undermined when prosperity is taught in manipulative, self-serving ways.
It is noteworthy that some of the strongest calls for balance in prosperity teaching came from the man widely seen as the movement’s founder, Kenneth Hagin. Later in his life, Hagin published a book entitled The Midas Touch: A Balanced Look at Biblical Prosperity. In it, he expresses concern that many ministers were taking principles in this area that they had learned from him and taking them to unbiblical excesses. Here is a quote:
Some have come to believe that demonstrating prosperity involves displaying a lavish, ostentatious lifestyle rather than being good stewards and efficiently harnessing abundant resources to promote the Gospel and to minister the goodness of God to those who are in need…So how does a minister integrate a certain truth that the Holy Spirit is emphasizing into the whole of the Word of God? I believe the answer is, by consciously presenting a balanced view of the subject, searching out as many scriptural foundation stones as possible, not just teaching on an isolated verse. ¹
Hagin also gives us a very helpful checklist to help us keep our priorities right when we give:
We are to give, first and foremost, because we love God.
Next, we are to give because we want to obey God.
We are to give because we want to support the Great Commission and the Church.
We are to give because we want to see people blessed.
Finally, with all of these other prerequisites in place, we give to sow seed for our own needs.²
Friends, this is what it means to seek first the Kingdom of God. It gets our focus on the things that truly matter. If we keep this kind of perspective in our giving and in our Christian life as a whole then we will see God’s blessings in exciting new ways.
Keep It Real,
NOTES AND BIBLIOGRAPHY:
1. Hagin, Kenneth E. The Midas Touch: A Balanced Look at Biblical Prosperity (Ebook). 2000, Rhema Bible Church, Broken Arrow, OK. PP 159-160
2. Hagin, P 122
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