“And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you…” ~2nd Peter 2:3
This is the final installment in the blog series on finances. To review the other blogs in this series, please click the appropriate link below:
It is my hope that throughout this series, you see the importance of God and that he is far more valuable than any amount of money. We have been focusing on various aspects and beliefs built upon the so-called “Prosperity Gospel” – and examining such beliefs.
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 large “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, we will cover the final point in this blog entry, as the other topics were covered previously. So, let us begin…
Healing For Sale?
“While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.” ~2nd Peter 2:19
Without going into great detail, please understand that I have struggled with chronic health issues most of my life; and know that this blog is written with the deepest compassion to the infirmed. As I grew into adulthood, the health problems only seemed to worsen and become more debilitating. I am ashamed to admit this – but, I was fooled by the notion that if I gave money to healing ministries that I would be healed.
I had heard some of the TV evangelists and others proclaim that as I “sowed my seed in faith” God would, in turn, heal me physically. In desperation, I sent my money off to such people in hopes that this “formula” of theirs would truly work. They were so logical about it when they explained it. They innocently made me believe that this money I was giving wasn’t to benefit them – but it was to benefit ME with a healing. I thought it would be “old-fashioned” of me to think otherwise or unreasonable for me to be suspect of them; after all, they were skilled salesmen and their lives looked great from the outside. So, I fell for this lie. By the way, many of those whose lives looked perfect outwardly ended up in legal trouble, arrested, jailed, and/or fell from their position of prominence. After all, the Bible does not lie when it says, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”
Needless to say, I was not healed through such shenanigans, although I truly had faith to be. I was young and there was much that I needed to learn. At the time when I was tangled up in all of this confusion, Jesus was still the Lord of my life; although, in this one area, I was deceived. I am partially to blame for being deceived because I was not studying my Bible carefully; I was blindly trusting that such “ministers” were telling me the truth. However, Jesus gently taught me the right way (through His Word – the Bible) and, although he met me where I was at, he didn’t allow me to remain deceived. You see, we don’t PAY for healing – we PRAY for healing.
The topic of healing, or lack thereof, is a deep topic in and of itself. Our healing is according to God’s timing, God’s will, etc. – In God’s mercy he may choose to heal. With the stripes that wounded Jesus’ back, we were spiritually healed. Simply look at scripture in the proper context to see that Jesus’ stripes afforded us spiritual healing as we come under his Lordship – this is the deepest form of healing! That is not to say that there aren’t, at times, physical healings and miracles which do occur through prayer. But, please understand that Jesus’ stripes and death purchased our spiritual healing by redeeming our sin-sick souls from Hell; and was not a guarantee of physical healing in this life. Although I do not endeavor to go into the specifics of healing in this blog entry – I do want to cover this one aspect; that the masses are being deceived into thinking they can purchase healing from God with money.
Allow me to pose some thought-provoking questions: How much did Jesus charge for healing? When did he collect his payment for raising Lazarus from the dead or for healing the blind man? Did Jesus send a bill to the multitudes he healed asking for monetary payment? Did the Disciples charge for healing? I find no such scripture. But I do find the scripture found in Matthew 10:8 which says, “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons: freely you have received, freely give.” I also find where Peter and John had no money to give nor did they receive payment from the lame beggar at the temple gate; yet, he was healed in the name of Jesus. “Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.” Acts 3:6-8.
A wonderful evangelist in the 1800’s, Dwight L. Moody, was so bold as to state: “We can stand affliction better than we can prosperity, for in prosperity we forget God.” Oft times, this can be true of many whose focus is not solely on God, but upon riches instead. As Proverbs 23:4 says, “Labor not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.” We must keep our minds stayed upon God and evaluate our motives. Never get into the Lord’s work to prosper or to become financially rich; that would be outright detestable! Labor for the Lord out of a sincere heart to help others, and out of a heart that longs to be in God’s perfect will. And for goodness sake, never give (nor ask for) money as a means of facilitating physical healing. Such an approach is equal to bribery and it is entirely unbiblical. Do not justify such actions by participating in them, either. Proverbs 17:15 plainly states: “He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord.” There is a time and a place to give of our resources to further the work of God; but, when it comes to healing, we are simply instructed to pray – one for another.
It’s Not Magic
“I want the cruel, viciously unbiblical, Satanic ‘prosperity gospel’ to go away forever.” ~John Piper
There is a biblical account (in the book of Acts, chapter 8) that speaks of a man named Simon. He was a magician, of sorts; a sorcerer – who bewitched the people of Samaria. One of Jesus’ followers, Philip, was nearby preaching about the kingdom of God. There were many miracles and signs which were done and the people believed and were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. When Simon (the sorcerer) saw all of these things, and saw the people receiving the Holy Spirit, he offered Jesus’ Apostles money so that he could perform the same acts as they did. But you see, his motives were wrong. Let’s continue this account in verses 19-24 to see how the Apostles responded to him:
“And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray [to] God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.”
Notice, that when Simon (the sorcerer) tried to purchase God’s gifts with money, he was rebuked and told to repent of such wickedness. Likewise, ministers nowadays that try to get people to “sow a seed” for their healing, need to repent. Preachers should never use bribery, as this approach is completely unbiblical. Healing and God’s powers are not magic and they are not for sale. There is no equation or formula that mere humans can implement to have such gifts. We are simply asked to have faith and God does the rest, through his limitless power, as he sees fit in accordance to his will for our lives. Keith Daniel, Christian missionary from South Africa, once said, “Don’t come to God to prosper… You come to Christ for mercy and brokenness, no matter what God does thereafter. You just want eternal life and you want forgiveness. There are no conditions attached…”
The Moral of the Story
In John Piper’s book, Let the Nations Be Glad, he sums it up very well by stating the following:
“Don’t preach a gospel that kindles suicidal desires in people. The apostle Paul warned against the desire to be rich. And by implication, he warned against preachers who stir up the desire to be rich instead of helping people get rid of it. He warned, ‘Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs’ (1Tim. 6:9–10). These are very serious words, but they don’t seem to find an echo in the preaching of the prosperity gospel. It is not wrong for the poor to want measures of prosperity so that they have what they need and can be generous and can devote time and energy to Christ-exalting tasks other than scraping to get by. It is not wrong to seek Christ for help in this quest. He cares about our needs (Matt. 6:33). But we all—poor and rich—are constantly in danger of setting our affections (1st John 2:15–16) and our hope (1st Tim. 6:17) on riches rather than Christ. This ‘desire to be rich’ is so strong and so suicidal that Paul uses the strongest language to warn us. My appeal is that prosperity preachers would do the same.”
In short, this entire blog series could be summarized by three Bible verses. One, (aforementioned) in Matthew 10:8. “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons: freely you have received, freely give.” Secondly, Proverbs 30:8-9 which states: “Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.” And lastly, 1st Timothy 6: 3-11… “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. 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 raiment let us be therewith content. But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in 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. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.” Let us strive after God and trust that he will see us through.
“Confirming the souls of the disciples and exhorting them to continue in the faith and that we must, through much tribulation, enter into the Kingdom of God.” ~ Acts 14:22
“For the pastors are become brutish, and have not sought the Lord: therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered.” ~Jeremiah 10:21
“For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake.” ~Titus 1:10-11
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth and shall be turned into fables.” ~2nd Timothy 4:3-4
“He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.” ~ Proverbs 22:16