NOTE: This is Part 2 (of 4) in this blog series on finances. To review Part 1, click HERE.
The goal of this four-part blog series on finances is to promote God over money. Unfortunately, many people have their priorities backwards in this area, and that is a very dangerous thing. In Part 1, we focused on various aspects and beliefs built upon the so-called “Prosperity Gospel”.
Proponents of the Prosperity Gospel typically teach that if you believe in God, tithe 10% of your gross income to their “ministry”, sow “seed money”, and have enough faith that you will:
1.) Always be well-off financially and in material riches; lacking nothing you want.
2.) Receive a “return on your investment” when you give.
3.) Be able to claim or command material things to gravitate toward you.
4.) Be physically healed IF you sow a financial seed to their ministry.
Of the points listed above, point #1 was already covered in the previous blog – so this blog post will focus on point #2. Teachers of the Prosperity Gospel believe that if a person sows seed (money) into a ministry (preferably theirs), that the sower will receive an abundance of money in return; much like a return on their investment. They are taught to expect a harvest (of money) and a thirty, sixty, or hundred-fold return on their giving. Granted, the Bible does speak of sowing and reaping – but let’s examine this further as we go along.
What are Your Motives for Giving?
Any time we give money to help a ministry, family, or individual, we must carefully examine two things – HOW and WHY. How do we give? Do we give in such a way as to draw attention to ourselves, as to gain honor from others? Or do we give humbly, secretly, and quietly, seeking no honor from man?
The Bible says that we are to give secretly. There is such open defiance of this truth in many Prosperity Gospel circles. People in the congregation will boldly walk forward and cast their offering money upon the steps of the stage, in front of the pulpit, as the “minister” is speaking. We are not to give as to be seen by others; that is what Jesus says.
“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” ~Matthew 6:1-4
Secondly, why do we give? What is our motive for giving? Do we give in order to get? Or, do we give with a pure heart and a sincere desire to help others? We must rid ourselves of any selfish ulterior motives before we give. Even when giving to the poor and needy, we must never give to them so that others will “sing our praises” or so we can think of ourselves more highly than we ought. Jesus said that it is more blessed to give and share with those who cannot repay us. By doing this, we will know that our giving is done out of a pure heart; and we will know that we are laying up treasures in Heaven.
“Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.” ~Luke 14:12-14
Showing No Partiality
When we give of our resources to help others, we must not show partiality. Some people will only give to help those who “look” honest or intelligent; or to those who are kind, have a charismatic personality, etc. They despise the needy and view them as somehow cursed by God. Such “selective givers” do not have the slightest clue about the love of God, as He is no respecter of persons.
We give as unto the Lord, so don’t be offended by a thankless person. In fact, we shouldn’t even expect or demand a “thank you” from them. Many who give to others will say they are doing so out of love; but when they are not thanked or “praised” in return – they get upset. They’ll rant, “I gave to a needy person and they didn’t even have the manners to thank me!” This is a selfish attitude to have when we give. Was the giving done for the needy soul, or was it all about our selfish pride or hurt feelings? It is no sin if we do get a kind “thank you” – but if we don’t, that’s okay too. When our giving is done out of a pure heart, it is well-pleasing to God. The lesson we must learn in the Christian life is to be like Christ who shows no favoritism. Remember the account told in James 2:
“For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin…”
Thou Shalt Not Covet
“He [Jesus] never taught us to pray, ‘Give us this day our daily ice cream’ – we don’t need that. But, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.'” ~Zac Poonen
It is a fearful thing to covet or to be greedy. In fact, 1st Corinthians 6:10 states that a covetous person shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. We are to be content with what we have, knowing that God will never forsake His children. “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” Hebrews 13:5.
Indeed, it is challenging to be content in any given circumstance; but God will enable us to do so as we grow closer to Him. We must honestly ask ourselves if we long for Him more than we long for anything else. It is not wrong to have non-sinful desires; but should our human desires never be fulfilled – is it enough to us that we have Him? We can be content when we come to a place of rest in our Lord. In balance, we must also remember that He will not forsake us nor tempt us with evil. But, the key is contentment…
“Perverse wranglings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw yourself. But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing let us be with these things content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which plunge men into destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.“ ~1st Timothy 6:5-10
Let us also take into account Luke 12:15 which states: “And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” Additionally, let us remember 1st Timothy 6:8… “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”
Sowing & Reaping
The Bible speaks of sowing and reaping in multiple verses. The majority of scriptures in regards to this principle speaks of sowing to reap rewards in Heaven which will be given openly. (For examples of this truth, please see Luke 14:14, Matthew 19:21, etc.). That is not to say God does not bless us in this life; but if all we equate a “blessing” to is money – we are sadly mistaken. Perhaps, at times, God does send us a financial blessing. But, there are many other ways God may choose to bless us. He may choose to bless our relationships, our efforts, our walk with Him, etc. Let us be content with what God chooses to bless us with; after all, we have done nothing to deserve any gifts or blessings. It is only by God’s amazing love that we have been saved from an eternity in Hell.
Certainly not all “sowing” mentioned in the Bible has to do with giving money. (For other examples of sowing, please see Psalm 126:5, Galatians 6:8, etc.). There are many other examples that could be given; but let’s look at the other side of the proverbial coin. What about when we do give? Do the principles of sowing and reaping still apply?
Luke 6:38 says, “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.” Let’s look at the entire context of this chapter. In the most basic terms, this part of the chapter is about exchange. It says… judge not and you won’t be judged, condemn not and you won’t be condemned, forgive and you will be forgiven, give and it will be given unto you. Do you see the pattern of exchanges here? It is much like the principle of cause and effect.
Again, the “giving” done here can mean more than just money. It can be giving of our love, our time, our forgiveness, our abilities, etc. But, when we generously give money to help the poor or to meet a need, God will also take care of our needs. He can work through human hands or supernaturally, but He will take care of us. However, let’s clarify one thing – our Heavenly Father will take care of us (if we belong to Him) even if we aren’t able to sow financial “seed”. In Luke 12:24, Jesus plainly states: “Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls?”
What I feel the verse in Luke 6:38 is emphasizing, is that if we give generously, and it could potentially cause us to “run short” – God will see to it that we aren’t left in perilous need. This verse says that we will be taken care of with the “same measure” with which we gave; not a means to become filthy rich by – but an assurance that God takes care of us if we belong to Him. He will “make up the difference” as we give appropriately out of pure motives (see 1st Kings 17:16). Also, 2nd Corinthians 9:6 echoes the idea of receiving back in the “same measure”. Some commentators have noted that Jesus was not necessarily promising a return of our gift in kind, but rather an equivalent in joy and blessing which He chooses.
Many Prosperity teachers will quote 2nd Corinthians 9:6 in an attempt to validate their false claims. This verse says, “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” However, such teachers fail to ask the question, “For what purpose would God cause a person to reap bountifully?” Most prosperity teachers believe that we are to “reap bountifully” so that we can only enhance our lives with possessions, money, prestige, etc. However, that notion is far from the truth. In the surrounding verses, it plainly states (in verse 8) that we “reap bountifully” so that we may “abound to every good work”. Verses 10-12 teaches us that He will multiply seeds sown which would increase the fruits of our righteousness. In turn, we could supply for the needs of other saints which would result in thanksgiving to God.
Should we be financially prosperous, we are instructed in scripture to use what we have to help those in need. If we have a large house, we should be willing to share it with those who need a place to stay. If we have a car, we should be willing to help others who may not have a car. If we have riches, we should be willing to help the poor. In other words, we are to have a willingness to share and help others. We should never become arrogant or selfish with what we have, but we should follow 1st Timothy 6:17-19 which teaches: “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”
But, if we are not rich, we should never feel guilty for being unable give as much as the wealthy person. Let us remember the account of the poor widow in Luke 21:1-4. You see, we can only give as God has prospered us (see 1st Corinthians 16:2). Under the New Covenant of grace, we are instructed to give as we have purposed in our hearts. We are not to give out of a sense of guilt, obligation, or duty; for God loves a cheerful giver, as stated in 2nd Corinthians 9:7.
Playing the Spiritual Lottery
“You must choose which gospel you are going to follow. You have enough integrity not to go to the corner store and scratch a lottery ticket now; so you turn on the television and play the spiritual lottery. And you send in your fifteen bucks or your fifteen-hundred, whatever you can afford, just on the off chance that there really is a hundred-fold return on it. It’s the same as going to a corner store and scratching a lottery ticket. I think the time has come where you have to choose which gospel you are going to follow.” ~Carter Conlon
Finally, let’s discuss the thirty, sixty, and hundred-fold returns which the Bible speaks of. So many of the Prosperity teachers wrongfully teach that if you sow a financial seed (money) into their “ministry” that God will multiply your seed (money) by thirty, sixty, or a hundred-fold. They pull one verse out of Mark 4 without reading it in its entirety. Indeed, Mark 4:8 speaks of seeds increasing in varying amounts – but, what “seed” is being referenced?
A large portion of Mark 4 is Jesus’ parable about seeds being sown. However, this chapter has absolutely nothing to do with planting a “seed” of money to grow a crop of more money; nor is it teaching to plant a financial seed into “good soil” to reap riches. How blind can we be?! Why not just take 2-3 minutes to read this chapter for ourselves without being spoon-fed lies by the Prosperity teachers? If we would take a moment to read this chapter, we would find the exact meaning of this parable as explained by Jesus Christ himself, in verses 13-20.
What Jesus’ parable in Mark 4 is teaching, is that the “seed” equates to the Word of God. Where this seed grows best is in the “good soil” of the heart. And, Satan is the “devourer” of the seed (the Word of God) that is sown into the hearts of people. However, Satan can only devour the seed if it isn’t sown into good soil. How ironic – that Jesus points out the good seed being choked out by the deceitfulness of riches! This further validates that this parable has nothing to do with money. In verse 19, Jesus says, “And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful.”
Then, we come to the explanation of the thirty, sixty, and hundred-fold return on the seed. Verse 20 says, “And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.” How plain can it be to misguided Prosperity teachers that this “return” has nothing to do with money?!
Furthermore, who are we to demand a blessing from God by playing the proverbial “stock market” or “lottery” with Him?! If God blesses us, we praise Him; but if we feel that we’re so good that we’ve earned it – we will only boastfully praise ourselves. If we give of our money to help the poor or to meet a need in the church, it is to be given with pure motives – as a gift. How uncouth it is, though, that so many give their “gifts” with selfish strings attached; with ulterior motives. All of our giving must be done with the purest heart.
“His watchmen are blind; they are all without knowledge; they are all silent dogs; they cannot bark, dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber. The dogs have a mighty appetite; they never have enough. But they are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each to his own gain, one and all.” ~Isaiah 56:10-11
“The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor: let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined. For the wicked boasteth of his heart’s desire, and blesseth the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth.” ~Psalm 10.2-3